Seriously Impressed: HootSuite

I will be the first to admit that when it comes to software/services and user design, I’m very hard to please. Chalk it up to years of wrestling with software from all the way back in the early DOS days to the bleeding-edge present – AND from working with technology and software development firms.

hootsuiteSo when I say I’m seriously impressed with HootSuite (formerly known as Brightkit, which was an awful name) that’s no light recommendation.

I’ve struggled with Twitter productivity tools over the past year, trying to streamline, simplify, and maximize my use of Twitter as a resource-sharing platform and communication engine. TweetDeck, for me, solved the problem of managing the Twitterstream through a flexible (desktop) client interface – it’s a great tool, getting better by the month, and I loved it right after Iain Dodsworth put it out for launch.

But I also make use of timed tweets (to share resources across different time sectors – I do most of my information gathering and publishing early in the morning). And, I like the automation of using one-click toolbar tools to rapidly create a tweet on the fly. Plus, I enjoy auto-shrinking or URLs into trackable mini-links.

I have used TweetLater extensively for timed tweets but found its interface cluttered and difficult. BigTweet is a great toolbar app that lets you actually create 240-character tweets (if desired) and splits them into two tweets – nice. TwitPwr, bit.ly, all the other URL shrinkers and trackers – been there, done that (I do like how bit.ly allows you to create a custom-spelled URL instead of nonsense characters if desired).

Good-bye to all of those, for the most part. HootSuite wraps it all together, and even allows you to swap between different Twitter personas if you have more than one. When you’re on a blog post or article that you want to tweet, it even auto-suggests wording from the title, it auto-assigns a shrunken URL (owl.ly), AND – very neat – it gives you a countdown of available words minus the characters of the shrunken URL as you type. Wonderful time-saver.

If you’re a power tweeter, your life can get a whole lot easier with a TweetDeck/HootSuite double play. Mine just did!

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Twitter XR (eXtended Release)

Twitter is a great platform for sharing. But there is a bit of a problem – you can only be on it so much, usually in certain time slots – how can you share resources and links at other times, for audiences that “tune in” during other time slots?

Answer: Twitter XR. Or, in other words, time-delayed tweeting.

There are two tools that I use for this, each with strengths and weaknesses. Tweetlater is the incumbent, Twuffer is the newcomer. With both of these tools, you compose your tweet, choose a downstream time for it to appear, and forget about it. The tweet shows up in the Twitterstream later, maybe when you’re not even on-line or awake.

I tend to compose my Tweets in TweetDeck (my favorite desktop client) because it has integrated URL-shortening – then I cut/paste the tweet into Tweetlater or Twuffer. Because my best time for writing, finding resources, and composing tweets is early morning, I tend to blog, scan RSS, and load up tweets between 5:30-7:30 am to show up during the rest of the day.

Here is a very brief rundown of each tool.

twuffer-sm1Twuffer (Twitter buffer) has a more limited set of capabilities, and a very straightforward interface design. The learning curve should be nearly non-existent for most people. It also allows you to store a tweet beginning with the @ sign, a function not supported by Tweetlater. On the downside, it only allows tweet scheduling for “on-the-hour”, and once you’ve queued a tweet, you cannot edit. Both of these are serious weaknesses. If the tool can be beefed up slightly while maintaining its simple interface, it’ll be a winner.

tweetlater-smTweetLater is a far more robust setup, allowing you to schedule tweets by the hour/minute, but also giving you the capability of setting up an auto-DM reply for new Twitter followers, and an auto-follow if you wish. TweetLater does not support timed @ replies out of a fear of spam abuse by the tool. The tool also now provides you with e-mail alerts about your user name, and key words, showing up in Twitter. You can support multiple Twitter accounts. It’s a strong feature set, but the major downside is the clunky interface design. Some improvement has occurred in the last couple of weeks, but the layout and navigation are still non-intuitive and confusing.

For tweet-scheduling, I would abandon both of these tools in a millisecond if TweetDeck supported a timed tweet feature (Iain -are you listening?) – how much simpler to have the option, composing in TweetDeck, of sending a tweet now, or choosing a later publish time! But for now, I’ll continue to use both tools, because they fulfill a genuine communication need – sharing resources at varying times in the day (in fact, if you came to this post via Twitter, it’s because it was pre-scheduled for today, while I’m away in Chicagoland!)

TweetDeck – a Chirp in the Right Direction

I was excited this morning to test-drive TweetDeck, a new Adobe-Air based interface layer tying into Twitter.

It’s early days for this beta, but I like the general design concept. The key thing so far with TweetDeck is the ability to split up and customize the Twitter stream so that you can view it in “streams” of your own design. Also, it has an off-line component, so that you can write and queue up tweets when you are disconnected (or when Twitter is having a whale of a time being stressed out).

Plus, they have a nice little on-line forum for giving input/suggestions. I’ve already added several.

This app is one step closer to the ideal social media interface, an idea which I started exploring here. It also provides an impetus to start this week’s publication of a series of posts here on StickyFigure, where I’ll start to map out my ideas for the ideal EVERYTHING interface to the web!

Louis Gray has a nice review of TweetDeck here, with some more details, and ReadWriteWeb also gives a good overview. Doug Meacham also is liking the test-drive. Give them a read, then, if you can take having one more social media app, give it a download. I’m hoping that something like TweetDeck will provide the ideal, customizable interface to pull together all the various platform streams (Twitter, Plurk, identi.ca, FriendFeed, etc.) into one coherent location, so we can stop comparing services, and just converse more easily!

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