Thursday, December 19, 2013

Some TweetDeck and Twitter thoughts

This post is going to be mainly technical in nature for @tomwoolway but there is also some information that applies to @kirstinestewart with respect to spammers and advertising.

For Tom

 First of all, thanks for listening and responding in the past. I've been programming in multiple languages for 35 years or so, hence I get the concepts being done. Essentially (in simple terms) there are 2 base objects. One for columns, and one for rows. Columns are the headings of the groups of tweets, and rows are the individual tweets appearing in the column. In my opinion, there are a lot of issues with both of these, especially when you compare them to the "pre twitter owned" desktop app.

I like how each column has a name, and how it appears in the left side bar. (Note that I only use TweetDeck for one user account, and only for twitter feeds.) Column headings indicate the topic, and based on the column definition, various options exist for tweaking settings, etc. However if you take one of the canned columns (say for followers) and you change the 'filter' on it, the heading changes from "followers" to "notifications". Which makes the sidebar change. One ends up with a lot of columns called 'notifications', which could confuse a lot of users.

Hear is a suggestion for column headings. Add a line below the heading, leaving the top line and wording intact. Use the second line to show something like "filtered" (I like that redish color you use, just saying) which in my case its because I show followers and lists. You could also add in "alerts on" and/or "preview enabled" or other such things depending on the selection and options.

If you add in say, a hash tag search column (very popular) then the heading shows the search topic. Really nice job with that ... except there is also some bad stuff. Sorry.. :) You see, in the old TweetDeck when a search column was added, you could also filter a subset out, while retaining the main search. Simply clear the subset and boom, its all back. While the new version also allows some really nice subset features (woohoo) the problem is you cant define a subset, without changing the main search. So when you are done with a subset, you have to re-enter the main search again. I love that the options are there TO change things, but perhaps offer an additional toolbar for allowing a "subset" search (just like 'Showing, matching, excluding, etc). I've also noticed that my #yegarena search column is now limited in the records returned. In the other columns, as I scroll down to the end, more records are added. Not so with the search. Whatever you folks did with that column, I'd like to have it operate in the same manner. I also compared the "" with the #yegarena tweetdeck column, and there is a huge difference in whats returned. Just saying...

I also quite like the "drill down" side, where you can click on the "details" or "view" (and other) options on a row tweet. What I find most annoying in the "row" objects is that most of them use the entire background to "act like" it was clicked on details or view. When I shell out from TweetDeck via a link, keep the link open, and then 'click' somewhere in TweetDeck, it always ends up selecting that tweet and going into details. I'm forced to make sure I click on a sidebar of the main object frame, or that cute little twitter bird in the bottom left corner.

I know you can change this, because the "followers" column has NO "background" click properties to them. I figure that if I wanted to "know" more or whatever, then clicking on the already defined 'words' (nicname, view etc) then that's what they are there for.

Speaking of user name clicks :)  ... I also liked the old TweetDeck, where clicking on a name opened the profile in a browser. I also like the new side, a little. I can see where it makes it easier for quick information for many.

One of the things I've learned as a programmer, is people LOVE apps that they can configure. Now, I get that the new code is multi-platform. And its possible you only want some options based on the equipment the software is running on. So for a windows based app, why not allow the user to decide if "name clicks" open internally, or via external browser? It was there before. :)

And it would be nice if some of the more critical commands such as "block" etc, require confirmation. Its SO easy to make an accident in these areas. This could also be a user option for those that hate confirmation boxes.

With respect to "Followers", there could be a few tweaks in this section as well. I suspect the API side limits the quantity displayed at start up, with scrolling the list to fetch more is quite nice. But the API also seems to say "only those after 'this' date". So if I haven't had new folks in a while, the list gets less and less. For THIS column (and maybe others) this creates an issue. If the quantity returned is less than what the column height is set for (say only showing the last 2 follows) then its impossible to "shrink" the program down to allow to "get more" to show up. I'm the type of person that doesn't just automatically jump on new followers, I like to take some time, explore who they are, see what they say etc. It might take me weeks (sorry folks) and this API restriction is a killer. I'm forced to add more stuff into the column and then scroll to fetch and then reset the column, or I have to load up the webpage profile and deal with it there. Just saying, this isn't really "user friendly".

Still with followers, I can't tell who in the list I have followed. You currently show this little blue "person" icon next to the 'user name followed you'. Why not make the icon blue for those not followed, and green for those you have. Or some other color combination that works for you. Would really make things stand out.

With DM's... Nice touches on changing the icon from white to blue when there is something new. I've noted that many times, when I go to "purge" older DM's... I click on delete, the status display in the lower right corner says "successfully deleted", but the DM remains displayed. Most of the time it does disappear, but not always. With other columns, you can "drill down" and get details. DM's only show you how old the message is. It can say (example) 1 hour. But it will show 1 hour for the next hour. If someone says "meet me here in an hour"... well, that message could be 1 hour and 1 minute, or 1 hour and 59 minutes. I have NO clue exactly when it was sent.

Still with DM's, how about an option to "delete thread" or "delete all" when you have selected a particular persons DM's.. Also, in the menu list there is this new "mark + delete", which is within the "block" portion. Does this report a DM as bad? I'm afraid to try it and see.

