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Two iOS Twitter Apps Compared: Twitterrific vs. Tweetbot

I’m a regular user of Twitter (you can follow me, @mcelhearn), and having a powerful Twitter client on my iPhone and iPad is essential. For a while, I used Tweetbot, then switched to Twitterrific, and I recently went back to Tweetbot, but am thinking of going back to Twitteriffic…

It’s hard to choose between the two, since each has features I like. So here’s a head-to-head comparison of Twitterrific and Tweetbot. I’m not going to cover all the features, just the ones I use the most. Note: as of this writing, both are currently on sale for $3; I don’t know what the final prices will be when their respective sales are over.

Note: You could certainly use the free, official Twitter app, but it’s much weaker than both of these.

Display

Both Tweetbot and Twitterrific give you flexible display options, but Twitterrific wins in that respect. While you can choose a text size in Tweetbot, Twitterrific also lets you choose a font, from among a half-dozen options.

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You can choose the size of avatars, the size of the font, and the line spacing. I only wish the fonts in Twitterrific were a bit darker. You can see above that they’re gray, and I find them a bit hard to read when I’m outdoors.

Tweetbot’s display settings are more limited. You can only choose a font size, but you can also choose whether you want avatars to be round or square (with rounded corners).

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However, as you’ll see below, Tweetbot has a much bolder font, which I find more readable on my iPhone when I’m outdoors. Here’s a comparison of the two, using the fonts and sizes I’ve selected, Twitterrific to the left, Tweetbot to the right:

2013-11-21 10.18.58.png       2013-11-21 10.19.06.png

(Note the Search Timeline field in Tweetbot; Twitteriffic doesn’t offer that useful feature.) Read more

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When Tweeters Tweet Too Much

V65oai7fxn47qv9nectxI like Twitter, and I use my account, @mcelhearn, to share articles I’ve written, info about my books, and varied things that interest me. This may include music I like, books I’m reading, movies I’ve seen and more.

I follow about 300 Twitter accounts. Some are friends, others colleagues (fellow Mac writers), and others are companies I’m interested in. For companies, I generally follow them for information about their products, or sales, but I’ve become more and more annoyed as some companies think that their “social media strategy” should include retweeting everyone who mentions them.

Take, for example, NetFlixUK. I recently subscribed to NetFlix, and if you look at the retweets in their feed, you’ll see that they spend a lot of time telling people following them that other people following them are watching Breaking Bad. We get it; Breaking Bad is on NetFlix UK. You’ve told us a dozen times in the days before the first episode of the final season aired (today). You really don’t need to keep telling us that people are watching it. I can see what’s going to happen; they’re going to keep tweeting about every episode, then retweeting everyone who mentions them saying they watched an episode, for the next eight weeks. I would like to keep following NetFlix to know about new movies and TV series they add, but it’s no longer worth it. Unfollow.

Or what about @VisitYork, the Twitter account of the York tourism organization? I live in York, and would like to know what’s going on, but I don’t need to hear about Nigel Shmoe and his visit to York, and how much he liked it. I don’t see how such tweets would inspire more people to visit York. Unfollow.

I follow lots of Mac developers, who have accounts for their apps. Many of them retweet positive comments from users, but I have to say, this is a mistake. Anyone following already uses the app, and doesn’t need convincing. I doubt anyone follows a Twitter account in order to decide whether or not they’re going to buy an app. Guys (and gals), be neat; don’t retweet.

I get lots of mentions from people who’ve read an article or book I wrote, saying how much they liked it. I never retweet these. I’m sure I tweet more than enough for some people, and I’m sure many people have unfollowed me because my interests are too varied for them; that’s fine.

Twitter is an interesting way to engage in conversations, but these obsessive retweets just look like spam in my Twitter feed. So if you’re thinking of the best way to use your Twitter feed, find a way to make people want to follow you, instead of annoying them constantly with retweets they don’t care about.

Update: My Macworld colleague Lex Friedman pointed out that this feature is available from the Twitter website. Since I never go there, other than to do the odd search, I hadn’t noticed. Click on a user’s icon, then click on the button with the arrow, next to the Following button. Choose Turn Off Retweets. I’m surprised that this isn’t supported by all Twitter clients; I can do this on Twitterrific for iOS, but not the OS X version.

