Twitter: The verdict

So back in February I wrote a post about Twitter, and why I was joining. That was 5 months ago now, so here’s the conclusions I’ve drawn.

Trends

When I started, you were able to search keywords and view trending topics (the words/phrases that featured the most) on a subdomain, search.twitter.com. This has since been moved to a sidebar on the main site. Terrible idea. This has generated to end of spam and pointless bandwagoning. Not only do you get people posting relentlessly to get their tag on the trending topics list, but you actually get people who write a post consisting entirely of trending phrases then saying “Follow me plz!!”. If I follow someone, it’s because I find them amusing, interesting or informative, not coz they post bollocks. Go away.

You also get trends that are the same post retweeted a thousand times, which makes being able to search for a trending topic useless. The intention is that you get DIFFERENT posts about the same topic, not so that you get the same post you’ve just read by someone else again and again. Lookout for followers of mashable on this one.

Followers/Followees

The whole point of twitter is that everything you post is publicly viewable, much like a blog. Anyone can read and respond to your tweets, and you can see anyones. This differs from Facebook who, since I joined Twitter, have tried to make themselves more like Twitter each day, where only your approved friends can see your posts. I think this is great. The only problem is that 50% of the people who have started following me are “hot girls wanting hot sex in my area,” or someone who seems to be following everyone on Twitter in the hope that some will follow them back.

Now, correct me if I’m wrong here, please, but why would you want anyone to follow you unless they find you interesting, and do so of their own accord? If you want your voice to be heard, then surely you only want it heard by those to whom it will matter? Anyone like this gets an instant block from me. I don’t care for follower numbers, I’d rather have 10 who want to hear what I have to say that 100 that don’t.

The people I follow, on the other hand, are brilliant. In particular, I’d recommend jamescridland, Andrew_Taylor and stephenfry. I also started following a few news-type sites, but it turned out that (with the notable exception of a few like BBCClick), they just posted links to stories syndicated via RSS. If that’s all you’re posting, I’ll just subscribe to your RSS feed, and not have your links clutter my timeline, thanks.

Direct Message/@ replies

This is actually a pretty big relief. When I saw these features I thought they’d be prime spam targets, with people posting as many usernames as they could with a link to their website and it landing in your @replies box, but no. The posts I get there are generally a good piece of conversation, a well thought-out reply to what I’ve posted, or a retweet of something I’ve posted (very flattering, btw). Top marks.

API/Clients

One of Twitter’s strengths is it’s API allowing you to tweet easily from anywhere (within reason). However, I find myself in the small part of the Twitter community that’s somewhat hard done by. I have an old phone which can just about run a basic J2ME Twitter client, and a linux desktop. What I’d really like is a desktop widget that gets my timeline, and lets me post tweets. Hold on, what’s this? A KDE Plama widget that does just that!
Then I see a post from another user that’s come from Spaz, so I check it out. It looks amazing! All the stuff in my Plasma widget, plus searching, retweeting, the lot! I then find Tweetdeck and whole host of awesome-looking Twitter apps. How can I run them on Linux? Do I need Wine? No! They run on AIR, which should work on Linux with no problem. I install spaz, play with my window manager to get it behaving like a desktop widget, and hey presto…. AIR stops working. No errors, it just won’t start. Great.

Never mind, someone will have written a sexy, full-featured Twitter client for Linux that doesn’t need AIR, right? Err… no. It seems that AIR is the de facto platform for Twitter clients. Hohum.
The result of this is that I tend just to use the website. Not that this is a problem, it’s just not as cool as it should be.

Verdict

Twitter is excellent. It’s users can be idiots. I only follow the ones that aren’t. We need a non-AIR linux client that’s as cool as Spaz.

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