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  • dtoub 12:23 am on Wednesday, December 2, 2009, 12:23 am Permalink | Reply
    Tags: echofon, twitter   

    echofon: my new desktop twitter app 


    For quite a long time, I have been using Echofon (formerly known as Twitterfon) on my iPhone and it was always ahead of the curve. It did pretty much everything I needed it to do (it had the first implementation of threaded twitter conversations on the iPhone, I believe), the developer was sort of responsive, and until a few months ago was ad-free and cost nothing. All good things must come to an end, and I upgraded to what was then Twitterfon Pro for a few dollars, even though there wasn’t that much additional functionality compared to the ad-supported free version. Since that time, Twitterfon was rebranded as Echofon (perhaps to stave off a potential copyright suit from Twitter?) and it’s functioned well on my iPhone.

    Recently, a beta OS X desktop version of Echofon appeared that was pretty good. It was Twitter-only, so it didn’t include any additional social networks like Twitter, but the interface was very nice (quite similar to that of the iPhone app) and promised to sync with the iPhone app. I continued to use EventBox, but once that was taken over by RealMac and rebranded as Socialite, it floundered and I found myself using the Adobe AIR-based Seesmic Desktop client. Seesmic isn’t bad-it has a good deal of functionality and some nice touches, like simultaneous posting to both FB and Twitter. But the interface is, well, crap, like all AIR-based clients, and from Seesmic’s recent moves into Windows, Android and RIM, it’s clear that OS X isn’t much of a priority. So I took another look at Echofon, and it’s now my desktop Twitter client of choice.

    It was just updated (but still in beta) and implemented the new but controversial RT functionality in Twitter. However, unlike Socialite, Echofon gives the user the option of using the new RT format or the previous version that allowed for editing (eg, RT @someone: your tweet here). Even better, if one chooses the new RT format, Echofon displays a preview and the user can accept or discard it. Socialite doesn’t do any of this-it just automatically retweets in the new format only, and with no ability for the user to cancel the action.

    About the only Twitter functionality it seems to lack is support for Twitter lists, but for me that’s not a big loss right now, and I have no doubt it is on the horizon. I’d also love to see Facebook integration if it’s done right (both Socialite and Seesmic weren’t optimal, but Seesmic was better in many ways than Socialite with regard to Facebook); given that the developers recently released a free Echofon FB app for the iPhone that is pretty good, I suspect FB integration is also coming. This is how Seesmic started out-they had two separate apps for Twitter and FB and then merged them together.

    Anyway, I can live right now without Facebook integration; it’s not like the FB site lacks complete functionality. And Echofon has Twitter trends and saved searches that get stored on Twitter.com. Echofon doesn’t have a single pane that combines tweets, replies and direct messages, which is a nice feature of Socialite and Seesmic, it does mirror the iPhone version by using a tabbed structure that is unobtrusive, functional and doesn’t make me pine for a single window format. Notifications are also so much better than the useless notifications in Seesmic. While the sync and push notification aren’t always as rapid as I’d like (I believe Echofon’s servers are updated every 10-15 minutes or thereabouts rather than pushed), it works reasonably well. And it has a very Mac-like UI that is leagues ahead of Seesmic and most other Twitter clients. It’s free for registered users of Echofon Pro on the iPhone, and hopefully will stay this way.

     
  • dtoub 12:41 am on Tuesday, November 3, 2009, 12:41 am Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , socialite, twitter   

    how to kill a software application 


    All the way back in April, I took a look at the explosion of twitter applications for OS X, after realizing that my then client of choice, twhirl, was essentially end-of-lifed after being acquired by Seesmic. After much exploration, I found EventBox, which was in beta and combined twitter with RSS feeds, Facebook and a bunch of other services. Unlike many of the other social networking clients out there, EventBox had a very Mac-like UI, and while short on some features, did a lot of things really well.

