Know Your Clients: looking at some web-based Twitter clients…

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been increasingly irritated with Twitter and, more specifically, the various Twitter-clients that I use.

I use Twitter clients because itself doesn’t do much: to interact with Twitter in ways that work for me, I have to use a client. I am trying to work out what I like and dislike about the various clients I have tried. A lot of this comes down to personal preference, and this is probably something people who like Twitter may get quite worked up about… These are just my views, and what I like you might not (and vice versa!).

The first client I used was Tweetdeck, the most popular Twitter client by a long way (though confusingly, Tweetdeck appears in those stats twice: I can guess why, but…). Tweetdeck used a lot of processing power and when I moved last year and had relatively poor connectivity, I stopped using it. Once I moved again and had better connectivity, I haven’t picked it up again.

Because by then I had found alternatives. There are three I generally use – DABR, Brizzly and Seesmic. These all have one thing in common: they can all be accessed from the web, meaning that one can have a uniform Twitter experience wherever you are. If only!

(Seesmic also has a desktop app, which I haven’t used and can’t comment on, and an Android phone app, which I have used a bit, and also talk about below.)

Generally, I used DABR on my phone, and Seesmic or Brizzly on my netbook, desktop or laptop. Seesmic also has an Android app which I sometimes use on my phone, and I have used (and deleted promptly) Twidroid on my phone as well. (Seesmic also has a desktop app, which I haven’t used and can’t comment on.)

Each of these (except Twidroid, which I really didn’t like – it ate up memory and kept interfering with the browser in ways that annoyed me) has good points; but they also have weak points, too. Not one does all the things that I want my Twitter client to do.

DABR on my phone works really well – when it works. Recently, though, it has been really slow – this may be down to the Twitter API or my version of the Android OS or something (I’m not that techy), but the way I experience it is through DABR. It has been producing a blank screen when refreshing, forcing me to go to another client. What I really like about DABR is that

  • it has a simple, clean design: it is very clear on my phone, easy to use
  • the conversation-view (it strings replies together so that you can view the whole thread – sometimes!)
  • the search is easy
  • the “reply all” option (apparently @edent was responsible for this – thank you!)

What I don’t like is that

  • it has recently been jammed up: I tweaked what I could (making sure I was going to their main server rather than the test server that I was apparently using) but it has still been really slow
  • I have to type the full name when writing a tweet to someone or a direct message (and of course always manage to misspell it)
  • it doesn’t tell you if you have new @ replies or DMs
  • the lack of built-in automatic link shortening – you have to use another service (and copying-and-pasting URLs can be fiddly on the phone!)

Brizzly is pretty good, and has more or less become the default on my desktop, laptop and netbook. What I like about Brizzly is that

  • it gives you a list of people to choose from as you write their name in a tweet (and from the “create DM” option)
  • the list of trending topics in the side bar
  • the way it tells you that you’ve new replies or DMs
  • the easily accessible saved searches
  • automatic URL shortening

What I don’t like is that

  • I can’t work out how to send an update when I’m looking at my @ replies (I have to go back to my tweet stream – the home page)
  • it is often very clunky – whatever code it is written in sometimes doesn’t seem to run properly (this could easily be down to connectivity or something else…)
  • it opens the link to original tweets when someone replies in Twitter – taking you away from the Brizzly environment

Seesmic has a clean, professional look. What I like about the Seesmic web app is that

  • it uses multiple columns, a bit like Tweetdeck; this is very useful: you can see everything in one window, without having to click links to see different views or searches
  • it automatically shortens URLs

What I don’t like about Seesmic is that

  • it doesn’t provide you a list of names to chose from as you start to write their Twitter handle – you have to type out the full name

(and I can’t think of anything else!)

I can’t make my mind up against the Seesmic Android phone app. What I like is

  • it downloads Tweets so I can read them offline (on the tube, say)

What I don’t like is that

  • it eats memory – it slows everything on the phone down
  • to reply to tweets or to open links, you have to actually open the original tweet by clicking on it – links aren’t live in the tweet stream – why? Why? Just seems dumb to me
  • it often hangs up – it tells me it’s loading, but nothing ever shows…
  • I can’t compose a tweet from the tweet stream – I have to click on the menu button and then select compose, an extra step
  • I have to tell it to refresh – it doesn’t update the tweet stream automatically

Reading through these lists of like and dislikes, I seem very picky. But I find it frustrating that all these clients have some great functions, but they all also have shortcomings. It is interesting that the Seesmic web app seems to have the least things I dislike, because it is probably the one I use least: there must be something else I don’t like about it, otherwise it would have overtaken the others. I also can’t work out why I like DABR so much on my phone, but no on my PC, laptop or netbook: it is my default client on my phone, but it just doesn’t look right on. On the other hand, I have never tried the Seesmic web app on my phone – until just now, when the page didn’t load properly.


5 thoughts on “Know Your Clients: looking at some web-based Twitter clients…

  1. Sadie

    I use Echofon, as a Firefox plugin on my laptop and work PC and a stand-alone app on my iTouch. It’s got a nice simple layout (Tweetdeck totally does my head in!) but what I really like is that it minimises to the status bar so I can check if I have any unread tweets without having to leave the page I’m looking at.

    1. Patrick Post author

      I did look at Echofon a while ago – I think because you suggested it – but not having an iPhone, it didn’t really make sense to have yet another web-based client on my other machines.


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