Digg Reader is shutting down on March 26, 2018. Bummer, we know. Export and download your feeds and folders from digg.com/settings and you can add those to another reader product. Don’t worry! You can grab your feeds after Reader is gone.
This played out exactly as I expected. On to Feedly.
When platforms or services sense their users are disengaged, whether from social activities, work or merely a continued contribution to corporate profitability, dots are deployed: outside, inside, wherever they might be seen. I’ve met dots that existed only to inform me of the existence of other dots, new dots, dots with almost no meaning at all; a dot on my Instagram app led me to another dot within it, which informed me that something had happened on Facebook: Someone I barely know had posted for the first time in a while. These dots are omnipresent, leading everywhere and ending nowhere. So maybe there’s something to be gained by connecting them.
I have been trying out a new approach to social networking lately: not using them – at least not using them the way they are intended. I’ve installed Facebook News feed blockers on both my phone and my work computer. Still, even when I get the impulse to visit Facebook, even though there’s no feed greeting me, there’s that little globe at the upper right corner of the screen with a red badge affixed to it. A news organization went live hours ago, an event is coming up today and two of my friends are going, someone posted in “cool pizza group” (a cool group devoted to pizza).
These badges really do represent a disregard for the user; they promise something that needs addressing but rarely represent that. They are advertisements for users to keep using their phone.
Twitter, for its part, is egregious in its use of badges to spur engagement. If one stays off of Twitter for more than two days, reopening the application presents a numbered badge, but doesn’t usually show engagement on the user’s tweets. Rather, it shows stuff that happened on Twitter. A person one follows just liked another’s tweet. Things like that. If someone is highly engaged, Twitter does not think to show users these things: It knows you are a captive audience. As someone’s who has been off the service for more than a month, I shudder to think of the things Twitter thinks I want.
(Also, for a brief period of time on Twitter’s iOS app, years ago, the app made it so users could not even disable the application’s system-level badge from notification settings. How this was even possible from a development standpoint puzzles me.)
David Zweig at the New Yorker wrote about a tool that removes metrics from Twitter. The badges remain, but retweet, like, follower counts and tweet age are all removed. In this new, metric-less world, Zweig found relief and comfort of not seeing the popularity contest that the social media site often is.
These sort of user-facing metrics that encourage are nothing new: Internet forums, pre-social media, showed number of posts and rewarded users based on post count, often with a new user title. However, there is something insidious about how the modern websites that eat up so much of our time exploit its users’ attention in the name of financial gain.
Anyway! Thanks for reading! Please like and share.
A 2008–2011 retrospective of Twitter’s flagship iPhone application, with bonus commentary.
Twitter for iPhone 4.0 was released to the general public on Thursday [Dec. 8, 2011] to widely mixed reviews. Some hailed it for its simplicity and others felt betrayed by the app for not sticking to its roots.
What were Twitter for iPhone’s roots? It started with a company called Atebits, run by Loren Brichter.
Released: November 18, 2008 | $2.99
The first version of Tweetie emerged when there was a small field of Twitter clients for the iPhone. The most popular app at the time was Twitterrific. Tweetie set itself apart with a few game-changing features.
Chief among them: endless scrolling to load more tweets. Yes, it seems trivial now, but in the nascent days of application development for the iPhone this feature was killer.
Released: December 15, 2008 | Price: $2.99, free upgrade from previous versions
Tweetie 1.1 added a URL scheme that allowed users to take a URL from Safari and paste it into a Tweet sheet. By adding “tweetie:” at the front of a URL, the application would open with the URL pre-populated. This was especially important, because iOS did not support copy and paste at the time.
Tweetie 1.2: Swipe to reply
Released: February 16, 2009 | Price: $2.99, free upgrade from previous versions
The killer feature of Tweetie was finally here. No, I’m not talking about PEE. Swipe to reply allowed users to reply directly from the app’s timeline view. When the user swiped, they could visit the profile directly, favorite and reply to the tweet.
The visual design of the app had also gone through a visual overhaul, opting for a dense view.
Tweetie 1.3: Left off the store, then left in the dark
Released: March 10, 2009 | Price: $2.99, free upgrade from previous versions
Tweetie 1.3 was held up in App Store hell. It was rejected because a trending topic displayed inside the app had featured a curse word. Brichter took to Twitter to complain:
You all ready to be pissed? Tweetie 1.3 rejected. Because there's an offensive word in the TRENDS – http://twitpic.com/1zbcs
Not long after, Tweetie 1.3 hit the App Store and brought along with it a whole bunch of bug fixes and new features. App users long had clamored for additional themes and Tweetie 1.3 delivered a dark theme.
Tweetie 2: Pull to refresh
Released: October 9, 2009 | Price: $2.99, new and existing users
Just 11 months after Tweetie first hit the App Store, it was time for a rebuilt, completely new version of the app to hit. With that, came a minor backlash from Tweetie 1 buyers. Brichter believed that Tweetie 2.0 was enough of a revamp of the app that it warranted a whole new purchase.
Upgraded version of the same product with the same name and they expect me to pay full price?
