Where TweetDeck falls short and how to fix it

TweetDeck

TweetDeck

I recently downloaded TweetDeck, overcoming my aversion to installing Adobe Air (I think it’s because I expected it would force a reboot; it didn’t!). Based on all of the tweetbuzz, I frankly expected more – though I do quite like it and have made it my preferred desktop Twitter tool.

By default, at least at my screen resolution, I can see four columns of viewable tweets and Facebook status updates, which is great – but really it’s on the beginning of what I believe it could do. To be fair, it’s only a beta program now but there’s some untapped potential here that I wanted to examine after using it for a few weeks.

Overlay option

My main TweetDeck columns are populated by All Friends, Facebook, Replies and Direct Messages. These last two are just wasted space for me most of the time. Unless you are a serious power user, you probably only get @replies every day or so and direct messages even less often. A good option would be to let the user select to overlay these on top of the rightmost visible column(s) only when something new comes in. This overlay approach already exists in TweetDeck when you click on someone’s profile, so why not put this code to even better use.

That would give me back two columns I could use for groups to better segment my incoming tweets. And speaking of adding columns, groups are great but what about saving filters as columns too? Wouldn’t it be great if you could have a column populated solely by retweets?

Power users know that you can click the filter button on a Twitter column and enter a keyword or character such as “?” to find any questions that need answering, or “RT” to find the retweets of the things other people thought worthy of sharing with their networks. This is particularly helpful if you follow a thousand of more people, since at that point reading every tweet would be a full-time job. Instead, you need to mine for the nuggets of interest. Something on the news about Obama? Just enter “Obama” into the filter box and see what the people you’re monitoring have to say.

Note: You can enter a Search term such as “RT” or “Obama” and it will be added as a new column. But this groks everything on Twitter, which is great for some topics but if you use it for “RT” you will be drowning in retweets.

Make your own decks

It took me a couple of days to notice that you can add additional “off-screen” columns to the right of your visible ones. And even now that I know, I really hate it. Horizontal scrolling is just wrong. I’d much rather have the ability to create sets of columns (let’s call them profiles or tweetsets). This would make TweetDeck much more manageable. You could create sets of however many columns easily fit on your screen and then use dropdown selector to quickly flip between them depending on your task or frame of mind.

Another feature I expected but didn’t find is multiple Twitter account support. I use one Twitter account for work and another for my gaming blog. Here’s where profiles would really shine! One or more tweetsets for work, others for play.

Nips and tucks

Now I don’t know if it will be TweetDeck that pioneers this, but someone really needs to create a method to quickly view people’s tweets mixed with their @replies. So if you see an interesting tweet, you can quickly jump to the responses – almost like reading a chat log. This is the heart of Twitter interactivity, yet everyone seems to bury it so that it takes far too much work to easily access.

This is finicky, but it would be great if there was setting in TweekDeck to move names before the tweets. They are so far away from the picture that I often get mixed up about who is tweeting what when I’m quickly scanning.

One final suggestion: a mute button. The incoming tweet alert sounds are nice when I’m not busy cranking away on a project, but they can be distracting. I could simply quit TweetDeck or press the mute button on my laptop, but one more button on the already busy TweetDeck interface isn’t going to make it implode.

Or will it? What do you think – is TweetDeck just the way you like it, or would you appreciate some of these suggested improvements?

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