Software, Usability

How to Improve the List Experience in the TweetMag iPad App

Have you tried out TweetMag yet? It’s an exiting new iPad app that will let you comfortably read an aggregate of your @twitter feeds. The app is not totally unlike Flipboard, but it’s currently and it let’s you consume the content in a more flexible and enjoyable way in my personal opinion. However, the way TweetMag (as of writing) facilitates twitter list management sucks. I’ll suggest a quick and dirty fix to that below, but first, take a look at the sweet TweetMag app in their promo video:

The problem with lists in TweetMag

Right now, the process of adding and managing twitter lists in TweetMag can be a very painful chore especially if you are following many lists from one single user. You have to add each list separately, one at a time, by dragging the icon of a list from the menu bottom right to the top menue bar or rack (up to “TOP STORIES” and “CATEGORIES”). As that was not bad enough, you need to drill your way down the interface to find the same user again and open her lists again for adding the next list. And again. And again. And again. Ouch! And as if that wasn’t enough, you can’t even see which lists you have already added! That’s just silly and poor design if you ask me. Click on the image below to see a screenshot of the current TweetMag app on the iPad in its original size:

My improvement suggestions

It doesn’t have to be this painful. I’ve made a very quick and dirty improvement suggestion illustrated below, adding a simple visual cue and an extra button.

The user should visually be reminded of the lists she’s already added by labeling and/or fading out (ghosting) the already added twitter list’s icon (illustrated). It is not possible to spot which lists the user has already added in the current version of TweetMag, potentially leading to a lot of unnecessary back-and-forth operations to verify if a list has already been added or not.

Currently, to add another list from the same twitter user, the user is forced by the software app to step out of context, remembering (internalising) the previous steps and repeat a multiple step process to get back into the context of continuing to add twitter lists from the same user.

That’s just not nice to the user in my book. I think the software should play by your processes and let you stay in your context. By adding an add/remove list button directly in the list overview, the user would be able to add, remove, manage all list operations in one process without having to leave context or having to remember previous steps and keeping the original goal in mind while working herself back into context repetitively per list management operation.

Adding colour to the add/remove buttons like green and red could further enhance affordance.

Should you be worried that any spatial navigational cue of having the user dragging the icon to the TweetMag rack might be lost for each add/remove operation using simple button operations instead of drag & drop, I suggest looking at how Apple OSX is doing this; You could animate the icons flying up on the rack, flying down out of the rack respectively to retain the visual cues. Take a look at the image below for a quick and dirty mockup of my suggested changes:

Tweetmag iOS App list management improvement suggestion

I also added the suggestion on Get Satisfaction should you be interested in my suggestion to improving list management in the TweetMag app.

Your opinion

What do you think of TweetMag? Do you love it? Hate it? Perhaps you prefer Flipboard? Do you create and manage twitter lists with TweetMag?

News, Rants, Social

Twitter muzzled?

UPDATE: Chris Anderson (@TEDchris) was right when he told me that this change would be for the better back in 2009. I accept now in hindsight that my initial reaction was perhaps mostly nostalgic about a future that couldn’t technically and socially exist. As the amount of my followers keept rising, it was becoming self-evident that the changes were needed. Nevertheless, I still feel some of the initial feeling of exciting serendipitous chaos that made Twitter very special back then is gone. I guess I’m still a bit nostalgic. What do you think?

Original post below:

This morning I read a blog post over at Read Write Web (RWW) that caught me by surprise. I recommend you read it too. It seems that twitter has removed what I consider an essential feature in their latest update.

I was so surprised that I wrote a comment in the emotional heat of the moment over at RWW and I decided to republish it here later on. My initial thoughts were as follows:

I’m quite appalled that twitter seems to me to be self confident – if not almost smirk – with removing a setting that potentially alters the mechanics of conversing and discovering on twitter on a fundamental level; In other words making twitter less like, well, twitter.

I find the idea of not listening to 2% of their user base quite grand. Did they do the maths? That’s not a tiny amount of people, is it? My guess is, that there are a lot of the early twitter adopters and evangelists in those 2% too.