    So I paid my $15 and used EventBox to manage my Facebook and Twitter feeds, and after NetNewsWire acquired ads, migrated my RSS feeds to Google Reader, which was supported by EventBox. So with one app, I could manage several things all at once. EventBox had a small development team that was pretty responsive, and while not associated with a large, trendy fan base like Seesmic Desktop, was a cool app nonetheless. Recently, EventBox development forked into a separate beta called Multibox, that had a lot of future features intended for EventBox. It lacked some functionality, though, like smart folders and even Facebook integration, so I kept using my EventBox beta, which served my purposes and held the promise of a lot of new functionality and even an iPhone app. I was a happy, nerdy social networker

    Well, all that’s down the toilet.

    Several weeks ago, EventBox was acquired by RealMac Software. I thought “Great-now they’ll have resources to bring new functionality to EventBox in a more rapid timeframe.” Boy, was I misguided. First, they renamed the app “Socialite” (note to RealMac Software: if you’re trying to build awareness of a new application whose user base is still pretty small compared with the big apps like TweetDeck and Seesmic Desktop, don’t change the name).

    Then they released a beta today that broke most of everything.

    First I noticed that my Google Reader items, after being marked as Read, reverted to Unread after the service was refreshed. Then I quit Socialite to see if that would help, only to find that after restarting, the main window was not there unless I went into the menu bar and selected it. The Preferences item was grayed out, and a host of bugs ensued. I took the advice of RealMac and rebuilt the various services like Twitter and Facebook, and at least the prefs and window behaved as normal. But then I found that threads were no longer functional, whereas they had worked fine in previous EventBox betas. And Facebook keeps trying to update and fails. And yes, the Google Reader unread items bug is still present.

    Realizing that one of my most-used applications no longer works, I went back and tried Seesmic Desktop, and while the interface is, to put it mildly, suboptimal, it works. Even better, it has a lot of functionality that isn’t found in Socialite/EventBox, and probably never will. Seesmic Desktop doesn’t do RSS, but I went back to NetNewsWire, and that works fine as always. I just have to ignore the ads, which is no big deal.

    Back to Socialite. It’s a shame that RealMac killed it with this beta. I’m willing to wait it out and see if things improve, but I’d like to see new features, not bug fixes just to get me back to where I was before today. True, I could revert to the last beta of EventBox, but why bother when I have stability and added functionality, albeit with two applications rather than one?

    In terms of social networking apps, I use Echofon (neé Twitterfon-what’s with all these social networking applications changing names all of a sudden? Geez…) on my iPhone, but could be convinced to use TweetDeck if I also cared to use it on my MacBook Pro, which I don’t, mainly because its layout is even worse than Seesmic’s. I’d be interested in seeing Seesmic’s forthcoming iPhone app, especially if it enabled syncing. EventBox was planning an iPhone app in the future, but that effort seems kinda dead for the foreseeable future. Which is a shame.

    I’d love to have a single application that did twitter/FB/RSS and synced with my iPhone. But that isn’t the case so far. I paid for Twitterfon (now Echofon) and am pretty happy with that. I paid for EventBox (now Socialite) and am no longer happy with that. Seesmic is free, at least for now, and I can put up with the bad UI given that it works pretty well.

    So this has been counterintuitive. I thought that a larger company acquiring a small application development team would be a recipe for success from a user perspective. It isn’t, at least in this case. I remember many, many years ago when Symantec acquired the makers of MacTools Pro. MTP was a really great system repair utility, perhaps the best ever. Symantec killed it after buying it. Norton Utilities for the Mac never approached the usability and versatility of MTP. In the case of RealMac buying the manufacturer of EventBox, it’s even worse, since the damned software doesn’t work. And who charges for a beta anyway? Paying for it sorta made sense at the time because it sounded like a 1.0 release was really on the horizon, and I could save a little money over the price when the official release came out. In retrospect, that was stupid. And it’s insane that the original developers (The Cosmic Machine) and now RealMac charged and continue to charge. I’d like a refund, although I doubt that will ever be in the cards. I’ll probably never ever pay for a beta, even as much as I like to support small software developers.

    Sigh…back to checking my RSS feeds, Facebook and Twitter feeds. It’s an experience.

