In the beginning, Twitter was the right tool for the job, when it came to updating your colleagues, family, and friends about what you’re up to. This worked well for busy people, people who don’t live close to their family, and plenty of others. It also worked well to share things people find on the net, kind of kind a minimalist “web log” (ie, blog).
Over time, people started using twitter to meet new people, have conversations, and generally it’s become a lot less static than it was originally written for. The developers have done a fantastic job writing new APIs to keep up with how users are using it, and they did this much quicker than any site I’ve ever seen before, in fact.
But unless some major structural changes happen really soon, the general population’s usage of twitter has changed significantly enough to merit needing a new tool for this job, whatever the job happens to be.
How we use twitter
The way people are specifically using Twitter obviously varies, but I’ve done a little research and found that the majority of users use Twitter for a few basic things:
- Networking to find new friends/associates/leads. Either for monetary gain, personal relationships, or whatever else, meeting new people is definitely one of the top reasons people tweet.
- Coordinating plans falls near the top of this list, be they big plans (where are some fun parties at WWDC 2009?) and small plans (want to go out for burgers tonight?).
- Share interesting tidbits/news/ideas that we find on the net or in real life is another big reason we tweet. Obviously there are entire twitter accounts for this purpose, like @CNN and @stejules, but as individuals, we also do this on a regular basis.
- Getting answers on questions that even powerful search engines (like google, ask, or bing) can’t figure out. These are some quick examples.
- Marketing for our businesses is another popular reason. This ranges from large businesses (like the @oprah) to small businesses (ie, @atebits). Usually these accounts also provide support and answer questions about their software, also.
How we can’t use twitter
It may not be apparent just yet exactly how our use of Twitter is beyond the scope of simple updates (even with the awesome addition of -replies- mentions) and why a new tool is needed. Well, here are some things it’s pretty difficult to do, even with powerful clients like TweetDeck or Tweetie:
- Follow an entire conversation, including tracking future additions to it.
- Meet new people through conversations, rather than simple, context-ignorant replies.
- Keep a conversation’s original context intact and in plain sight to all its curious viewers, for more than a few replies.
Essentially, conversations suck in Twitter. You only see half the story, and you can only follow it backwards; there really is no way to keep a handle on a conversation so you can refresh later to view any of its new additions. In effect, most conversations die prematurely and are practically useless to anyone who isn’t directly involved in them.
How this can be fixed
The solution isn’t exactly on the client end, and it isn’t exactly on the server end. I think it lies in both, actually. The server should have capabilities that involve threading, very much like Facebook’s or Jaiku’s statuses and status-comments. The client would then wrap this into a package that is convenient, intuitive, and easy-to-use, thus greatly extending the capabilities of the server for a desktop or mobile user.
Personally, creating this kind of server/website isn’t really in my repertoire; all I can do is create a desktop (Mac) client for that extends the capabilities of an existing service and puts them into a nice package as described above. It would be really great to be able to work with a team of server-side developers to make a solution that’s as effective as possible, but I don’t really have that luxury, so it’s kind of pointless to take this blog posting down that path.
My idea of a solution is to find an existing website that meets some of these criteria, extend its capabilities by writing Mac and iPhone clients for it, and then let it take on a life of its own.
One minor problem
There’s one tiny problem with this solution. After the app is finished, when news of it spreads, people will cite “all my friends are on twitter, not XYZ” as the reason to not give it a fair try. However, once a few people do try, their friends won’t be able to use that excuse as easily, and eventually more and more people will try it. Thus, solving this chicken/egg problem at an exponential rate.
This app doesn’t exist yet. I haven’t written it, and I might not. I do have some ideas in my head, but as of late, I’m pretty swamped working on an existing app. My blog post is basically just in hopes that others will begin to recognize this problem, and perhaps we can put some collective efforts into fixing it together, whether it be someone writing this app by themselves or with a team, someone marketing the app on twitter or spreading the word to their friends, or even someone just giving the app a fair shot when it finally arrives.
Let me know what you think, post some comments, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
My name is Steven Degutis, and I've been writing software professionally for a decade. During that time, I've written many apps and websites, quite a few technical articles, and kept up-to-date with the rapidly evolving software industry.
