I’ve been a user and fan since 2009. An early adopter and one of the pioneers of this medium (pun not intended) in my country. My usage has of course evolved, as have my follow lists. Being an editor at two magazines has put me in a privileged position and allowed me to accumulate a healthy number of followers. Fantastic followers, I might add. I’ve watched Twitter evolve, cheered it on, quickly embraced Tweetie when it first came out and loved every minute of it. A lot has changed since then however. First came the iPhone, followed by the iPad. I also got myself a Nexus recently. That amounts to four different devices on which I follow my timeline, reading every single tweet on a daily basis. And you know what the funny thing is? I barely use the official clients and almost never visit Twitter’s web interface.
A Ferrari on all-season tires
I like car analogies. They’re usually good at explaining various computer-related topics to non-technical people. Like my Mom. So here goes nothing …
Twitter, with all of it’s resources and possibilities, has so far provided it’s users with a sub-par experience. And when I say sub-par, I mean totally useless. Imagine buying a supercar, a Ferrari for example, and fitting it with all-season tires rated to a top speed of 160 km/h. Imagine getting a Porsche 911 with a diesel engine (although this might become reality sooner than we expect). A Maserati Quattroporte with Fiat 500 brake discs. Everything appears to be fine on the surface until you take it out for a spin on the autobahn. First you hear the jarring note of the engine, which belongs in a Golf. Then your tires pop when you go over 200 km/h. And when you try to slow down, the brakes overheat. All of the above brings you to a screeching halt in a heap of scorched metal and you start to wonder what went wrong. If you get out alive.
Twitter’s experience sucks
The default experience that Twitter offers is perhaps enough for normal people. For my Mom. And her friends. It is not enough for me. Today, I have the luxury of being able to use another client and an interface which I feel comfortable with. Tomorrow, I might not be able to, what with Twitter restricting it’s API.
I’m an avid Tweetbot user. Partly due to it’s design which is a pleasure to look at and use and partly because it was the first client that offered everything on all of the platforms which I worked on. Everything that I needed at least.
I’ll reiterate: I use three different devices to read my timeline: an iPhone, iPad and Mac. Three different devices. One timeline. Do you see what I’m getting at?
Twitter has (near enough) all of the resources that it needs to do whatever they want with their product. It’s been seven years or so since they launched and they are still missing fundamental features. A sensible search engine is one of them. Sync is another. In car terms, Twitter is currently a luxury vehicle without climate control, electrically operated windows and an annoying squeak coming from the dashboard. Sure, it gets people from A to B, but it does so with us cussing all the way. It’s simply not a great experience if you try to use their native clients and web interface.
Yes, I realise that I’m not a typical user and most probably represent less than 1% of the whole community. But perhaps they have no idea what they’re missing out on?
(De)synchronised – here’s where it gets personal
Let’s forget all of the above for a second. Let’s forget that using the web page is a pain in the ass. Let’s forget that most people start reading from the first page of a book and work their way towards the last one. Let me try to explain my frustration.
What is important to me is reading my timeline. My whole timeline. I follow some two hundred sources. A bit too many perhaps, but I carefully curate my list to allow me to quickly read that which satisfies my interests in chronological order, as events unfold. The only reason I am still doing this is because of developers like Tapbots, Iconfactory and all the other great Twitter clients out there. I could try to use Twitter’s tools, but this is what my day would look like:
- Open Twitter.com and/or mobile app.
- Scroll down, while looking for the place where I stopped reading the day before.
- Wait for older tweets to load.
- Scroll down some more.
- Load tweets.
- Umm … did I read this?
- Load …
The other choice would be to read it in reverse order, which includes conversations. The same applies to Twitter’s iOS and Android clients, which cannot seem to even perform the simple task of remembering where I left off the day before. They nearly always scroll to the top when I open them. I do realise that some people get this to work, but it still doesn’t solve the sync issue. But before I get sidetracked …
I just want to be able to pick up any of my computers and continue where I stopped. Is that so much to ask?
P.S. And in the case of Twitter for Android on my Nexus 4, I want the old font back.