     
    • boga 1:14 pm on Wednesday, November 4, 2009, 1:14 pm Permalink

      life is more beautiful without facebook,twitter and such crap.
      I quitted facebook last year and i am still alive.
      By the way.I’ve heard your memos last week.mmm.Nice.I have manage to hear the first 5 min.
      Your music is like a book.You can’t hear a piece at once.It might take a some weeks.
      I was just wondering about something.Are you able to sing or perform the rhythm of your pieces,without your music program?i am very curious.
      And a general question:Are the musicians able to play your pieces without mental effects?

    • Richard Friedman 3:03 pm on Wednesday, November 4, 2009, 3:03 pm Permalink

      Ditto. I dropped out of Facebook, and Twitter, and now tend to keep to myself. I think all this social web software is a solution looking for a problem.

    • Luke @Realmac 12:49 pm on Thursday, November 5, 2009, 12:49 pm Permalink

      Hi David,

      We’re really sad to hear that you’ve moved away from Socialite (hopefully it’s just for the time being!).
      We’d just like you to know that we are currently working on all the issues that you’ve had, as well as some of the feature request that you made. We’re 100% committed to making Socialite an amazing application and will be implementing all kinds of great features in the near future as well as bringing the application out of Beta.

      We appreciate all bug reports and feature requests we receive and would love to see you return to Socialite one day soon!

    • dtoub 12:58 pm on Thursday, November 5, 2009, 12:58 pm Permalink

      Thanks. Hope it not only gets back to a usable state where it had been, but also is enhanced. It has a ton of promise, but judging from your forum and what I see from a quick search on Twitter, a lot of us are pondering alternatives. I’d like to go back; Seesmic has a bad UI as do all the AIR apps. But it works, as does Echofon’s desktop client, Beak, Tweetie and any number of Twitter apps on the Mac. One thing I mentioned to the Cosmic Machine developers is that Twitter users are fickle. We’ll jump ship to another app if it has better features and works well. If you look at some earlier posts of mine, I compared a lot of apps and chose EventBox. It was that good. Thanks for being upfront about everything. I’ll stay tuned.

    • Luke Hefson 10:08 am on Friday, November 6, 2009, 10:08 am Permalink

      Hi David,

      Well we very much hope you do come back! But please bear in mind that at the moment Socialite is a Beta (and not only that but a free beta) and as such it is prone to issues. We depend on users to report these issues so that when it’s ready to come out of beta it will be free of most bugs and our users will be happy to part with a little bit of money for a great app that we’ve spent a lot of time developing! Thanks!

    • dtoub 1:23 pm on Friday, November 6, 2009, 1:23 pm Permalink

      True, but keep in mind that many of us already paid for EventBox and perhaps thus beta should have been run in parallel with maintaining EventBox rather than replacing it during installation. Once people leave and find replacements, of which there are many, it’s going to be hard to get them back. I don’t know that returning to last week’s status quo before beta 2 will cut it. New functionality and improvements above what we started with might.

      While I have you here, Luke, any possibility the paradigm for viewing photos in FB might be improved? I hate seeing a ton of unread items that are each single images someone uploaded. Maybe these could be grouped? And going from one photo to the next should be better and not require opening a window, closing it and then opning the next image. Thanks.

    • Brian Stormont 8:02 pm on Friday, November 6, 2009, 8:02 pm Permalink

      I ran into this same problem today. I LOVED EventBox. I had been getting a message to install an update of the new Socialite beta every time I launched EventBox. Today I made the mistake of downloading the new beta and now NOTHING works. And, they made it so EventBox has been wiped clean, so if I return to using that, I have to re-enter all my feeds. Definitely not the right way to handle a beta… being able to use both in parallel would have been better.

  • dtoub 7:17 am on Monday, May 4, 2009, 7:17 am Permalink | Reply
    Tags: beak, , seesmic desktop, twitter   

    more hard choices: new twitter apps 


    I’ve been sold on twhirl for my laptop Twitter needs for some time. It’s a highly capable, free app that displays everything in a single window, color codes tweets to distinguish direct messages and replies, has great notifications of new tweets and is limited only in terms of its bad, Adobe AIR-created interface.

    picture-4

    I really like twhirl’s functionality and have learned to live with its counterintuitive interface. That said, it’s clear that twhirl has a limited lifespan, as it was acquired last year by a company called Seesmic, and that company is devoting most of its resources to what I’m told is a replacement for twhirl, called Seesmic Desktop, but one that doesn’t yet have all or even most of twhirl’s functionality.

