"A Cacophony of Confusion"


Following a controversial post on the official Twitter Developers blog, the Internet has collectively sprung into responsive aggression. For once, however, such feelings of distaste and aggression are utterly well-founded. Writing for The New York Times, Nick Bilton reports:

So while Twitter gets ready to kill the ecosystem that has helped make Twitter what it is today, and does so by citing a need for consistency, the company might want to pause and take a look at its own products first. If it does this, Twitter executives might see what the rest of its users see: that the only thing consistent across Twitter is the lack of consistency among the products the company makes itself.

Although Twitter’s path toward an increasingly controlled atmosphere has been readily discernible for quite some time, it’s disappointing to see such a reprehensible plan coming to fruition. Further, as is highlighted by Mr. Bilton, Twitter’s purported justification for tightening its grip upon the community is based upon truly flimsy reasoning.

Having spent a significant portion of time with Twitter’s official apps across a variety of mobile operating systems in the past few weeks, each experience was marred by a feeling of poorly developed functionality and rampant inconsistencies in the UI. Furthermore, such experiences invariably resulted in spending significant portions of time researching third party alternatives. TweetBot for iOS, Rowi for Windows Phone 7, and Boid for Android — to name only three — each provide utterly superior experiences to those of Twitter’s official apps.

Twitter evidently wishes to exert some semblance of power and control, but such an exertion is woefully misplaced. Unlike with a closed operating system, Twitter is an optional and non-compulsory element of the computing experience. Thus, if Twitter becomes a displeasure to use, it would be endlessly simple for users to simply walk away from the service.

Despite the evident trend toward casual, care-free movements forward, Twitter must adopt a delicate touch toward such controversial matters. Without careful delicacy, Twitter broaches a real risk of losing its dedicated user-base. Given the competitive environment, such a loss could prove tantamount to complete failure or collapse.

Social media is characterized by a defining sense of fleeting and flimsy gains. For each person joining any given service, there grows the distinct possibility for failure. Without respecting the user — or even comprehending the fickle attitudes of the average person — social services become vulnerable to implosion. Twitter would do well to remain mindful of such basic tenets of Internet activity.

The Facebook Camera Login Screen

The Facebook Camera Login Screen

Much like Mr. Siegler, I too was taken aback by the initial launch screen of the Facebook Camera app. Although not established at the system level à la Twitter, Facebook has evidently worked through some intelligent loopholes in order to achieve this astoundingly useful login screen.

Regarding this novelty, M.G. writes:

But how on Earth did the app know my name? I assumed, of course, it was related to the fact that I also had the main Facebook iOS app installed on my iPhone — but still, how did those two apps talk to one another as neither is system-level?

Here’s how. (And here’s Apple’s documentation on it.)

It’s a smart way to do it (though it may get a bit of backlash). And it will allow Facebook to continue to build separate apps for key features — perhaps an Events app next? — that are quick and easy to install and use. Now just imagine if this was baked into iOS itself so other apps could use it (just like the Twitter iOS integration, but actually even a little more seamless). It would save a lot of typing and/or a number of clicks for app switching (Single Sign On). In my mind, this “hack” shows why Facebook eventually needs to do their own mobile OS. Deep integration and seamless use are paramount in mobile.

The last sentence is an astute observation.

Upon opening Facebook Camera, the immediate greeting of your own name, and, indeed, the effortless login, is an utterly welcome and important characteristic to boast. Perhaps asking for login details is an expected inconvenience, but the psychological ramifications of foregoing such a step are positively extensive.

Regardless of your feelings towards Facebook, I highly recommend dabbling with Facebook Camera for a short while. Unlike the vast majority of Facebook’s mobile endeavors, the Facebook Camera app demonstrates a distinct feeling of polish that irrevocably alters and disguises the perception of Facebook as the bloated entity that it has become.

Subtleties such as this, whether cognitively noted or not, are of the utmost importance in design, and it’s certainly encouraging to see Facebook adhering to such a philosophy.