Just recently I have been playing around with a few twitter services which some of you may not have seen. Most of them are quite new services and I thought it was time to give you my first impressions of them.
Two of the services are quite similar. They take the tweets of you and your followers and present them as a ‘twitter’ type newspaper. I have been using Paper.li for a while and have tweeted it a few times in my twitter stream. Twittertim.es is one I have only recently begun using and have not yet tweeted it. The reason I have not yet tweeted Twittertim.es is that they do not let me know when a new story is published, whereas Paper.li sends me an email.
Of the two services, Paper.li looks the more innovative and more appealing on screen. I like its inclusion of photos, videos and text pieces. It is published only once a day and, as I mentioned before, they send me an email when each new edition is published. Generally the service has been very good and I have been pleasantly surprised at the relevancy of most of the items they publish. There have been a few slip ups, they did publish an article about the film Avatar, in which I have absolutely no interest whatsoever and I wouldn’t like anyone reading my paper to think I had. Okay, this is a trivial thing and one that I can put down to early trial glitches.
Twittertim.es appears a bit more traditional in its on-screen appearance. There does, though, appear to be more stories in it and, again, they are usually very relevant to my interests. The newspaper seems to be updated more frequently than paper.li but they don’t let me know when a new item appears, though they do have an rss feed. So I have to past that into a reader if I want to know when a new item is published.
While both these services are interesting, I’m not really sure who they are aimed at. Are they aimed at me, so that I can read in depth more about the stories or news items that I and my followers have visited or are they aimed at my followers? In some way, at the present, they seem to be a solution in search of a problem.
At first I thought newzfor.me was going to be a similar service but which worked in a slightly different way. On its website it presents a number of categories and in each category it has a number of news stories which it will publish into your twitter stream at regular intervals (you can choose what interval). What you do is to simply choose which category you want to publish and the service does the rest, it even automatically shortens the url using your bit.ly service. It seemed like a good idea and I signed up to give it a try.
That was my first mistake. I chose the technology category as that seemed to be the closest to the educational technology that I usually tweet about, that was my second mistake. I set the tweet interval to be once every two hours which, I thought, seemed reasonable; third mistake. Finally, I linked the service to my bit.ly account,.. you guessed it!
For a few days, every couple of hours, my twitter stream was punctuated with tweets about some breaking technology story. All seemed okay at first but soon the items seemed to have less relevance to education technology and it seemed more like I was spamming my own stream. I also found that an interval of every two hours was far too frequent and again made it look more like spam. I could have changed the category of the items but no other category (and there weren’t many) seemed at all relevant.
So I decided to end the service but on returning to their homepage I found there was no way to login to my account to delete or cancel it. So I took the step of denying the service access to my twitter stream, that at least stopped the tweets appearing. However, the posts were still appearing in my bit.ly account, with a new one every two hours! I had to send an email to the newfor.me team to try to find out how to stop the account. It turned out that I couldn’t, they could only do it, for now, at their end. That meant letting them know my twitter ID, which I was a bit reluctant to do. Eventually, they did remove my account and the posts no longer appear in my twitter stream or my bit.ly account.
So the newzfor.me experience turned out to be a bit of a disaster but it needn’t have been. If there had been a user-panel on the home page which gave me full control of the service, I could have made any changes including cancelling at any time. Yet, I think the service would have been made better had they opted, instead of automatically tweeting articles on my behalf, to send me a link to an article and then let me decide whether to tweet it or not.
The fourth service is one I have been using for a while now. It is not a web service but an iphone app but I really wish there was a web service as well! The app is called reportage and it is a twitter client that works in a slightly different way. It automatically groups tweets by twitter ID. So when I select the app, it first shows me the avatar of every person I follow (and that takes quite a while to load now). By selecting an avatar, I can then read every tweet made by that person over a recent timespan, say 1 day. This is great, especially if I have been away or busy during the day; it means that I can easily catch up with what people have been saying/doing. Another feature is that certain people I follow I can mark out as special and these people will be displayed on a separate screen, which makes it a bit easier to catch up with tweets from people I feel are important or influential.