IAOC Technology Forum
“Review TweetDeck”: by Kim Haggerty
TweetDeck is a desktop application that enables users to manage the information they distribute and receive through Twitter. TweetDeck (beta) is available for Mac OS X and Windows (Vista and Windows XP). To use TweetDeck, users must download the application to their hard drives. Once installation is complete, users sign in to TweetDeck using their Twitter username and password, thereby connecting them to Twitter activity in real time.
Those who have used Twitter are likely aware of how difficult it can be to manage the overwhelming flow of information. With messages posting in a single column with limited means of organization, users could easily lose track of posts from those they are following, possibly missing messages all together. TweetDeck offers a solution to this by giving users the freedom to create columns to organize contacts and other content. In addition to providing means of organization, TweetDeck incorporates both the user-created features of Twitter (such as re-tweeting) as well as standard features (such as replying) and structures them to enhance usability (Further details on such features follows).
TweetDeck has a toolbar which provides users the ability to tweet and to create columns to organize tweets. Throughout TweetDeck, users can roll-over icons to see the label of that feature, though explanations of these features are not provided.
To begin, the area for tweeting is similar to Twitter: “What are you doing?” labels an area where users enter text, with the number “140” counting down the characters available. TweetDeck has added some useful features here: Similar to MS Word, TweetDeck identifies misspelled words by underlining in red. Also, simply hitting Enter posts the tweet. (An icon calls out this difference for users directly to the right of the text box.) Another addition I found particularly useful is the ability to shorten a URL directly in TweetDeck.
Users will recognize some features from Twitter, but some are new:
- All Friends includes all Twitter members who users are following. As on Twitter, this column condenses all users into one chain.
- Users should recognize the Reply icon from Twitter—this column includes all replies both to and from the user.
- Similarly, Direct Messages includes all direct messages both to and from the users. (This is a difference from Twitter, which only shows messages received in this category.)
- Unlike the star Twitter users to identify favorites, the heart icon (which users may better recognize from aol) identifies the column for favorite tweets.
- Groups enable users to create unique columns to label twitter groups.
- Through Search, users can create a column that includes all users related to the search criteria entered.
- Twitscoop pulls information from Twitscoop.com, a site that crawls twitter identifies words most frequently found. (The larger the word, the more frequently it is appearing on twitter at the moment the site was crawled.)
- 12seconds pulls videos from 12seconds.tv, a site where users can post 12 second videos online to twitter, facebook, and so forth.
- StockTwits connects users to conversations on StockTwits.com, a site used for discussion of the stock market.
Note that certain columns (such as Favorites) can only be applied once. If a column cannot be applied more than once, the system will inform the user of such when he/she clicks the icon.
Within each tweet, TweetDeck has made performing common Twitter actions easy. By rolling over a user’s icon, users can reply, send a direct message, retweet in one click, or perform a variety of other actions available in dropdown (pictured below).
Also in TweetDeck, clicking a username clearly displays the user’s profile, twitter stats, and recent tweets. A useful feature TweetDeck has added is hyperlinking #hashtags. Clicking a hashtag links users to the search results in twitter in real time, external to TweetDeck. Users can also add others to groups by clicking the [+] within a tweet.
Finally, users have the ability to organize the information within and surrounding each column. This includes filtering tweets by defined criteria, marking all tweets as seen (unread tweets have a white circle that clicking marks as seen), clearing seen tweets, clearing all tweets, and moving columns left or right.
Compared to other applications that take up only a small portion of the screen, such as Ada or Twitterlicious, TweetDeck does not provide the ability to work other items while the application is open. While this may prevent users from seeing TweetDeck as an application they can work while continuing other items, it is important to note the additional features and connections TweetDeck offers may account for the size it takes up on screen. In addition, the Notification feature TweetDeck applies enables users to work other issues and continue to receive updates as long as the application is running. Also, whereas Twitterlicious marks items that have been read but continues to display the tweets, TweetDeck deletes read items for the next time users log into the application.
One of the limitations of TweetDeck is that users can only work with ten columns. If users want to take advantage of the other features TweetDeck offers, such as connections to Twitscoop and 12seconds, they can only create a limited number of groups, which seems to contradict part of the application’s primary purpose in organizing information.
