Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Some thinking about twitter clients from RSS

Along with a variety of my analyst relations, public relations, and analyst colleagues (among others), I've gotten into the twitter "micro-blogging" service of late. Although it's still early days, my current assessment is that this service--or one of its competitors--is more likely to maintain a long-standing place in my toolbox than, say, Facebook--which I find I use pretty sporadically.

My current client of choice is twhirl, an Adobe AIR application that I generally keep open in a column running down the left-hand side of one of my monitors. I keep this monitor as sort of a communications center. Along with twhirl, it displays my email and instant messaging clients (Outlook and Trillian respectively).

I also took a look at TweetDeck, another AIR application, this morning. It can be set to display all your twitter traffic in a single column in a way that's pretty similar to twhirl. It can also display multiple columns with replies, direct messages, or a selected subset of the users you're following. Interesting idea but I'd like to see a somewhat different take on the groups concept (and more control of resizing windows and columns).

Let me explain in the context of how I handle RSS feeds in my client. I divide my RSS feeds into several categories. One I call "A-priority." This is basically the stuff that I really want to skim through even if I'm on the road or have a busy day. Doesn't always work that way, of course, but that's the goal. Then I have various other groups for general technology, miscellaneous, tips and tricks, and so forth. This is stuff that I like to flip through but often don't have time for. It also includes some sources that may have interesting stuff but pump out so much material that I don't want it all ending up in my "must read" pile.

I'd like to see a similar concept in twitter clients. Let me create a group A, B, and so forth. That would give me the option to follow some people, especially those who post a lot, on a sort of secondary basis as time permits without diluting my main list. (TweetDeck doesn't quite do this in that you can't turn off "All Tweets" and doesn't provide any way to make sure that a user is in only one group.)

My colleague Jonathan Eunice has also wished for a way to stop displaying read posts. I would envision this also working similarly to the way it does on my RSS client. Just hit a "Mark All Read" button and the display clears. This would be useful when you scroll back to read older tweets and avoids the mental energy with figuring out "Did I read this?"

Overall, a service that I'm finding most useful and fun. Twitter's own infrastructure has ongoing growing pains but some incremental work on the client side would help too.
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