#NewTwitter

Yes, it is a step up for power users, but I imagine it must be intimidating to n00bz and is a little too crowded for my tastes. But having finally spent some time with #NewTwitter, deeper problems make me think it got kicked out of the nest before its wings were fully formed.

Hotkeys

NewTwitter has shortcut keys for navigating the stream with j and k, as popularized by Google, but with two major problems. First of all, the selection background, #f4f4f4 on white... All but invisible on less than perfectly-contrasted displays.

But more importantly, the tweet you navigate to is not the same as the tweet you’ve selected! And other shortcut keys, like f for ‘favorite’, affect the actually selected tweet, rather than the one you’ve navigated to. Confused? You should be! There’s a reason nobody does it like this!

Aside from being confusing, it’s a hassle to use. While pruning my favorites, I often ended up unfavoriting tweets outside my browser frame, possibly losing favorites I would have preferred to keep. And for every tweet I wanted to interact with, I had to first press Enter, which feels absolutely counterintuitive when you come in from for instance Gmail or Google Reader.

Personally, I would yank the shortcut key support immediately and rebuild it from scratch.

New Tweets

The much neglected, yet still undefeated champion of Twitter on OS X, Tweetie for Mac, has an option, I believe it’s default, where new tweets are stacked on top of your current position. It’s fantastic as it allows you to leave Tweetie alone, and work your way up at your own convenience, never missing a tweet. You can also choose to auto-scroll, which is a great way of monitoring your stream as it’s happening.

When the ‘X New Tweets’ box appears, you click it and the tweets appear, pushing down existing ones. But they aren’t highlighted. So for anything above a handful, you have no way of knowing which are new. When possible, I like reading everything that comes through my stream, but when you come back to the client and the counter is well above a hundred; good luck finding where you left off.

PS: One way to circumvent this problem, is to click the first tweet in your stream, before loading in new ones, as a marker of your progress.

@Mentions

It’s a fundamental problem to the basic tenant that has elevated Twitter from obscure plaything to one of the primary communications channels of our lives, that all replies can’t be treated equally by the user.

Twitter is a two-way communications medium. That’s why it’s successful. You broadcast, they reply. Simple. But in actual fact, the way it goes is: you broadcast, the people you follow reply. And then someone else might also reply, but in Twitter-world, as decreed by the web and iOS app interfaces, replies do not mingle. They’re either from people you follow, showing up in your timeline, or not, showing up only under the @Mentions tab.

This makes sense if you’re more popular than you have time for, grumpy and/or very focussed, but if you turn it around and instead think of the timeline as your twitter timeline, then it only makes sense to allow for @mentions from people you don’t follow.

Aggravating the issue, the @Mentions tab in the web app doesn’t highlight when new mentions roll in, which I guesstimate converts into the majority of people using only the web app, not seeing any replies from people they don’t follow.

That cute guy/gal you met at SXSW, casually trying to get in touch through Twitter? Forget about it. The tweet from someone notifying you of a grievous error in your latest column? Won’t see it. Or more relevant, if you happen to publish a blog post that becomes very popular and people write to you on Twitter…

But here’s what really grinds my gears: @replies from the timeline do show up under @mentions. That makes some kind of sense. The problem is that for the most part you’ll first see those replies in your timeline, and then again when you next check @mentions. And apart from that redundancy, the two ‘unread’ indicators (where they exist, being absent as they are from the web app) don’t know that you’ve already read those same replies in your timeline, and gleefully light up when they @mentions is updated.

Also, just as a sidenote, replies aren’t highlighted in the timeline, nor are there any notifications for new direct messages.

AJAX

Since all internal Twitter links are AJAX-powered, they’ll actually break your browsers tabs. Just try opening someones profile with a middle- or CMD-click. For this crime alone!, I’ll leave the right-hand column empty.

Final Thoughts

It’s a step forward; nay, leap. Generally I do like it. But as they grew from oddity to industry behemoth, Twitter has become an indispensable part of many people’s lives, my own included. And because of that I’ve been baffled in the past by their reticence first towards GUI clients, and then towards their own web app. That seems to finally have broken, and while the iOS apps are by-and-large the best Twitter apps on those platforms — and beyond — the web app is in need of some fix-‘er-upping before it’s up to snuff.

That’s not to say that it isn’t a major improvement. And it’s great to see — wait for it — synergy between it and the iPad app interfaces. I can’t wait for it to mature.

I’d just kinda hoped that would have happened with this version.