The search feature may cause confusion in that, although posts display in TweetDeck based on columns created for search criteria, users are not actually following these members on Twitter, though the posts continue to display in TweetDeck. (Clicking the Other actions option w/in the user icon and selecting Follow allows users to add the member to their list.)
I also found the features of the toolbar confusing at first. With the Tweet icon appearing first, I made the assumption that the icons following would execute other familiar functions. (For example, I thought clicking the envelop would allow me to send a direct message rather than create a column for direct messages, which already displayed by default.) Since TweetDeck has made use of a roll-over feature, it may be advantageous to add descriptions of the call-outs and restructure the toolbar based on its features.
Overall, I found TweetDeck highly effective due to its organizational structure and shortcuts and recommend it to anyone who twitters regularly.
“Playing with WetPaint”: by Jessica Collins
WetPaint is an interesting and interactive site that allows users to create and develop their own wiki sites. To general consumers this service is free, which is a huge benefit. The Wetpaint site boosts that it is “The leading social publishing platform [and] brings your website the benefits of a more active user base. Your online visitors will no longer just be exposed to your brand, they will be engaged with it. They will create massive amounts of relevant content that search engines love and reward with increasing amounts of traffic.” While this statement maybe slightly optimistic I think that in many cases it may be true.
The site opens with the following page:
The site immediately invites users to “Create a free website about anything you love!” For those who are unfamiliar with this application there is a video to help you learn how and why to use this site. The video is only about four minutes long but it covers most of the basic elements of using the site.
Next you chose a “style” for your site from 24 different options. It would be nice if there were a few more templates to choose from, however, you can modify some elements of the appearance of your site later such as adding graphics. Personalizing the name of your site by adding images from either your computer or the web is the next step.
Finally, before you are able to begin working on you site itself you must register by creating a Wetpaint account. This is as simple as entering in your email address and password. Then you can use your email address book to invite others to view and help you work on your site.
Wetpaint is geared more for amateurs than similar applications such as Jotspot, PB Wiki, Wikia, and other wiki sties. The site does pride itself on having an easier interface than the others, so that you can see the changes that you are making to your site as you are making them.
As most of the web 2.0 applications are, Wetpaint is a new company. They were founded in 2005 and pride themselves at being run by experts and backed by Accel Partners, DAG Ventures, Trinity Ventures, and Frazier Technology Ventures. Recently Wetpaint launched “Just add Wetpaint” on December 10, 2007. This application is geared to corporations that needed more customization than the initial site could provide. This new service, unlike the original Wetpaint site, has a fee starting around 10,000 depending on how much modification needs to be done.
As the Wetpaint site explains, Just add Wetpaint goes “beyond simple avatar-and-messaging social networks, …and adds the best aspects of wikis, blogs, and forums, resulting in the perfect online environment for fostering deeper customer engagement and content creation activities around a company’s brand assets.”
Ben Elowitz, the CEO and co-founder of Wetpaint states that, “Our goal with Just Add Wetpaint is to tackle the market opportunity and emerge as the leader for powering external-facing communities that drive key business metrics for traffic, content, and page view growth.” Just Add Wetpaint features; “a full-featured social computing platform, custom development, content development, promotion, and hosting and support.” Overall, Wetpaint is easy and fun to use.
"Friendbar": by Jessica Collins
Friendbar v2 is an interesting application that helps keep you updated on Twitter and Facebook posts. You can easily download Friendbar for free from Firefox. Once it is installed the application appears in your toolbar. Friendbar looks like a ticker tape where your friend’s status updates scroll a crossed the top of the page in the toolbar.
With Friendbar you can log into Twitter, Facebook, or both and keep track of what is going on while you are doing other things online. This way you do not have to keep jumping back to the actual Twitter and Facebook sites to stay in touch. You can simply glance up to keep an eye on what is going on. With the settings you can make have it beep to alert you when a new update comes in and it also flashes yellow.
With the settings you can chose to have replies, direct messages, text, pictures, or text and pictures scroll at the top of the page. The pictures come from people’s Facebook albums the shots are small but if you hover the curser over them a larger image pops up with information about where the picture came from and whose it is. If you do not want to see the updates you can hide them while staying logged in to Twitter and Facebook.