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The Problem with Twitter’s User Cap

A Macworld article yesterday pointed out how Tapbots pulled their alpha of Tweetbot for Mac, because of worries about Twitter’s new user caps. Twitter is now limiting the number of users a third-party app can have. As Lex Friedman said in the Macworld article:

For existing apps, the limit is either 100,000 users or double their user counts as of August 16, whichever is greater; for new apps, the limit is 100,000 users.

There is a serious problem here, not only for the future of third-party apps, but also for users who purchase these apps. First, the fact that these “tokens” – when you allow an app to access your Twitter account, it uses a token – are limited means that users may come up against these limits in unexpected ways.

For example, imagine that I’ve bought a Twitter client – I have bought several, in fact, both for OS X and iOS. Today, I have one Twitter account, but I want to set up another. I may be able to do so on Twitter’s web site, but if my client no longer has any available tokens, then I won’t be able to add the account to that client.

Or imagine that a client is approaching the limit. I may be able to buy a copy of the client, but if I don’t set up my account with it quickly, there’s a chance that I won’t be able to use it. This leads to problems of refunds, and we know that refunds via the iTunes Store and Mac App Store are problematic.

Here’s another scenario. I’ve allowed several apps to access my Twitter account. Let’s assume that Twitter decides to revoke these accesses after a certain amount of time if they are not used. This could be a way to free up tokens for third-party apps. However, if my token is revoked, I may find that I can no longer use a specific app that I stopped using, if, after an update to the app, I decide to start using it again. (This assumes that the app in question has hit its limit.)

There actually is some logic to Twitter revoking access. Let’s say that you downloaded a demo of an app, granted it access, then decided you didn’t like it. If you didn’t revoke that access, then that’s a token that can’t be reclaimed. (By the way, it’s a good idea to revoke access to any apps that you don’t use; not just so the tokens are freed up, but for security reasons. Go to your Twitter Apps settings to do this.)

The reason for these caps is simply that Twitter wants to phase out third-party clients, yet it is likely that if they did so abruptly they would face legal action. This is a shame – and stupid – as third-party clients are part of what made Twitter as successful as it is. Creating these caps not only limits what developers can do, but also will limit what users can do with apps that they have paid for.

One final point. If I were a developer, I don’t think I would want to be working with a business plan that says, “If my app is really successful, I can no longer sell it.” In fact, this may be Twitter’s goal. By dissuading developers from creating third-party apps, they hope that these apps will simply disappear.

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What if Twitter Locks Out Third-Party Apps?

A recent announcement from Twitter highlights the fact that the company is seeking to make more money from its service. This is certainly not a surprise; Twitter is widely used, yet there is little advertising, other than sponsored tweets and accounts, and the company needs to monetize its user base. But developers are worrying about Twitter restricting use of its API, and whether this will lead to a “closed garden” approach.

Twitter sees some 400 million tweets posted every day, and the company initially let anyone who wanted work with this data. Developers of third-party Twitter applications take advantage of this openness to offer features that Twitter itself does not. But if Twitter starts rolling out ads that get piped into these applications, how will users react?

The problem with Twitter is that its simplicity is what prevents it from making money. The company could insert plenty of ads on its own website, but they would only reach users who interact with Twitter via its website; those who use third-party clients wouldn’t see anything, and wouldn’t generate any income.

Twitter’s being a one-trick pony may lead to long-term problems. There is no doubt that this is a popular platform, but part of what has ensured its popularity is the ecosystem of third-party applications that allow users to choose how they want to tweet and read tweets. For Twitter to make money, they have two choices: drown users in ads, or expand their service. If they do the former, they may lose users, and another company might try to create a similar service. If they do the latter, they may dilute their brand.

I find Twitter to be useful, for several reasons. It allows me to stay in touch with friends and co-workers, and serves as a kind of digital water-cooler. It also allows me to get information from companies that interest me. And, finally, it allows me to share information that interests me, including articles like this, to my followers. But if suddenly my timeline – even in a third-party application – were to be drowned in ads, I don’t know if I’d continue using it. Twitter has certainly become a habit, but Facebook used to be a habit as well, and I don’t visit their website much any more.