Entering a tweet... I have to be honest here, I'm not really liking the sidebar. Yes, there is the option there to keep it open but it pushes everything to the right. Which means I have to make the program larger in size. I love the old way. On top. Why not have an option to allow the user to define if things are on the top or the side? And for the love of God PLEASE bring back the "press enter to send". Yes yes yes, I know, multi-platform, I get it.. People on websites know its TAB for the next field, and CONTROL ENTER to cause line breaks. But this is a windows desktop. Control-enter is hardly EVER used. So here is another great option to allow users to configure. And by the way, people in twitter are really great at getting every last character into a tweet. Quite often, the last portion of a tweet is a hash tag. Control-Enter does NOT work when the hash tag screen pops up. And the 'data entry' part will more often than not, cover the "send" button. So you end up having to put the cursor some place else, type a space or something to clear the hash tag popups. With a 140 character message, this puts it over the limit, so then you have to delete it. None of this is user friendly... And for what its worth, I hate having to do "two keys" to send something, so I prefer to use the mouse to click on send. If nothing else, the option to "press enter to send" really needs to come back into the windows interface. I know, I already said that. But its worth repeating.

With respect to the "mentions" type columns... I've noticed a new little "reply arrow" that now shows up in the DM column, showing that you replied. Why not add the same feature to those other columns too? The old TweetDeck had it. There are times when I look at a tweet and scratch my head... Did I reply to that already? Yes, I know.. I can click on the 'view' side but again, this loses the entire concept of being user friendly. Also, there are several times when I want to thank someone for a RT. And if the RT wasn't modified then when I click on the 'reply' side, I only get the folks mentioned in the tweet (if any), including my name. Never shows the name of the other person who RT'd it. So I end up having to type it in manually, and if that name isn't found with the auto-popup side, I have to open their profile to get it right. And if their profile is something that's "weird" to type in, then I have to click on their profile to open up their website profile so I can copy/paste their name in. Again, this is NOT a user friendly method. Just saying... :)

For Tom & Kirstine

The "block and report spam" side in the new interface... I love the options to allow more definitions but, I've done many "block/report", have the users tweet disappear, have the "success" show in the status in the lower right side. I've then closed TweetDeck, waited a while, re-opened it... and the same tweet is back again. Note, this is mostly in search columns. And I know, you will go "but they aren't filtered"... and I get that. But I will bring up the profile of the user I just blocked, and their profile does NOT show them as being blocked. So I have to open their profile on the web, and then block them. So there is some form of a glitch that needs fixing.

I'm sure many people will 'block and report spam' just for the hell of it. I get that twitter needs to be careful in handling this. Specific to the #yegarena tag (and I'm told several others as well) there ARE groups of people that are PAID to enter gibberish tweets to disrupt the timeline and cause confusion. Their text will often make no sense to the topic at hand, or the true purpose of the hash tag. I'm sure you are aware that the #YEG tag (for Edmonton) was number 1 in twitter. As a city, the people here have always been leaders for the entire country, when it comes to social media and general computer use. This goes all the way back to pre internet days, using dial up modems and BBS (bulletin board systems) sites. I know, because I ran one of the first of them on an Apple 2+ under CP/M.

Anyway, the #yegarena tag is very local. It has to do with a billionaire getting a free ride on taxpayer dollars, with values that will certainly exceed 1.4 billion dollars. And people here in Edmonton are pissed over this. These spammers that have been showing up all have the same generic numbers for tweets and following and followers. Quite often, the lists of those they follow, or who follow them, are identical. And they have been reported to Twitter hundreds of times. The pattern is easy to see, yet the accounts still remain active.

I'm sure advertisers will be really happy about spammers being given free reign.

Twitter must be more pro-active with dealing with these, including targeted harassment.

If you ever have a position open were spam abuser "spotters" are needed, I'd be happy to offer my detective skill assessment services. I find patterns where computer logic fails. Do note, I would never want the responsibility or power to suspend anyone's account. But I'd be happy to add a "flag" to a users account that would let the higher ups determine what needs to be done. It would be fun to do... and I work from home for very cheap too. :)

Anyway.... just food for thought. The things I like may not be practical from an operations point of view, but I know for a fact they can easily be done from the programming aspect. TweetDeck used to kick ass. It's why Twitter bought it. I've seen some nice improvements in the new TweetDeck, and while I wouldn't say it sucks ass, it does have a lot of very unfriendly things going on. Some little fixes... a few configuration options (which probably will vary based on the platform its being run on) ... it can go back to being the great app it used to be.

Again, huge kudos for what has been done. To so smoothly integrate the look and feel of the desktop into the web app impresses the heck out of me. To have both know my settings, and adjust things accordingly, is spot on.

Just a final personal comment to Tom, about updates. Maybe the industry is changing but I'm used to closing a program, and have it terminate. It was my command, it is my computer. I don't expect it to do anything after that, other than to perhaps send out some "settings" information during closure. Update checks should be done at start up of the program, and the user should be informed "an update is needed to continue" with a continue and a exit button. I suspect this also may need to vary, based on the platform but... when you compile the code, it does check the platform switch... :)

Thanks for listening..

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