As if all of my posts weren’t varying degrees of navel-gazing, this one is going to top them all because I’m sitting here right now and I cannot access Tweetdeck. Saying something like that might be like opening one of those cans that claim that it contains peanuts, only to find that a bazillion spring-loaded snakes jump out when you open it. Instead of snakes, though, you might be thinking “so what?” or “isn’t that a good thing?” or “Twitter sucks” or “it’s not important” or “where did I leave my sandwich” or all of those things at once. Don’t think ill of me because this is a concern; I have a very carefully curated roster of top-shelf people. They are positive, friendly, funny, intelligent, and informative. They are not the usual “poster children” that the media likes to hold up as stereotypes of those who use social media: insular, tribal, weak-minded, shallow, and obsessed about reputation. I consider the people I follow to be my friends, and when you can’t access your friends, that really does suck, no matter how you normally access them.
But this isn’t a defense of my use of social media. This is actually about how shitty it is that there are so few ways of accessing the services that — let’s be honest — we’re using every day. I rely on Tweetdeck on the PC for most of the day. I have columns set up for game company official accounts, for Star Citizen community members, and for VFX luminaries. I have lists defined so I can store things I really want to remember (beyond the generic “heart” option). Tweetdeck (along with BetterTweetdeck) can be minimized to a compact row of the important stuff, and it remains off to the side on a second monitor where I can see it, but not so that it takes up too much space.
When Twitter was having issues last night, Tweetdeck became unavailable. I was getting authentication errors on all of my desktop-based windows into the service (I use Tweeten at home, which is a wrapper for Tweetdeck to remove the browser chrome). Since this happened late at night I just went to bed, but this morning I am still having issues with Tweetdeck, and I went searching for alternatives that weren’t owned by Twitter. I found zero. Zero serious alternative options for the desktop or the web. And that’s problematic.
Twitter’s native interface is a war crime. As much as I suck as a designer, even I know that whatever the hell they have going on with Twitter.com, it’s an afront to nature. Layout-wise, it’s simple, but as the prevailing winds from Silicone Valley whisper “we know what’s good for you”, none of the content is logically organized in a way that I want to see it. Also, ads. But what choice do I have? Right now, I’m suffering through Hootsuite, which used to be cool but then went all corporate and has a questionable UI of its very own. I could prop up the iPad and use Twitteriffic, but I can’t really use the iPad as a communication portal because typing on it sucks.
I really just wanted to go on record to say that the way these walled gardens are operating really blows, which is something we all know on different levels and is something that everyone hates but is something that no one can do anything about except for those who control the platform. There’s no money in letting third parties install windows into their compounds, so they just decide that they’ll make it difficult or impossible for third parties to even get the permits for construction unless they can pay huge sums or can offer the platform operators some other perks that the rest of us pleb users end up footing the bill for. Yeah yeah, “if you can’t find a revenue stream, you are the product” and we could “not use the service” which is right up there with saying that people could “not drink milk” or “not care about Game of Thrones”. The likelihood that such things would happen — or more to the point, that walking away would make a damn bit of difference in solving the problem — is extremely slim and is really only done to make ourselves feel good about taking a stand. But are we really, if we don’t have a social media account to crow about it?