Sharing in 140 characters or less is the name of the Twitter game. The platform simply exists and the users make it whatever they want it to be. We’ve seen a wide variety of uses as Twitter’s popularity has increased, from breaking news to sharing pictures of your dog (and everything in between). It’s safe to say that we are still discovering ways to utilize Twitter.
I’ve been a Twitter user for couple years and I’ll admit that I’ve had moments in the past were I wasn’t sure I really understood what Twitter should be used for. I was always looking for what it should be used for. I just went with it and continued on in my semi-active, mostly observational state. After a while I began to notice how much less I was using my RSS reader and instead going to Twitter for some Web reading. I was following people that interested me and they shared a lot of links to things I found interesting as well.
You may have heard the argument that Twitter is going to kill the RSS reader. Now, while I don’t think that is necessarily true, I do think that it can fill a need for a lot of people. Tweed is an iPad application that brings us a step closer and attempts to cut out the fluff and just deliver those links. Can it replace my RSS reader? Let’s find out!
Design & Interface
Tweed does feel very much like a Twitter application, at least every Twitter app I’ve ever used. Overall, the interface is very basic.
You’ll see a timeline of the links that Tweed is pulling from Twitter along the left-hand side of the display, and previews of the webpages you tap from the timeline on the right. They will stack up in that area if you so choose. For example, you can flip through your timeline and tap each link that you want to check out. A preview of each will stack with the original Tweet on the right side of the screen and you can go through the stack whenever you’d like.
Tapping on each preview will open up that link within a browser built right within Tweed. Swiping across a preview will close it and remove it from the stack. The functionality is pretty simple and it fits the application quite well. It was easy to pick up and I thought about it less and less as I used the application more. I’d say that’s a good thing.
I didn’t have to think about how to use the app, it was effortlessly intuitive.
The built in browser works fairly well. It doesn’t feel quite as fluid as Safari and I ran into the occasional “couldn’t display the page” type problem, but overall I was pleased with its function.
It is also possible to open the page in Safari via the Share menu and entirely circumventing the built-in browser if you really need to do so.
One really fantastic function of the browser is the ability to turn the page into a text only format, using a mode similar to what Instapaper would do. It strips all the junk away and leaves you with what you really want to see anyway. It’s a really nice function to have built right in and I found myself using it all the time – it’s activated by a simple toggle back and forth function.
The goal of Tweed is to separate the links in your Twitter timeline from the rest of the Tweets. Each Tweet will show in the timeline with the original text and the title being the name of the link. It appears as though Tweed attempts to name the link automatically. Its choice isn’t always perfect, but it does a pretty nice job formatting a Tweet that makes sense.
Tapping on an individual Tweet will place it on the right side of the screen with a cropped preview of the webpage. As I mentioned earlier, many Tweets can be tapped and they will simply stack in the preview view. Once the Tweets are added to your stack on the right they are removed from the feed.
This can be a bit frustrating as there are times when you may want to refer back to a previously viewed link and won’t see it in the list. A History list is created for what you’ve recently viewed so this is a bit of a way around this issue, but I didn’t find it completely ideal.
The feed of Tweets is more of a pull from Twitter than a real-time filter. There is actually a function that will allow you to clear the feed. That way you’re able to do a refresh to completely start from scratch. This, I would say, feels a bit like a “mark all as read” feature on an RSS reader. It gives you a sense of taking care of everything.
I’m a little on the fence with how Tweed handles the viewing of each tweet. Part of me likes the read and remove type of function and part of me finds that frustrating. At times I’d like to just have a links only type filter of my Twitter feed that can be easily referred back to. Other times I feel the need to get through and “complete” all the shared links.
Opening a link in Tweed will open that web page within a built-in browser. It’s a pretty basic browser and for the most part serves the application quite well. I did, however, have some issues rendering certain web pages sometimes, but it seemed pretty intermittent. You’ll get a message saying the page could not be displayed and an offer to open it in Safari.
If you dismiss it, the browser crashes and you’re back to the feed. It doesn’t happen that often, but it does happen.
There are a couple cool features built in to the Tweed web browser. You’ll find a button that will allow you to share this link. The options include re-tweet, email, copy location, and open in Safari. There is also a Read Later function on the browser. Pressing this button puts the link into a separate list from your main feed.
This is a really handy feature that can be used in a variety of situations. I found myself using it to save the longer reads for later viewing.
The most notable feature of the Tweed browser is its ability to present you a text only view of a web page. You’re able to toggle back and forth between a full content view and a text only version as you wish.
We’ve all been to web pages that were overwhelmed with distracting visual items. It’s very nice to have this toggle feature built right in to the browser and I found myself using it a great deal. I will say, however, that I did experience most of the browser crashes when switching from text only to full content and vice versa. It’s a great built-in feature and it worked well the majority of the time. Hopefully the stability can be shored up in software updates as the application matures.
There are several feeds available to you in Tweed. You’ll use the Timeline feed most of the time as this is one that will show you links from your full Twitter feed. You’ll also be able to view filtered feeds based on any Twitter groups you have set up. Here you’ll also find feeds for your Saved for Later items along with your History.
Tweed does something rather interesting by suggesting some filtered feeds based on topics or types of links. It appears as though the categories are suggested based on the type of content that you have coming through your main Timeline feed. It’s a little unclear as to where these lists come from exactly, or why they are suggested, but as far as I can tell they’re pretty nicely curated and fairly accurate in their suggested topics.
If you get bored with your feed you can always try one of these out for some interesting reading.
A thought that I had after about two years of Twitter use was how my RSS reading had become neglected. I just didn’t have as much of a use for it. I’ve been a fairly passive Twitter user and spend a lot of time reading things suggested by those I follow and trust to supply good content. It felt like a human driven, dynamic RSS reader.
Tweed cleans up this function of Twitter by drawing out only those tweets with links to articles. For someone like me, who finds the most use from Twitter in the suggested reading from others, this is a really helpful application. Will it replace my RSS feed reader completely? No. Will it take a chunk of time away from it? Probably.