    Seesmic Desktop has been all the rage lately, especially as it was just updated to include Facebook feeds and an increased font size (by 1 pt). Clearly targeted at displacing TweetDeck users, Seesmic Desktop allows users to not only post to Facebook and read current posts to one’s Wall, but also indicate if one “likes” a friend’s post. Planned for the future is the ability to comment on individual feeds. The paradigm is similar to TweetDeck, in terms of multiple columns if one wants. Seesmic is also noteworthy for allowing multiple Twitter accounts as well as the ability to group people one is following on Twitter into different groups. Seesmic has promise, but so far lacks the clear detailed notifications of twhirl, as well as the ability to mark tweets as read. The interface, while slightly better than twhirl, does not allow customization and is pretty boring in my opinion.

    picture-6

    Seesmic is a very usable twitter (and facebook) client, although it still lacks many of twhirl’s best features such as font customization, themes, detailed notifications, the ability to view someone’s profile within the app itself, and several others. However, it is clearly a work in development, and the developer has indicated in at least one tweet that twhirl’s functionality will be rolled in. I like the FaceBook integration, and the fact that images in FaceBook posts are displayed nicely. At the end of the day, though, it is still an AIR application, and it shows. The window above actually ran below my OS X dock, so cross-platform compatibility has its costs.

    Which brings me to two OS X-native twitter apps under development. The first is Beak, which is the first commercial application from developer Mike Rundle, who is very accessible and responsive via Twitter. Beak is similar to Tweetie, but has in-window threading of tweets, which is a nice idea. I like Beak’s GUI much better than Tweetie’s, but it remains a work in progress (although an update is due out this week to address some shortcomings). Current issues include some bugs, lack of the ability to address a direct message with a click of a button (there is a direct message button, but you have to fill in the recipient’s name, at least until the update comes out).

    picture-7

    Like twhirl, there is a message entry window on the bottom, which I prefer to that of Seesmic (which is on top, and not customizable at this time). You can’t see a user’s timeline, however, nor which twitter client they are using. There is no support right now for hashtags (I’m sure that’s coming). And I’m not aware that FaceBook integration is in the cards, although I don’t see that as a bad thing, since it allows the application to focus on one thing and do it well. Beak also has the ability to provide statistics on URLs included in tweets, although that hasn’t worked as promised for me.

    But as of right now, Beak isn’t my optimal solution, although that could change with the next update. I need something that has the basic functionality one requires, along with some niceties, like what I get from twhirl. What all current Twitter apps tend to have as baseline functionality is this:

    • Ability to reply, send direct messages, view current tweets
    • Retweet
    • Include the timestamp of tweets
    • Distinguish between direct messages and @ replies
    • Follow/Unfollow users
    • View a user’s profile and timeline
    • Do searches
    • Parse hashtags
    • Preferable: include a user’s real name and twitter client
    • Shorten URLs via one or more services
    • Upload images to twitpic and other services

    For the moment (and I’m suspecting most of us serious twitter users are fickle about our applications; when something better comes along, we drop what we’re using and try the latest and greatest), I’m actually quite taken with EventBox.

    picture-8

    EventBox has a nice UI, a text entry window at the bottom, support for URL shortening (type command-J), FaceBook (and RSS,Flickr,Google Reader and Reddit) integration, notifications either through Growl or via a very capable transparent window, quick tweet entry via a keyboard shortcut, and much more. About the only thing it lacks right now is photo uploading, threads, user profile (although one can see a user’s timeline within the app itself) and an indication of which client a user posted with. It’s fast, OS X-native, and the 14-day beta is free (it will be $15 at the end of the beta period, but the 14 days can be extended with permission of the developer). EventBox would benefit from more documentation up front, but it’s a great application, and has become my twitter app of choice. For now…

