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Seesmic Desktop Revisited May 29, 2009

Posted by fvter in Technology, UI, Web.
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A few weeks ago, I posted an article about Seesmic Desktop in which I promised to continue to revisit the product. About a week ago Team Seesmic released a new version…

I have to say that the feature set on Seesmic Desktop continues to impress me and the integration they are doing with both the Twitter and Facebook API is amazing. But, yes there is a but and continues to big a But before I can fully adopt it as my staple client. Looking back at my main list of qualms from the previous post, some things have changed for the better and some things just haven’t changed and plague IMHO the experience.

Most of the bugs that were itemized seem to be under control but I am still seeing some problems with CPU and still don’t have my twitter avatar as well as the two window link click. I’ve also noticed some new quirks like right clicking on a link or other hypertext in an entry brings up either a copy/paste menu that is disabled or a weird menu with lots > symbols. Outside of that, I do believe that the stability of the solution has potential achieved a milestone.

The UI issues remain a sour point with me. Although the close box issue (at least on Windows) seems to be behaving as you would expect, I just don’t understand the remaining UI and how people can actually live with them. The primary points that really need to be addressed remain: real-estate usage; the weird column/tab bar behavior; and strange column resizing layout in the scroll window when the window is resized. That last point is difficult to extrapolate but essentially I get the impression that some weird ration is being applied based on the size of the window to determine the width and number of detached columns that are displayed in the visible part.

Now don’t get me wrong, I can easily live with new UI paradigms do it all the time. The problem is that this UI just does not seem intuitive and gives me the net impression that it’s not convenient for ease of manipulation and interactivity.

Let me know you thoughts and/or comments through this article or via my Seesmic Profile or thru Twitter

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Why I’m Not Switching to Seesmic Desktop… May 6, 2009

Posted by fvter in Technology, UI, Web.
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For a long time now I’ve been on the quest for a better Twitter desktop client. The reason I use a desktop client is to facilitate the reading of the tweets but also to avoid having to have an additional browser window/tab open [rant: browsers give me headache between slow performance and memory usage at least on my systems, blah blah blah]. Plus the advantage of having a separate client is to be able to get OS level notifications of new tweets. My typical poison has been TweetDeck or Twhirl depending on my mood but overall TweetDeck has been the staple diet mostly because its features suit my needs.

A few months ago, Loic Le Meur and Team Seesmic began to embark on building the “next best” thing in desktop integration of Twitter feeds and more recently to include Facebook through the new Stream API under version 0.2-rc2. Now the purpose of this post is not to review the feature set (please the Seesmic Desktop web page) but to give a critical analysis on why Seesmic Desktop is not for me (just yet)! I ran the new version of the Seesmic Desktop client for the release til May 5th evening about 4 days. To be fair, there are some interesting concepts and innovations present in this new version of the Seesmic Desktop, this is why I continue to try it.

There are two categories of issues that brought me to take this decision: Bugs and UI Issues. The bugs will be covered first with a fine grain of salt as parts of the issues are not necessarily related to the client itself but can be partially attributed to the Adobe Air platform. Bugs are also transitive things and can in most cases be corrected overtime, although I must admit that some of these issues have been around since I first started to try out Seesmic Desktop (ed. I have tried the last 3 or 4 versions) and in theory I have reported them (I think – too much on my plate).

Bugs:

  • Refresh Issues :- I’ve had a number of screen refresh issues where-in either new tweets don’t appear (as compared to what’s on my web version) or tweets appear but no notification is issued which kind of defeats the purpose (and it’s not an API call limit issue as a refresh loads the missing tweets). This is even more pronounced when using multiple columns…
  • Missing Avatars Including my Own :- I’ve had over the testing periods moments when the avatars of the different accounts that I follow don’t get updated but more challenging is the fact that my own avatar that sits next to the input box under the twitter account has never been present (it is loading the one associated to my Facebook account);
  • Memory Usage :- there is debate among the developer community on the cause of memory usage in Air applications whether it is the application or the Air framework. So I will defer on this one although I am getting mixed results from different applications, a quick quit and relaunch usually fixes this issue. But in general, I continued to see memory usage increases after initial launch but controlled (over applications I have seem to be afflicted in the same way);
  • CPU Usage :- this one was quite disturbing for me, I got a consistent above 5% cpu usage while running Seesmic Desktop there never seemed to be any idle time. Worse though was that it seemed to be rising to 15% to 25% cpu use when it was loading tweets or Facebook items;
  • Link Click Opens 2 Web browser pages :- when clicking on a link, two browser windows are launched (instead of one). I know that some developers blame the Air framework for this and how it handles the default browser settings in Windows (yes, I check my browser settings).