Twitter is in a tough spot, and needs to figure out how to move into the future. They run the risk of alienating much of their user base, losing users, and devaluing the brand. Monetizing a service like Twitter is not simple, and I hope those making these decisions do the right thing for their users. Because, after all, without these users, the company has nothing.

By the way, if you don’t follow me on Twitter, maybe you should.

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Twitter Thoughts: Using Two Accounts to Sort Tweets?

I’ve been using Twitter for several months now, with my account @mcelhearn. I find it a good way to communicate with my readers, as well as with my colleagues. It’s also an interesting way to get news, though I tend to depend more on RSS for general news. But I’ve noticed that there are two types of Twitter accounts I follow, and I’m wondering if it wouldn’t make sense for me to have two Twitter accounts, and even use two clients, one for each.

One the one hand, there is the general communication among friends, colleagues and followers. That’s the standard, often two-way Twitter usage that most people have. But then there are the one-way communications, from, for example, new sites and publications I follow. Some are breaking news, others in-depth reporting, and still others are record labels and musical performers I follow. It seems that segregating these follow-only accounts to a separate Twitter account would make sense, and would make my timeline less populated and easier to read. However, while many Twitter clients can handle multiple accounts, I have yet to see any that can display both accounts at the same time, in different windows. Hence the idea of using two clients: one for my main account, and one for my follow account. (To be fair, this might be just confusing; switching from one account to another might be sufficient.)

What would probably be more efficient would be to group my news tweets in a list. But I don’t see that Twitter clients can choose to not display the contents of a list in the timeline; that could be a good way of segregating different types of tweets.

Have any of you done this with Twitter? If so, how does it work out for you?

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Ping and Twitter? Seriously?

Apple’s Ping, which is the “musical social network” grafted onto the iTunes Store, has been limping along since its introduction. So any way of getting it out of its fortress could help Apple to make people realize that Ping exists, and potentially sell more music. Apple and Twitter have announced an integration of the two services, whereby Ping users can link their Ping accounts with their Twitter accounts, leading to a potential tsunami of unwanted tweets, and a flood of unfollows on Twitter.

My Macworld colleague Chris Breen asks if this is an invitation to annoy, and I agree with most of his points. The main error in this integration is that Ping tweets are not selective. Everything you buy will lead to a tweet, even those free songs you download just for the heck of it. (Of course, this information displays in your friends’ Ping updates, but that’s where it should be.) Every time you like a song or album, a tweet will be sent out with its URL. Chris points out that you can, of course, choose to tweet about an individual item, even if you don’t link your accounts, and I feel that things should remain like this. Perhaps Apple could add a checkbox when you like or post about something via Ping, offering to tweet it as well, but making it an all-or-nothing option shows that Apple clearly does not understand social networking.

This said, perhaps those of us who write about technology don’t understand it either. I’ve only been using Twitter for a few months, and do it mostly to stay in touch with my Mac journalist colleagues, tweeting only about things I write about: Macs, iTunes, iPods, books, music, and little more. (And, of course, inviting readers to follow my tweets.) Sure, some of the people I follow tweet about sports, often, and I wish I could filter those tweets; it was especially annoying during the World Series, as many of my Twitter friends are in San Francisco. But that’s not such a big deal; I can skim over them. If their Ping activity were tweeted, though, it would be an annoyance; not insurmountable, though, because most of them don’t do much on Ping.

Maybe the target demographic – younger people – want this kind of info. Maybe there are some people out there who really use Ping a lot (I haven’t been able to find them – if you’re one, please post in the comments). My experience with Ping suggests that most people are ignoring it, or they’re simply not buying much on the iTunes Store.

In any case, Apple’s all-or-nothing approach is a mistake. Users will find that the annoyance of this link is not worth the trouble to their followers. The same will be true with Facebook, if Apple creates a similar sort of link. Facebook is a bit different, and perhaps people would see it as less of an intrusion. But intrusion it is. While automating such things ensures their dispersal to the masses, it also annoys. Without automation, many people will forget. And there’s the rub: if they forget to share the info, maybe your system really isn’t compelling enough.

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