Well over a year ago, I wrote about just how useful Twitter can be, and over time that’s only increased. I have to admit that until about a month ago, I mostly just used Twitter in the web interface. I did install Digsby as a client, but I basically just used that to notify me when new Twitter messages were showing up. But then I kept hearing about neat things (such as groups) that TweetDeck allowed, and I started playing with that. It took some getting used to, but there were definite advantages. Being able to set up groups/columns/persistent searches and laying it out in a nice format actually made Twitter that much more useful. It became, as I noted in a Tweet sort of a “personal Bloomerg” for me.
But still… Tweetdeck had limitations. While you could edit the colors (useful! white text on black background is awful for eye strain), there were limitations. Then, I noticed that Tweetdeck was dropping a bunch of messages. I’d only noticed because people would tweet something in reference to an earlier tweet… but that earlier tweet wouldn’t be there. In the past few days it’s only gotten worse. I asked for some suggestions for other apps and have now tested out both Seesmic Desktop and Destroy Twitter. Both have some nice features… and others that are quite annoying. People recommended both Tweetie and Nambu… but both are only available on Macs, so I couldn’t test them out.
Not that anyone actually reads this blog, but I thought I’d try to put together a feature list of what would make me happy on the Twitter client front (I’m leaving out the stuff that’s already pretty standard, such as URL shortener support, easy retweets, etc.). If anyone develops a client with these features, please, please, please let me know:
- Customization! Let me choose colors/fonts/sizes. Tiny white text on a black background? Sorry. Unusable.
- Let me manage how many columns/groups I want. When you limit what I can do, it just makes me want to look for other apps. Tweetdeck seems to limit you to 10 columns. Not sure about Seesmic. Destroy Twitter has 6 total columns (home/replies/direct messages/groups/search/saved tweets), and only displays three at a time (first three or last three). You can do multiple groups/searches, but you can only see one at a time. That gets annoying. My screen can show more, so let me see more. And making me manually switch between groups or searches? Why? Just show them all.
- Also, we don’t necessarily need the full column metaphor. Why not set it up as a canvas and let me organize each option as I see fit? Then I can set it up exactly as I want. My full stream can be a full column, but I don’t get many direct messages. So maybe I only want direct messages to be a small box in the corner, and then I can put a lower volume persistent search beneath it. Let me organize how I see everything on an open canvas and I’d be much happier.
- Make it easy to set up groups — which means setting up multiple ways to manage groups. Tweetdeck gives you a list of everyone you follow. That works well until you have a ton of users you follow. Seesmic only lets you add if you see people in your home timeline. That’s awful. I purposely set up groups so I make sure I can see important messages from people who don’t tweet often, but I don’t want to miss (like my mom or my wife). Destroy Twitter shows you the first 4 (alphabetical) people you follow and then offers a search box. Showing those first four users is useless and if I don’t remember the usernames, the search is useless. Why not set up a combo of all of these? Show the list. Let people add from their stream. And offer search.
- Notifications: Tweetdeck and Seesmic just tell me I have new messages (and in what buckets) but don’t display the messages themselves. Destroy Twitter and Digsby at least show actual text in the notification… except both just show the latest message (Digsby lets you scroll to the “next” message if you get your mouse over the notification fast enough). I would kind of like to see all the incoming messages displayed briefly. That helps with the whole “ambient information” concept.
- Facebook integration is definitely nice — props to Tweetdeck and Seesmic for doing that… but why won’t either let me clear out those messages once seen? I can clear out Twitter messages, but not Facebook messages.
- Server integration. If I run the client on multiple machines, it should know what I’ve read/not read.
- Better handling of read/unread messages: make it easy to mark stuff as read and clear it out…. and then if I *do* want to go back, make that easy too. Tweetdeck lets me clear out read messages, but if I shut it down and reopen… they’re back. But if I don’t shut it down and reopen, there appears to be no way to get my “cleared” messages back. If I want to see them again, I have to either shut down/reopen or go to the web interface. Maybe just do what Gmail does and have an “archived” box/column that can be opened.
- Show me all my messages. Not sure if this is an API limitation or what… but if I shut down for the night and open up Tweetdeck in the morning, it only shows me a few hours worth of messages. I’d like to see everything since I last logged in. At the very least, make this a user option… (related to this: Tweetdeck, STOP dropping messages).
- Memory management. Stop being a memory hog! All of you. :)
I think that’s it for now… though I may have some other thoughts later. What other features would be good?
I should note, by the way, that none of this is to disparage the work done on these apps. They’ve all made Twitter much more useful — so I’m not trying to pull a Louis CK “everything’s great and I’m still pissed off” sorta thing. I’m just finding that in making Twitter much better, they’re also exposing their limitations. All of these apps are in early versions, so I’m hopeful that they’ll all get there eventually. Hopefully this post helps someone get there faster. :)