That didn’t stop Tweetie 2.0 from being a stellar app. From my review, regarding the best new feature at the time:
Not only that, but there’s a great new change for reloading your Twitter. No longer do you have to scroll up, click the refresh button and wait for updates. Instead, just scroll up by gesturing down and hold it until you get feedback that it is reloading.
Pull to refresh became one of the most widely adopted metaphors among apps that work with timeline views. My iPhone currently has 15 apps with the feature. Facebook’s iPhone app required users to shake the phone in order to reload the view. Now, like dozens of other apps, it conforms to the UI metaphor Brichter invented.
The app also aggressively used caching, which meant that the app remembered where the user left off, making up for the lack of a dedicated multitasking feature on iOS.
Tweetie 2.1: Project retweet, location-based tweeting, gap detection
Released: November 29, 2009 | Price: $2.99, free upgrade from previous versions of Tweetie 2
Back in the old days of Twitter, retweet didn’t exist. Well, it existed as a form of syntax inside of a tweet. Now, it’s a feature widely used. Tweetie 2.1 was one of the first iPhone apps that took advantage of the new format.
It also had location support, which let users search nearby tweets. Add on Twitter lists, which had just been introduced to organizes different groups of users.
Remember when Tweetie 1.0 was one of the first to feature endless scrolling? Tweetie 2.1 took it one step further with gap detection. When you reopen the app after quite some time away, Tweetie 2.1 recognized a gap between tweets. By clicking on the gap, it populated the area with the tweets it missed.
Tweetie 2.1.1: Foursquare support
Released: March 12, 2010 | Price: $2.99, free upgrade from previous versions of Tweetie 2
Tweetie 2.1.1 was a minor update, but it’s worth noting, because it’s the last major feature upgrade. It added Foursquare support, which showed place information when a user posted from Foursquare.
Less than a month later, Twitter announced that it had acquired Atebits’ Tweetie and that Loren Brichter would join the team at Twitter.
Tweetie 2.1.2: The last version
Released: April 28, 2010 | Price: $2.99, free upgrade from previous versions of Tweetie 2
With Tweetie joining the Twitter flock, there was one last upgrade to do. And it was in the form of a game. It teased the new version of Twitter, which would be made free for all users.
Twitter for iPhone 3.0
Released: May 18, 2010 | Price: Free
Twitter for iPhone continued the impeccable design of Tweetie for iPhone. It reorganized search, added signup options right inside of the app and let users without an account browse Twitter.
What went missing from the app? URL shortening from services like bit.ly. Twitter began using its t.co shortener, instead.
Twitter for iPhone 3.2: Push notifications
Released: November 16, 2010 | Free
Before push notifications made it to Twitter for iPhone, users turned to Boxcar, which was a handy solution for Twitter developers who couldn’t build the infrastructure to support push notifications. Now, however, Twitter itself could support it for notifications about mentions and direct messages.
Twitter for iPhone 3.3: #Quickbar, the #Dickbar
Released: March 3, 2011 | Price: Free
Quickbar. Oh, Quickbar. This “revolutionary” new feature lasted less than a month after it was released. The feature put trends (including promoted trends) at the top of the timeline and annoyed users to no end. It was quickly dubbed the “dickbar” by tech pundits, because of its lack of value to the user. Some upgrades lessened the “impact” of the bar, but by version 3.3.3, it was gone for good.
Twitter for iPhone 3.5: iOS 5, Twitter photo uploads
Released: October 11, 2011 | Price: Free
Twitter for iPhone 3.5 took advantage of Twitter’s deep integration with iOS 5. It could automatically access the user’s Twitter account without having to ask for login credentials, provided the user input them in the Settings app.
It was the last major Twitter for iPhone release Brichter was a part of:
Today was my last day at Twitter. Taking some time to figure out what’s next. Really proud of the way the team has grown.
Twitter for iPhone 4.0 is a significant departure from previous versions of Twitter and Tweetie. Some of the design elements remain, particularly the blue indicators for new tweets and the pull-to-refresh feature. Everything else has undergone a significant refresh.
It’s unclear whether development of version 4 is the reason why Brichter left the company, but it has been largely panned in the tech press, while some praise it for its simplicity:
I'm convinced the new Twitter app design is built for those who don't really "use" Twitter. Lists are buried, favorites buried, etc.
Twitter for iPhone has had a long history and with the iterative nature of the company, it’s doubtful that it will rest on its laurels and be ignorant of user feedback. With Brichter missing, those looking for the Tweetie experience would probably have to go elsewhere.
Post Script — Dec. 10, 2014
Three years after writing this piece for my personal website, I realize now that it’s probably my most widely-read and bookmarked piece of writing. All these years of being on Twitter finally paid off.
Today, Twitter is on version 6.18. Direct messages are back to being a first-class citizen and the app experience is very much geared toward the everyday user. It’s not as “broken” as the furious power-user responses on the release of version 4. Discovery is a finely tuned-experience, in-app notifications are pleasant and search now encompasses the entire history of tweets.
Federico Viticci linked to the original piece in his comprehensive rundown of Twitter apps for iOS. It’s a must-read to learn the current state of affairs with third- and first-party Twitter applications. Viticci argues in favor of a diverse third-party client ecosystem. In the end, he comes to the conclusion that Twitter for iPhone is the best, if flawed, experience on mobile devices.