     
  • dtoub 12:49 am on Wednesday, April 22, 2009, 12:49 am Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , twhirl, twitter   

    twitter client madness 


    I’ve been using Twitter for what seems like a long time now. I’ve used a few Twitter clients by now, starting with Twitterific on my Mac, but eventually gravitated towards the Adobe Air-based twhirl on my laptop and twitterfon on my iPhone. Both are free and neither one has any ads. I can’t say enough about twitterfon. It’s pretty fast, has a good interface that avoids excess, and the developer is extremely responsive with updates. twhirl (how’d they come up with that name anyway?) is, like all the Adobe AIR-based applications, marred by a very non-Mac-like, inconsistent interface that is at times confusing and even misleading. But twhirl is nice in several ways:

    • It doesn’t take up much screen real estate
    • Like the Twitter Web site, there is a window always visible for composing new tweets
    • It has pretty full functionality
    • twhirl provides growl-like notifications of new tweets
    • Font size is relatively customizable, along with the UI colors (although I’d love to see more and better options)

    I went to the developer’s site last night out of curiosity, and signed up for what was billed as an opportunity to preview the next version of twhirl. What this is, however, is a preview of a new TweetDeck-like Twitter client called Seesmic Desktop. Apparently twhirl was acquired last April by a French development team, and I’ve now read conflicting accounts as to whether or not twhirl will be replaced by Seesmic Desktop. Anyway, I test-drove Seesmic Desktop and was left wanting. First, the positives:

    • Column view, if you want it (I don’t)
    • A useful sidebar
    • Like twhirl, a window (on top, rather than the bottom, unlike twhirl) to compose new tweets
    • Ability to group contacts into different lists
    • A unified search field

    Now the bad news, although keep in mind this is clearly not a polished application yet, just a preview of a work in progress:

    • The notification is weak. It just displays the message that you have received a new tweet, not the content, unlike twhirl (which also color codes the notifications, depending on whether it is a direct message, a reply or a routine message)
    • Font size is not customizable, and the fonts are too small for my eyes
    • Column size is not expandable, which is a shame since I’d love for my Home column to expand horizontally to take better advantage of my MacBook Pro’s 15“ screen
    • No way to view who’s following you, or who you’re following
    • Like any AIR application, a crappy interface
    • Few preferences whatsoever
    • A really lame name (honestly, ”seesmic?“)

    I’m hoping most of these issues become moot in the coming week, since the developer seems to be very open to feedback and realizes the key criticisms of the program (that it’s too much like TweetDeck, not enough like twhirl). It has promise, but not enough to make me switch from twhirl. Yet.

    Just out of curiosity, I did try TweetDeck, but only briefly. Too many buttons on top, and again, I don’t really need the columns. True, you can remove columns, but then you get a warning message that this can’t be undone, when it’s clear that all one has to do is click the desired button on top. It integrates with FaceBook (as Seesmic Desktop also promises to do eventually), but that’s readily accomplished anyway through FaceBook’s Twitter app, so I’m not sure that’s a compelling reason for me to use TweetDeck.

    I also read about Nambu. It caught my attention initially for no other reason than it shares a name with a physics Nobel laureate from my alma mater, but I doubt Yochiro Nambu uses Twitter. It has a Mac-like interface but seems cluttered to me. I’ve also heard that it has some stability issues, so I didn’t see any compelling reason to download it. I probably should, but time is fleeting.

    Yesterday, I also heard a flood of information about a new desktop client called Tweetie, which apparently has been very well-received on the iPhone. From all the stuff I’ve read, this is the perfect Twitter application for Mac users, with a great UI, functionality, etc. I read stuff about Tweetie that was as enthusiastic as the stuff I used to read about Twitterific, and that application seems to have less buzz around it nowadays. What that suggests to me is that users of various Twitter apps are fickle. If someone invents a better Twitter client, people will migrate from what they’re currently using since there is little or no cost to doing so.