Another bet of mine is that most of those 2% are most certainly not confused by the @ reply ‘system’. It’s inaccurate, not threaded and tracked – but who cares? It’s ‘the twitter way’ and some learned to live comfortably with it.

I’m also willing to bet that a much higher percentage was living under the illusion that they were getting every single public tweet from the people they were following and didn’t know that twitter was censoring and deciding what they could and could not see.

As to the topic of context, I personally find parts of the 2008 twitter blog post referred to in the comments over at RWW completely out of touch.

From the post:
“1) You should feel free to @reply people and not worry about it being out of context to some of your followers. In general, they won’t see it.”

To me, twitter is not instant messaging or email. To me, one of the most important aspects about twitter is enabling discovery, stumbling upon new interesting people, sparking curiosity, reading different perspectives. Why take all that away? I’m flabbergasted. Speechless.

Would it hurt too much to just leave the [promiscuous] setting as default OFF, but there to turn ON for the users who are comfortable with it?

Are there economical incentives involving either business plans or prohibitive cost-benefit ratios precluding it? If so, twitter should be up front and transparent about it.

Please bring ‘promiscuous’ back. I don’t want to have to subscribe to the RSS feed of every single user that I’m following in my reader of choice to get the complete unadulterated twitter stream (even from users that may have blocked me).


Business Ideas, Social

Evil ReTweet business plan from hell

Here’s an idea that occurred to me as I accidentally clicked a retweeted and shortened link on twitter this morning. The thing is, the link opened the target address in a frame (think Google image search) with a rather obnoxious self-advertising header. Eeeeeew!

Needless to say, I was rather put off by the whole experience. There are several services doing this and quite some people using them. To protect the names of the guilty I’ll not name the services or the tweep perps.

However, it got me thinking; What if an Amazon Affiliate-like approach would be implemented to an url shortening service like the one mentioned above? You’d sign up to the url shortening service and you’d get ‘rewarded’ for retweeting urls shortened by the service – or rather for spewing advertisement.

I’ve tried to illustrate it in glorious monochrome below, using Balsamiq Mockups and about 29 seconds.

Technically, the url could contain a hash – or whatever – containing User ID, Original URL, AD served, etc, etc, etc.

I’d like to add that personally, I don’t think such a service would survive. That is to say, I like to think that it can’t. However, such an evil scheme may already exist.

Do you know of any such services? If not, you read it here first and I want my blood money! ;)

Update (04.05.2009):

It seems like has implemented something along these lines now. Hey! What about my cut?!


The Cluetrain Manifesto nine years later; the Internet answers back

Lately, I re-read the Cluetrain Manifesto for the first time in about nine years. (I would recommend you to read it again too. Technology specifics aside, it’s as relevant and inspiring as ever.)

Kudos to Geir Bækholt for introducing me to it back in the days.

But people of earth, what I really wanted to tell you about is dog food and the conversation nine years on.

Reading it again made me want to order copies of the German translation of the Cluetrain for the German speaking/reading upper management folks I do wonderful business with. Much to my dismay, I found out that the German version is for some reason out of print [Out of print? Seriously, I thought we were over this medieval phase of media?]. Drat!

I thus turned to twitter – as you do – to vent my disappointment and asking for further clues to a possible procurement of a German translation.

One of the four authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto (Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls and David Weinberger – all on twitter) actually caught wind of my gay banter:

Rick Levine then looked up the German publisher and told me how to proceed.

I’ll let that stand as a confirmation of Rick, the Cluetrain Manifesto and last perhaps not least twitter.

And people wonder why I love the social Internet…

News, Social

Get up, stand up! Let’s hear it for Tibet and you.

Yellow is not only the colour of easter; it’s the polar opposite of cowardice. Zefrank just started something called ColorWars 2008 on twitter (I loved his shows, by the way) – now, let’s all play.

yellow still means right

Do you know Tibet? You should. Get involved and support the freedom of speech and expression of Tibetans as well as every other human being. Wear yellow on your on your avatars, wear a yellow t-shirt in front of your local Chinese embassy. Wave a yellow flag, shout your lungs out for basic human freedoms in the US and world wide! Join Team Yellow on twitter – We are all humans and we all have a right to be heard.