If you select text only the posts are very similar to Twitter in that they include the profile picture, name, the person’s actual name, where the post came from either Twitter or Facebook and how long ago the post came in. If no new posts are coming in than it scrolls back through past posts. You can chose how many posts it will scroll back through. You can also manually go forward or backward through the posts.
There is a button for replying, re-tweeting, and sending direct messages right on the post itself and there is also a URL button that automatically shortens the URL of the site that you are currently at and puts it into the post. You can easily log into or out of Twitter and/or Facebook on the Friendbar. The size of the bar itself is adjustable which is very helpful because the standard size is, in my opinion, a little too small.
With the settings you can chose; the ticker scrolling style between fade, slide, or no effect, the background color of the bar between blue or gray, how many messages it plays back through, and how many seconds each message stays on the screen for. It also gives the option of playing a sound when a new post comes in. There is also a button that brings you to a list of your Facebook friends so that you can invite others to use Friendbar. You can choose whether or not to show the quickpost or the Lucky Site button. With quickpost you can type in something in advance and then just hit the button to post it.
There is a Google and now Twitter search bar, where you can chose which of these two you would like to search. Also you can adjust the number of tweets made by Friendbar from low which is forty an hour, medium which is sixty five and hour, or high which is 90 an hour. Here there is a link for help and information about Friendbar. Once you are on the help page there is another link for Customer Support where you can ask questions, share ideas, report problems, and give praise. Friendbar employees will actually respond to your posts with answers and advice. Other similar applications to Friendbar include Twitter Toolbar, Yoono, Twits Like Me, Twitter Friends Bio, and The Twitter Toolbar.
One problem with the application is that it crashes. You can still post but it stops showing you updates from Twitter and Facebook. When asked, a Friendbar employee said that “We have found a quirk with a specific type of proxy server. We are testing a fix now. Hopefully this will be fixed in our next release… We've seen similar issues when users have a proxy set up in their Firefox network preferences. If you select No Proxy it seems to work. Please try that and let us know. We are trying to see if there is another workaround.”
Also the application is good for keeping track of what is going on at the moment. It is hard to catch up with what people said in the past because you see the posts one by one and in reverse order of the way they came in so conversations are hard to follow. Plus if a new message comes in you are interrupted by it. The application is good for staying in touch while doing other things and to easily post and reply to others but not particularly for speed even though you can chose how quickly the messages scroll. Currently there is not yet a way to mark items as read so it scrolls back through everything each time.
UPDATE: All of these issues have been fixed in the latest release!
- Problems with Very Large Facebook Accounts: If your Facebook account is really large, say over 500 or 1000 friends (depends on the speed of your CPU and your network), Friendbar will not work well. In fact, if you have that many friends, we don’t recommend using this release. We know what we have to fix, and we’ll do it in our next release, which should be ready in a matter of days.
- Broken Links: If you see a link in a Facebook update or Twit with a period or a “)” at the end - e.g. if the link was at the end of a sentence or in parentheses, we don’t do a good job of stripping them out in this version. We’ll fix this as well.
- Need for a Facebook Account: Some people just want to use Friendbar to read their Twitter feed, but right now you need to log into your Facebook account. We’ll change the next version so that you can use it just for Twitter.
- Buttons: It's unclear whether some of our buttons are active or inactive due to the graphics we use. We’ll fix them to make them clearer.
Technology Makes a Difference
"We Talk, Facebook Listens": by Zach Caruso
We all remember back in February when Facebook was about to put into effect a new set of Terms and Conditions that would grant them ownership of users' content, photos, etc, even after an account was deleted. And we also probably remember the total outrage that ensued.
Well, it looks like they listened when we complained. According to a New York Times article, after the enormous amount of protest and and resistance from users, Facebook has drawn up some new Terms and Conditions, and allowed users to vote on whether or not they should be put into effect (these new Terms and Conditions grant ownership of content to users once again.)
This is a great step forward for social networking. It proves that the users really are the ones in control. It's easy for changes to be made and it's up to users to simply adapt and get used to it, but the fact is we are the ones who keep these networks running. If it weren't for us, there would be no Facebook, or Myspace, or Twitter, or Skype, etc. Many people are very happy to see this unfolding the way it is.