    Well, here’s a reality check on Tweetie, since after road testing it, I’m not a fan:

    • It costs. $14.95 for the desktop client, $2.99 for the iPhone client. I’m cheap, and didn’t see any marginal difference worth that much money compared with the free apps out there. True, the desktop client (not the iPhone version) is available in a free version with ads, but you also get reminder popups every so often inviting you to purchase the ad-free version.
    • Nice UI, with very readable text and an iChat threaded format that is just like the one used in Twitterfon. But rather than having a window always present to write a new tweet, you have to initiate the process through either the menu bar or a keystroke combination, or the Dock icon or a subtle icon in the lower left corner. I like the open window paradigm.
    • Bad name. Sorry, but ”Tweetie“ sounds stupid.
    • Retweeting is in a non-customizable format (ie, it’s always ”via @xxxxx, rather than RT @xxxxx). Not a big deal, but I like the RT convention and wish I could choose the format, which I can do in both twhirl and Seesmic Desktop.

    So I’m back to twhirl on my desktop and am continuing with Twitterfon on my iPhone. What I’d really love to see is a way to sync between Twitter apps. There’s talk of Nambu, I believe, being able to do this at some point, but at the server level, it would be great to have this as a universal Twitter feature so that it would be application-independent.

    What would get me to switch to Tweetie? Drop the onerous reminder windows in the free version, for starters, or at least drop the price. And while many would disagree, I’d love to see the option of having a composition window open all the time, since that’s kind of the Twitter paradigm. I have no issue with shareware and feel that developers should be paid for their efforts if they choose. But I also reserve the right to not bother to purchase someone’s product if it isn’t compelling enough to warrant the price. I just don’t see how it’s worth $14.95.

    And since Twitterfon is doing just fine by me and is free, I can’t justify switching to Tweetie on the iPhone either. I was thinking of even trying the iPhone app for three bucks, but after reading some reviews in the iTunes Store, I’m definitely sticking with Twitterfon. There doesn’t seem to be any significant advantage over Twitterfon, which as I mentioned is free, and there are limitations compared with Twitterfon. Tweetie on the iPhone doesn’t cache anything, so startup is slow since it has to reload all the tweets. Also, there is no notification of new messages, unlike Twitterfon, and you have to manually refresh since fetching is not automated.

    At the same time, there is a lot to love about Tweetie. It’s compact, yet full featured and has a UI that is very usable and highly readable. It does seem slower than twhirl, at least to me, and I’d be curious how various Twitter clients compare with regard to speed. The main issues for me with Tweetie are its cost and lack of a notification window for incoming tweets. Maybe it could tie in with Growl at some point, which would solve that issue for me. I can live with having to type Command-N for a new tweet, but the other issues are show stoppers for me, at least right now. Still, it is a cool application, and I probably will try it some more, hoping the ads or nuisance window aren’t too intolerable.

     
    • Robert Gable 9:49 pm on Wednesday, April 22, 2009, 9:49 pm Permalink

      Having just switched from Twhirl to Seesmic Desktop, the thing I like best is the ability to have multiple search panels on all the time. On the other hand, I couldn’t tweet this morning from it for some reason.

      I thought I read that new development on twhirl will stop in favor of Desktop. But it’s clearly not as mature a product yet, as you point out.

    • dtoub 2:31 am on Thursday, April 23, 2009, 2:31 am Permalink

      I tried Tweetie again for about a day and gave up. The notification in the menu bar won’t go off unless you manually go to a different section (@ rather than the main timeline). Plus, unlike twhirl and seesmic, direct messages don’t show up in the main section.

      On one of the SD message boards, it was stated that twhirl is slated for replacement by seesmic. On the other hand, the developer of seesmic twitted me that twhirl is not going to go defunct, so I don’t know what the future holds for twhirl. Anyway, twhirl is what I’m still using and am pretty happy with it in spite of the AIR interface issues. Tweetie seems to me to be overrated. The iPhone app that particularly made a name for tweetie has some horrible reviews along with some highly positive ones, but the negative reviews seem convincing, and the free twitterfon that I use clearly has the advantage, if for no other reason than it autorefreshes and maintains a cache so startup is much faster.

    • Vizou 11:09 am on Monday, May 4, 2009, 11:09 am Permalink

      Nambu is actually great, and I have a new fave, Beak http://beakapp.com which you might like since it’s simple and single column…

    • dtoub 11:52 pm on Monday, May 4, 2009, 11:52 pm Permalink

      I do indeed like beak and am waiting for the next beta to see if it has more of the features I need.

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