How do you know when you’re addicted to something? Twitter is quickly becoming the new crack cocaine! (Not that I’ve ever tried that before. Despite that scandalous NY Post headline, I haven’t.) It’s been six weeks now since I started using it for real. At the three week mark, I collected some of my initial thoughts here.
Since then, there are a lot of things I’ve been learning about the service. And you know how that goes… the more you learn about something, the more you have complaints about it. One of the reasons I got interested in Twitter was because of a desktop client called "Witty". I’ve since learned that there are a ba-zillion clients out there. I’ve been playing with a few of them. Each has its pros & cons.
Although, none of them seem to handle some of my common complaints with Twitter (at least yet… and at least from the clients I’ve tried thus far.) If anyone is aware of a client that addresses any of these issues, please let me know.
1st issue: Half-sided conversations
Those dreaded half-sided conversations. On Twitter, you can respond to someone’s "tweet" (slang for message) by using the @ symbol before their name. Well, if you’re following me, but not the person I’m responding to, you only get half of the conversation. And if I’m doing that a lot (which most people on twitter are), then you either are annoyed that I’m spamming you with noise, or you really would like to know what the other half of the conversation is about.
Assuming it’s the later, you then go to the Twitter website, look up the person in the other half of the conversation. You read through his or her tweets to see what they’re talking about. And then… because you’re addicted to the crack cocaine, and you figure this person is frequently talking to someone you talk to, you go ahead and you follow them too. Now you end up with even more tweets coming into your client (see issue #3 below).
It would be nice if a Twitter client could do two things to help here:
- Offer a threaded/conversation view.
- Pull in just the tweets from the other half of the conversation without having to follow the other person.
Note: I just discovered a new site called Quotably.com that appears to do exactly this, but as far as I can tell is only accessible via a web interface. I can also tell that Quotably is using an algorithm that isn’t always perfect to match the conversations. It gets it right some of the time, but not all of the time.
2nd issue: Rick-rolling
Not sure if you’ve heard of this, but it seems that the latest Internet meme to be tossed around by those in the know is "Rick-Rolling". Rick-rolling is when you send someone a link to content they weren’t expecting (often not safe for viewing at work). It comes from an ongoing prank where folks send a link to a YouTube video of the 80’s artist Rick Astley singing the 1988 pop hit "Never Gonna Give You Up".
Note: As an April Fool’s joke, YouTube is Rick Rolling everyone!
On Twitter, many of these clients will automatically shorten long URLs by utilizing a service like tinyurl or snurl. The net result is that you can link to almost anything within Twitter’s 140 character message limit. However, the end user has no way to know what that link is really to until they click on it. As you can probably guess, the incidences of Rick Rolling on Twitter are pretty high.
I’d love it if a Twitter client could do one of two things:
- Call into the service behind the short URL, find what it links to, and display the real link in the tweet in the client window. Or…
- Do the same, but show the real link as a tool tip when you hover over it.
3rd Issue: Twitter Spam
Okay… so the average Twitter user probably has a small number of followers, but is following a LOT of people. Including "famous" people. I say "famous" in quotes because these folks are "Internet famous", not "famous famous". Internet Famous folks are the people who are famous on the Internet (aka Scoble, Arrington, Calcanis, etc) but my mom sure wouldn’t have a clue as to who they are. Many of these folks have like 14,000 followers, and also may be following 14,000 people for some narcissistic reason. As a result, they’re often responding to tons of their individual followers using the @ symbol, which results in a ton of half-sided conversation tweets from these folks. That’s fine, and good for them!
Unfortunately, most of these fall into the category of conversations I’m not interested in hearing the other half of. So, these tweets are essentially spam. Now, I could just stop following the folks who do this. But many of these people are writing interesting stuff sometimes, so I don’t want to miss out on that. Another side effect of Twitter spam is that, as tweets flow by on my Twitter client, I might miss tweets from folks I really care about who don’t tweet often. That’s not good.
This seems to be more of a problem when I’m catching up on Twitter after not having been on for a
day hour or two.
So… here’s my request to solve this problem:
- Give me a way to put Twitter spammers into a special "view" in the client where they don’t drown out everyone else. I don’t know what this would look like… a folder? a tab? Who knows? Think creatively.
- Give me a way to put folks who don’t tweet often into a clearer view when they do. Again… not sure how on this one, but perhaps let those infrequent tweets bubble to the top of the timeline and stay there until I read them?
- Tell me I’m just an old fart on Twitter and that I should stick to e-mail as it already solves this problem.
4th Issue: Twitter History
This might be just a limit of the Twitter API itself, not any of the clients. Right now, if I open my Twitter client, it appears to only bring in a limited number of tweets, instead of all the tweets since I last logged in. It would be nice if the client had a way to retrieve all tweets since the last log on. I don’t want to miss any crack moments. (What would I do if I didn’t know that Scobleizer picked his nose in the middle of the night while I was sleeping?!)
Like the 3rd issue, this seems to be more of a problem when I’m catching up on Twitter after not having been on for a
day hour or two. Right now, as long as I’ve got my Twitter client going, I’m seeing everything that flies by. (This is probably NOT a good thing for my personal productivity.) But I know I won’t always be able to catch up on Twitter. There will be times when I’ll probably be not be following it for a couple of days or if I’m on the road often. (Okay… who am I kidding with that scenario. This IS crack we’re talking about! That mobile phone in my pocket will insure that I’m never away from Twitter for that long!)
But seriously… it would be nice if a Twitter client could automatically receive all tweets since the last time I logged on from 1.) that client or 2.) any client. Option 1 or 2 could be a configuration setting of course.
Okay… what say you all? Am I just suffering from Twitter addiction? Or are there any Twitter clients that address these issues?