Letter to Tapbots: Tweetbot 3 and Twitter lists

Dear Tapbots,

I am full of admiration for what you have achieved with Tweetbot 3, and I love the way in which you have thoughtfully moved the app forward into iOS 7. Both the changes to the look and feel, and the careful introduction of additional functionality such as background updating, have clearly been done with painstaking love and care. I couldn't be happier to give you £1.99 for the large amount of work that it appears you have put in to deliver this.

However, your changes to the way that Twitter lists are handled has seriously derailed the way that I use Tweetbot and Twitter, and I wanted to take some time to try and explain this properly. I've had some pushback on this view from some of my Twitter friends, and that's at least partly because I haven't explained myself well enough. It's difficult, because a lot of the problem that I have is to do with the way things feel, rather than more specific and concrete objections.

I follow a lot of people on Twitter. Too many, in fact, to be able to read. Don't get me wrong - I like to spend some time on a Saturday morning browsing through my full feed, but much of the time, especially when mobile, I like to focus on a private list that I have made which has a more manageable volume of tweets. Tweetbot 2 let me do this in a way which was absolutely perfect. I could replace the main timeline with my list, and the volumes instantly became much more manageable with zero impact on my user experience.

In Tweetbot 3, you have moved lists into a tab, and of course they are still perfectly accessible. However, visiting the lists tab from the main timeline feels to me a little like going away from home to stay in a hotel. Hotels provide useful access to the places where they are found and provide many of the things needed to live, but they don't have the facilities of home and more importantly they don't feel like home. I, at least, never really feel totally comfortable in a hotel.

To stretch this analogy, I feel that when you ask me to use the lists tab for my main reading of Twitter, it's as though you're asking me to live permanently in a hotel. Even if you were to change the list tab to make it more like the main timeline, it will never feel like home, because it's not. There's no getting around the fact (and the associated feeling) that my principal Twitter reading list has been downgraded in status from the main tab to a secondary one.

So, here are some options that I have considered to bring my Twitter list back to the main timeline.

  1. You change Tweetbot 3 to make it possible again for the main timeline to display a list. Clearly, this is my preferred option, and that is why I'm writing this. I don't mind how this is implemented. I read your Tweetbot 3 Q&A and recognise that there was a problem in Tweetbot 2 for users who don't care about lists and who accidentally triggered the function. In fact, I'd be happy to go all the way to account preferences to select the list that was being used as the main timeline, especially if the main timeline then became available in the lists tab.
  2. You make changes to the lists tab to make it more like the main timeline. This would certainly help, but it still won't feel like home.
  3. I return to Tweetbot 2. Leaving aside the fact that I deleted it, and now can't get it back, if I took this option then I would constantly miss the new features and user experience of Tweetbot 3. However, if I can find a way to get it back, this is probably my main Plan B.
  4. I unfollow everyone not in my list, and put them all into a larger list that I then browse on Saturday mornings or whenever. This leaves me with the same main timeline that I was using in Tweetbot 2. Of course, it would be very fiddly and time consuming to do. I would doubtless offend any number of the people that I unfollowed, and suffer from reciprocal unfollows. This feels like a non-option, for that reason.
  5. I create a second account, for reading only, and follow people on the smaller list from it. I would doubtless have difficulties around getting access to all the protected accounts that I follow on the smaller list. Additionally, I would suffer usability issues around having to switch accounts to write new tweets, and to respond to things. So this also a non-option, I think.

I would clearly love it if you were to implement some form of Option 1. I presume that I can't be the only person who uses lists in this way, and perhaps there are enough of us to convince you. If not, I'll look at the other options but either way I'd like to say thanks for reading and thanks for a great app.

All the very best,

Notes 1 - Page 1.png

Update:  It seems that Tapbots are going to bring this back in Tweetbot 3.1 for iPhone.  So a big thank you to them, and yay!

On iPad games and the meaning of "Free"

Unfortunately, i don't really have time to be much of a gamer.  The personal time that I get tends to be spent on photography or messing about with music related things.  That being said, I do enjoy playing computer games and so do my two sons.  We pretty much entirely play them on iPads (except for Civ 5, for which you need a proper computer).



When my sons ask me for a new game, or when I am considering one myself, I tend to find myself taking a dim view of any game that is free to download and install.  This is because the vast majority of free games are, in fact, not free.  Players either have to pay money in order to render the later parts of the game playable, or they have to pay attention to advertisements.  Often, these factors wreck the user experience of the game (and it's not unknown for the advertisements displayed to be inappropriate for the age rating of the game).

When I pay for a game, then there's a clear up-front view on my part about the cost of playing that game. However, when I install a "free" game, the cost is much less clear, because I don't really know what in-app purchases will be required. Worst of all, getting me to pay now becomes part of the gameplay rather than being confined to the initial transaction.

Instead of having a single objective of being fun to play, free games almost always have this second undeclared objective of getting money out of the player.  The second objective is critically important to the game publisher, and will usually exert a corrupting influence on the game design and gameplay. For example, initial progress in a game may be rapid and enjoyable, but once the player is invested in it, the game ramps up in difficulty to an unplayable level. When the player is consequently stuck, the game will make it easy for him or her to spend their hard earned cash to buy the "lives" or "lollipop hammers" or "rings" (or whatever) to provide a much needed shortcut out of the in-game difficulty.  When they get stuck again later, why look!  They can buy more!

 In-App Purchases

In-App Purchases

I see this as yet another example of a way that the psychology of addiction is employed to get money out of people.  It feels sneaky to me, bordering on dishonest, and the more dramatic results can be seen in the stories of people spending hundreds, or even thousands, of pounds to play an ostensibly free game. I expect that most of the people who have spent more than about £15 on playing a game in this category would not have installed it in the first place if the cost of playing had been clear up front.

This somewhat shady picture, combined with the accompanying lack of clarity about the costs are why I won't install free games, and I hope that when my sons are old enough to understand this, they will forgive me for my apparently complete unreasonableness on the subject.

The exception that proves the rule...

There is an exception to my dislike of in-app purchases for games.  This is where a one time payment is required to unlock the full version of a game.  I see that as an entirely legitimate and above board mechanism to allow game publishers to give away a free trial of a game.


Endorsing @imran on LinkedIn (for Time Travel)

 I endorse thee...

I endorse thee...

Today I have endorsed my friend Imran Ali on LinkedIn.  Of course, he has many skills, but after some thought, I decided to endorse him for Time Travel because of the fact that I talked to him about it at some length yesterday.

Of course, I don't have any experience of Time Travel myself, but my endorsement must be valuable, because I've read a lot of sci-fi, and some of it definitely mentioned time travel.  Anyway, I'm sure that he wouldn't have sounded so authoritative on the subject if he didn't know anything, would he?

My endorsement will help him out by enabling the world to recognise him for the time travelling skills that he so clearly must have because, after all, we did talk about it.  Well, more mentioned it really, but that's almost the same thing.

Anyway, if any of you reading this have any cool opportunities for Imran relating to time travel, I hope that my endorsement will have brought him to your attention, thus proving conclusively that the whole thing works.