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,

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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!