Thoughts On Twitter And Hurricane Sandy

by Christopher Paul on November 4, 2012

Like many people affected by Hurricane Sandy, I took to Twitter for information. When power was out and I needed to get bursts of information, Twitter was how I got my news. But if I was forced to use Twitter’s official iPhone client, I probably wouldn’t have found the network as valuable. Instead, I used Tweetbot for iPhone which really gave me as close to a realtime status on what was going on (or not depending on your perspective) as I could get.

First of all, Twitter’s client only downloads a few tweets at a time. Tweetbot can download more than 20 or whatever Twitter’s client is limited to. I could come back to 200 new tweets all supplying valuable information for my family. Plus, despite my best efforts, I couldn’t find how to create or add people to a list. As I started following more storm related accounts, I needed a way to separate those out from my normal Apple, tech, politics, and international news feeds. I’m not normally a power user and don’t follow a lot of people so I hardly every used lists before; but after creating a list, it was Tweetbot who made it easy to add accounts to a list that helped ensure the tweets I spent my precious (and rare) cell coverage on, it was that list and not my whole feed.

Once my family got to a place with power and internet, it was Tweetbot that, again, made consuming and spreading information easier. I opened my NYC-Emergency list in a new column and could focus my retweeting on the important tweets. Also following the specific hashtags in their own columns to help me discover relevant tweets by others whom I don’t follow was important. Of course, temporarily muting some followers to make sure my eyes focused on consuming only the information I needed was critical. You can’t do that on Twitter’s client.

Sure, there are other Twitter clients that do what Tweetbot can do. Tweetdeck is Twitter’s similar example. But there isn’t the same level of consistency (UI, iCloud sync, or otherwise) that makes me think Twitter can survive with it’s own client. Tweetbot made Twitter valuable to me this past week. The network is important, sure. But without Tweetbot, I never would have gotten the value out of the network that I did. It’s a shame that what made Twitter so great is at risk for loss. I hope Twitter takes heed of this observation. It’s developer ecosystem was so critical for me that I couldn’t imagine life without what it created in Tweetbot.

My plea to Twitter: don’t let yourself get caught up in being Facebook. Let your diversity be your advantage. Control the experience if you want – make yours better if you can. But don’t kill what makes you special just for money… because what makes you special will attract money and make you more valuable to the world in the long run.

Previous post:

Next post: