Posts tagged with "twitter"

Twitter’s Dilemma

Twitter is two things. It is a concept — everyone in the world connected in real time — that’s so obvious in retrospect that it is impossible to imagine it not existing. It is also a product that has had a rough time living up to that concept.

A good piece by Matthew Panzarino on Twitter's recent launches and struggles to establish a product that makes sense to new users and investors. I'm curious to see where Twitter takes the service in 2015 – Panzarino mentions a redesign, which could be interesting (especially on iOS).

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Twitter Instant Timeline

Vindu Goel writes about Twitter's new “instant timeline” feature, which will allow users to sign up and start reading tweets without curating a following list manually:

Over all, however, the quality of the instant timeline was so good that I was almost tempted to dump my regular Twitter account, where I follow more than 700 other accounts, probably one-third of which are no longer important to me.

But:

The first part of the sign-up process is unchanged. After you pick a user name and password, Twitter asks for access to your smartphone’s contact list. Once you grant that access, the service scans it for people with Twitter accounts and suggests them as people to follow.

The feature has currently rolled out to a small percentage of users on Android. On multiple occasions, Twitter stated that getting people to sign up and enjoy the service without the burden of choosing accounts to follow is a priority for the company, and the results reported by The New York Times sound encouraging.

Still, I wonder how scanning contacts to find accounts based on common interest would work for people who have heard of Twitter but don't have friends who use it (example: my parents). Keeping this instant timeline in addition to the traditional way of creating an account and picking people to follow sounds good though, and I'm curious to see when it'll roll out to iPhone users.

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Twitterrific 5.9 Brings Media Improvements

Multiple images in Twitterrific 5.9.

Multiple images in Twitterrific 5.9.

In my in-depth look at Twitter clients for iOS from December 2014, I noted Twitterrific’s fantastic support for iOS 8 extensions and thoughtful design touches, but lamented the app’s lack of integration with modern Twitter media features. In particular, Twitterrific didn’t support multiple images in tweets and animated GIFs; compared to Tweetbot, Twitterrific didn’t have inline playback for popular third-party sharing services such as Vine and Instagram either.

With today’s 5.9 update, The Iconfactory has considerably improved their client’s media preview capabilities by bringing native integration with the aforementioned services and support for Twitter’s GIFs and multiple images. Furthermore, Twitterrific has gained minor but welcome changes such as the ability to save source tweets to Pocket and show a user’s mentions by long-tapping a profile picture.

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Twitter Launches Tweet Recaps in Main Timeline

After announcing (and rolling out) some initial changes to the timeline last year, Twitter is back today with the latest modification to the stream – a recap of popular tweets you may have missed.

A lot can happen while you’re on the go. To fill in some of those gaps, we will surface a few of the best Tweets you probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise, determined by engagement and other factors. If you check in on Twitter now and then for a quick snapshot of what’s happening, you’ll see this recap more often; if you spend a lot of time on Twitter already, you’ll see it less.

When Twitter started rolling out tweet recommendations based on accounts you follow, many complained about the fact that the change was breaking Twitter's nature and making it more akin to Facebook, and therefore not intuitive. While I understand that position, I actually found the “tweet injections” to be not that terrible in practice:

Twitter is working on an instant personalized timeline that you don’t need to set up, but their willingness to bring discovery of tweets and users to the timeline is trickling down to existing users who have an account and already follow people. Like many others, I’ve started seeing tweets from accounts I don’t follow pop into my timeline based on what another person saves or follows. External tweets (as I call them) I’ve seen always came with a reason attached – “Joe favorited” and “Kyle follows” indicate why a tweet is being included in the timeline.

In my experience, these relevant tweets have been mostly good – I’d say 70% of the time I either laughed at a funny favorite I was being shown or got interested in opening the profile page of a user I didn’t know. The other 30% of external tweets were either American sports or duplicate tweets that I had already seen but that a person marked as favorite.

I don't know if tweet recaps will be useful to someone who's always reading his timeline (the only time when I miss tweets is usually at night). Twitter seems to be aware of the controversial nature of the change:

Our goal is to help you keep up – or catch up – with your world, no matter how much time you spend on Twitter. With a few improvements to the home timeline we think we can do a better job of delivering on that promise without compromising the real time nature of Twitter.

Apps like Nuzzel have shown that there's potential in figuring out ways to let users catch up with news shared on Twitter, but Twitter's feature appears to be much simpler, offering less controls. In theory, I think it's a good idea. Most people still don't get Twitter and how you're supposed to keep up with news after you've closed the app. Offering small chunks of inline tweet recaps could help in letting relevant tweets surface more easily, but it's too early to tell.

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Twitter’s Native Video Player

A post on TechCrunch from yesterday claimed to offer details on Twitter's previously announced native video service for users, but the company refuted the rumor. According to Twitter, the details uncovered on the video.twitter.com website refer to native videos for Twitter Amplify users, another initiative announced in August 2014.

As a user of the Twitter app for iOS, I've noticed native Twitter videos (promoted or not) for a while now. They're actually not terrible: they don't have all the options of YouTube, but the play inline with a card and have essential playback controls.

This tweet, for example:

Looks like this on the iPhone:

I only noticed today, however, that The Verge's video has a button to open an associated webpage in Twitter's inline browser, which was new to me. I also didn't know that videos could be minimized on the iPad, just like SoundCloud audio cards can be minimized on the iPhone:

Twitter Video is expected to be rolled out in the first half of this year, and I'm curious to see what the company will do with it. As a fan of Twitter's move towards integrated cards on mobile, I think that native videos (that are longer than Vines) have potential to integrate nicely with other media types in the timeline. It'll be interesting to see how users and companies that are currently using YouTube will react to native Twitter videos. Considering the impact that Twitter photos had on how content is shared on Twitter, I'd keep an eye on native videos enabled for every user (not just promoted tweets or selected publications).

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Tweet Analytics Now Available in Twitter for iPhone

I noticed some users tweeting about mobile tweet analytics over the past couple of weeks, and today Twitter has officialized the rollout:

On mobile (currently available on Twitter for iPhone), click on one of your Tweets to get to the Tweet detail page, then tap “View Tweet activity.” Make sure you have installed the latest version of Twitter for iPhone.

It's nice that I can look at analytics directly from the Twitter app for iPhone, although most of those stats don't take into account third-party clients, which I suspect the majority of my followers use.

As someone who uses Twitter for work, this is another reason to keep using the official client over third-party apps, and yet more proof that Twitter for iPad never gets cool new features first.

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Hacking the Tweet Stream

MG Siegler writes about one of the latest trends in changing the way longer messages are shared on Twitter:

More recently, there’s been a trend with a similar goal (to increase the 140-character limit), but immensely better execution and flow: appending screenshots of text to tweets.

In the age of Tweetstorms, I thought I would grow to hate this as well. But I actually quite like it. One big reason: it maintains the flow of the tweet stream. That is, it’s one tweet with a payload, so it both flows in and out of the stream just as quickly as a regular tweet. And, more importantly, it can be retweeted (another one of those early Twitter “hacks” that has since become part of the official canon) and replied to without breaking context.

I've seen this as well, and it's becoming more frequent each week. Since the beginning of mobile Twitter clients, there's always been a desire from some users to be able to share longer tweets. Twitter never caved in to the pressure and maintained the historic character limitation of tweets, but, as MG notes, screenshots and tweetstorms are clever in that they “hack” the Twitter stream natively through replies and inline previews. An interesting consequence of changing the timeline from a simple list of tweets to something different.

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Twitter Clients in 2014: An Exploration of Tweetbot, Twitterrific, and Twitter for iOS

Twitter clients used to be a UI design playground. The growing popularity of Twitter, an open API, and the rapid takeoff of the App Store contributed to the creation of a defining genre of mobile software in 2009 and 2010: the Twitter client for iPhone. In the golden days of third-party Twitter apps, a good new client would come out at least every month, with several developers pitching their own ideas for what was meant to be a mobile-first communication network.

iPhone apps and the Twitter API were a perfect match five years ago. Twitter made sense as a social network in your pocket; Apple’s iPhone OS and newly launched App Store made that a reality. As a user, there was little friction in trying multiple Twitter clients: because Twitter data was always “in the cloud”, changing clients was like choosing a different outfit each day. The core Twitter experience would always be the same; the design and preferences around it would differ from client to client.

That was a time of astonishing innovation in mobile app design. Twitterrific, the first native Twitter client for iPhone, effectively invented key aspects of modern Twitter interaction and terminology; Tweetie, perhaps the most popular Twitter client of its time, pioneered touch interaction paradigms such as pull to refresh. And then there were Weet, Osfoora, Birdfeed, Twittelator, Echofon, Tweetings, TweetList, and dozens of other apps that helped refine and redefine the idea of what Twitter on an iPhone could be.

Good Twitter clients weren’t easy to create, but the challenge they packed was intriguing and flexible. As a Twitter developer, you needed to design an app that would primarily display textual information (this was before Twitter photos), handle hyperlinks, manage interactions between users, account for different network conditions, possibly integrate with third-party sharing services years before iOS 8, and, most of all, be fast, responsive, and easy to use. The constraints of Twitter clients in 2009/2010 freed many from the struggle of coming up with an original app idea.