If you have software needs for web, mobile, or desktop, and are looking for a seasoned software professional, please reach out to me at email@example.com to set up a phone call.
- Self-employed – present
- Clean Coders – 5 years
- 8th Light – 2 years
- Big Nerd Ranch – 1 year
- Self-employed - 1 year
- Web: full-stack
- iOS (UIKit)
- macOS (Cocoa)
- REST APIs
- AWS / EC2 / ELB
- HTML5 / CSS
Over the past decade, I've written a total of 172 technical articles on various programming languages, frameworks, best practices, and my own projects, as I kept up-to-date and active in the software industry.
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- 2017 — "Clean code" isn't actually clean
- 2017 — Passion in your field is overrated
- 2017 — What I learned in 5 days of writing an experimental website
- 2014 — Age of the Polyglot
- 2013 — How to Program
- 2013 — Ignore the Naysayers
- 2013 — Writing Clearly
- 2012 — Reinvent the wheel
- 2010 — Good usability
- 2009 — Twitter is the wrong tool
- 2009 — We're all pretty bad at driving
- 2008 — Why I Code
|August||NDD: Narrative Driven Development|
|August||The truth about TDD|
|August||Macroframeworks vs Microframeworks|
|March||Notes on Haskell Extensions|
|February||Second thoughts on front-end tools|
|February||First thoughts on front-end tools|
|February||Some thoughts on GUIs|
|February||First thoughts on OCaml|
|February||First thoughts on Haskell|
|August||Age of the Polyglot|
|August||The history of Mjolnir|
|August||Quitting the GUI wars|
|June||Lua: my new favorite extension language|
|January||My programming life-goals|
|January||Lingua Latina, Pars I|
|January||Allocating an AST on the stack|
|April||Ruby Accessors Considered Pernicious|
|March||Reinvent the wheel|
Here are some of the projects I'm most proud of. They were created using a variety of technologies, running on several different platforms and OSes. They're all finished products, and many of them are open source.
I made Docks in 2009 for users who wanted to swap out icons in their Dock with a single click. Its unique functionality and design aesthetic attracted the attention of Apple, Engadget, MacWorld, and led to an acquisition of my start-up by Big Nerd Ranch.
This toy was made in a weekend to entertain my 1 year old daughter. It lets you create bubbles with your fingers, which then simulate physics by bumping into each other and falling.
When I couldn't find an app in the App Store that let me make very simple lists extremely quickly, I made one myself. I use it almost every day to organize and track my activities.
I created this app to increase my productivity by letting me move windows around in macOS using keyboard shortcuts. It grew into a community-driven highly extensible app, using Lua for its plugin system.
Implementing this elite social network gave me experience integrating both Apple Pay and credit card payments (via Stripe.com) seamlessly into web apps, for a frictionless and pain-free payment experience.
This isn't just any chatroom. In this web app, you can see what everyone is typing while they type it. I made this in order to scratch my itch for making real-time apps and games, and learned how to use WebSockets in the process.
This was written in 2009, before the time of Slack, when IRC was the main way for programmers to get short-term assistance from each other. Its purpose was to be a beautiful app with an emphasis on simplicity and usability over technical power.
This is an app I actually use every single day. It lets you move windows with global keyboard shortcuts. Since it uses Vim-like key bindings, it should feel pretty natural to any programmer. There's no configuration needed; it Just Works™.
As an evolution of Phoenix, Hydra was my first attempt at embedding a full Lua virtual machine into an Objective-C app, to make a lightweight and efficient window manager that focused on speed, low memory usage, low CPU usage, and overall being gentle on laptop batteries.
These may be tiny, but they're interesting technical feats.
|Lua4Swift||Swift framework for embedding Lua with a native Swift API.|
|choose||Command line fuzzy-matching tool for macOS that uses a GUI|
|music||Command line music daemon for macOS that only speaks JSON|
|hecto||Command line text editor with an embedded Lua plugin system|
|ZephSharp||Window manager for Windows using Clojure for scripting|
|management||Minimalist EC2 configuration & deployment tool in Ruby.|
|go.assert||Assertion helper package for writing tests in Go.|
|go.shattr||Go library for printing shell-attributed strings to stdout.|
|OCDSpec2||Objective-C based testing framework with Xcode integration.|