UI:

  • Unable to Quickly Identify New Items :- new tweets or Facebook items appear in the Seesmic Desktop application in either the home column or one of the user defined columns, however, there is no distinguishing mark or highlight that shows which are new and which have already been viewed. This makes it difficult to keep track of where you are or have been;
  • Difficult to Differentiate Facebook vs. Twitter Items :- the main home column aggregates all incoming items which is useful, however, there is no in your face mark that distinguishes from which account the item comes. This is a minor issue but it would be nice (for us older folks with vision problems) to be able to apply some kind of background colour coding for the different accounts or just make it easier to see which account it comes from (instead of the small text at the bottom of the item);
  • Where are my Favorites (missing feature?) :- so I use Twitter favorites feature to «bookmark» tweets with interesting information I would like to revisit at a later time. For the life of me, I was unable to identify (outside of the Like menu item) who to visualize or manage these short of going back to the web page;
  • Column Always Selected in Menu :- Seesmic Desktop gives you the possibility to detach menu items so that you can have multiple columns open at the same time, giving you the ability to have multiple streams viewable at once. However, for the life of me, I don’t understand why when you detach columns you must still have an item open in the menu. This is difficult to explain without a visual but essentially, once you detach the columns you want to see you are still forced to have one of the left side menu items open effectively covering up parts of the column scroll window. You would think that the purpose of detaching is to be able to manage the columns and menu items independently;
  • Clicking on the Window Bar [X] Doesn’t Quit :- I hate when applications do this, I don’t understand why some developers think that they can redefine the meaning of menu items or window bar items. The [X] is generally considered to be the close box but when you only have one window open it should also quit the application at least that is the common accepted protocol. Seesmic Desktop doesn’t quit but just closes the window and there is no quit button. To quit you need to right-click the taskbar icon (but what if you hide these) and select quit, definitely unintuitive and inconvenient;
  • Real-Estate Hog! :- Seesmic Desktop is a screen real-estate hog and the UI structure is incredibly fixed in size (apart from window resizing) and has a lot of wasted space (large borders, fixed proportion columns & menus). I know that Team Seesmic has gotten a lot of flack on this issue and I am just adding my 0.02¢ worth. Comparatively with TweetDeck for example, I’ve calculated that for viewing the same amount of columns and tweets, Seesmic Desktop can take as much as an addition 20% to 30% space. This is a big issue for a user who spends a good portion of his time on a laptop or wants the window to sit on the side and take up minimal space but still provide enough information.
    IMHO this type of issue can easily (as well as the performance bugs – CPU, …) can easily be avoided by giving developers and UI designers the lowest-common denominator machines. That is to say give them a machine with a small screen (13″or 10″), low memory and a minimal CPU (maybe netbook). From what I’ve seen, this is probably not the case for Team Seesmic, having watched their demo videos – they all appear to have large 22″ or bigger screens.

As a general comment, the UI issues is where Seesmic Desktop really looses in my book. I can eventually live with bugs and wait for fixes or try work-arounds but the UI leaves (at least in my book) much to be desired and makes it difficult to adopt the product for everyday use. I would have liked to graphically demonstrate some of these issues but for some unknown reason when you try to take a screen shot, the Seesmic Desktop window disappears…

My search continues, future release of Seesmic Desktop may get my attention, who knows!

Let me know you thoughts and/or comments through this article or via my Seesmic Profile or thru Twitter

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