If you’re using an iOS app[1] today, there’s a good chance some of its features or design ideas first appeared in a Twitter client five years ago.

We know how the story moved forward. In April 2010, Twitter realized that they needed an official iOS presence on the App Store, so they bought Loren Brichter’s Tweetie, relaunched it as Twitter for iPhone, and Brichter released the (unsurprisingly genius) Twitter for iPad.[2] For a while, it looked like Tweetie would live on, but then Twitter started adding questionable features to it, and it became clear that the third-party Twitter client would be persona non grata on the App Store.

Over the years, there have been countless examples of Twitter prioritizing their own app and a closed ecosystem approach over third-party developers and improvements to the API. From the infamous quadrant and token limits to the display guidelines and constant reticence about bringing new features to the API, Twitter has been nebulous in providing an official stance on third-party clients after the Tweetie acquisition, but the subtext of their announcements has always been fairly clear to everyone in the third-party scene. Twitter wanted people to use their official app, not a third-party client.

Before the Twitter acquisition in 2010, I was using a bunch of third-party clients but I had eventually elected Tweetie as my preferred one. After Brichter’s app turned into Twitter for iPhone, I stuck to it for a while, but then I was allured by Tapbots’ promise of a Twitter client for power users. As I wrote in my original review, Tweetbot had everything I was looking for, and that was before Tapbots would bring fantastic new features that made it even more versatile.

I loved Tweetbot in a way that I didn’t love any other app for iOS. I have extremely vivid and personal memories of getting the first beta builds of Tweetbot for iPhone and iPad, and, until Editorial came around, Tweetbot was the app I spent most of my days in. From 2011 until earlier this year, I used Tweetbot every working hour of every day. Tweetbot was Twitter for me.

That’s not to say that I stopped checking in on the state of other Twitter clients for iOS, but I certainly became less curious because I had found the one. I’ve primarily continued to keep an eye on Twitterrific, but I largely ignored the third-party space for two years. Last year, the launch of iOS 7 motivated me to look for new Twitter clients again and I stumbled across new versions of TweetLogix, Echofon, and Tweet7, but my affection for Tweetbot and the fact that the majority of my Internet friends were using Tapbots’ app convinced me that I didn’t have to look for anything else.

I like to think that I’m naturally curious, but, for my Twitter client of choice, I had become complacent and fixated on the belief that the official Twitter app could never offer anything valuable again. Earlier this year, an idea started poking me in the back of my mind: if the rest of the world is using the Twitter app for iOS, shouldn’t I give it another chance?

This realization came from a simple occasion: I was having dinner out with some friends, and I noticed that they were using the Twitter app for iPhone to read news and follow their favorite celebrities. Tweetbot was Twitter for me and I was certain that I could never switch to another app, but they seemed to be just fine with the official app and its lack of streaming, mute filters, quick actions, and all those other great details Tweetbot had. “They’re not power users”, I thought, and that settled it.

Still. For someone who likes to think he’s curious and writes about apps for a living, my unwillingness to at least try the app from the service I use every day was remarkable in its shortsightedness. Twitter had changed since 2011, and it wasn’t meant for power users. The rest of the world was using Twitter through the official apps and I thought that I knew better than anyone else. So, a fun experiment began:

I started using the official Twitter client as my main Twitter app on my iPhone and iPad.

For the past six months, I’ve been reevaluating my entire Twitter experience based on the apps I use to read tweets and interact with people. The idea made a lot more sense once I stepped out of my preconceptions: I wanted to understand what 2014 Twitter was like and if that meant sacrificing my nerd cred and use a Muggle’s Twitter app, so be it. But at the same time, I’ve gone back and forth between Twitter and third-party clients, primarily out of habit, but also because they still offer powerful features and design details that I appreciate.

I didn’t want to focus on the history of Twitter clients, my thoughts on Twitter’s policies, or every single Twitter app currently available for iOS 8. I also couldn’t compare every single feature or design decision for every possible scenario a Twitter client could be used in.

Instead, I attempted to address my curiosity from a utilitarian standpoint. Given the three most popular Twitter apps for iOS (Twitter, Tweetbot, and Twitterrific), I wanted to slowly evaluate their features for my use case. To do this, I assembled a list of features I need a Twitter client to be capable of handling and I started taking notes every time I switched between clients. I’ve been doing this since early June.

I’ve spent weeks comparing features and changing apps to understand the kind of experience they want to promote. But implementation details and design differences aside, I also kept wondering the same question: was the real Twitter different from the third-party clients I used for three years?

What’s 2014 Twitter like on iOS?

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