I’ve been a fan of Twitter for some months now. In many ways, it’s taking the place of my MyYahoo page, feeding current news headlines my way, but with updates of what’s up with friends interwoven between, creating an ambient consciousness of the world in which I’m involved.
Yesterday, I met a longtime buddy for lunch and convinced him to jump into Twitter (and Facebook) as a way of connecting with his own group, in part to promote some new projects he’s working on. Soon after that meeting, I received an email message from him, saying he’s signed up but “feeling a bit lost.”
That’s the thing about these social apps, of course. There’s a hump you have to get over before discovering just how helpful—and fun!—they can be, and how best to organize them into your real life.
Which brings me to TweetDeck and Twhirl. Okay, first, let’s admit that the Twitter Web page is pretty limited. I’m not saying it isn’t well organized, but the number of Tweets on a page is relatively few, and it’s not immediately obvious what’s a new post, what’s a reply to one of your own, and what’s a direct message. Enter external apps for organizing things.
If you’ve been following my Tweets, you’ll know I was pretty excited by TweetDeck. That three-column format revealed to me replies and direct messages I’d missed in the ongoing flow of messages. The integration of URL-shortening services into the composition box, along with TwitPics and message-shortening services, introduced me to a whole new level of convenience in posting. Add the fact that the app stands alone, outside my browser, and that it pops up an alert anytime a new message arrives, and I was pretty satisfied.
Except that it doesn’t support multiple accounts, and at work I need to manage the company Twitter account while also keeping track of potentially helpful messages from my personal account. That was the first reason for trying out Twhirl. Twhirl manages multiple accounts not only in Twitter, but also identi.ca, laconi.ca, Friendfeed, and Seesmic—also sending your updates to Pownce and Jaiku. (Not that I’m using any of those services, but you might.)
The second big selling point about Twhirl for me is that its popup notifications actually show the text of the message sent (unlike TweetDeck’s, which merely tell you there’s been a message). That means just a quick glance to the corner of the screen to see if it’s something that needs your attention, instead of having to interrupt your work to bring the app forward. They’re even color-coded as post, reply, or direct message. Very handy!
TweetDeck looks more friendly at first, of course, but I soon found that Twhirl has virtually all the same features—view replies only, view direct messages only, shorten URL, and search—they’re just tiny buttons at the bottom of the account window, rather than separate columns or labeled features. The only thing I haven’t found in Twhirl is a “shorten message” button like in TweetDeck, but Twhirl’s other features waaaay outbalance that minor lack.
If you Tweet, give Twhirl a try. And be sure to let me know what you think. You can always reach me at www.twitter.com/LesterSmith.