I think it’s safe to say we all have a love/hate relationship with our email. We either get too much of it to deal with, we hate the way it works, or we hate the app we are forced to use to get it. Personally, I don’t hate email itself, and I usually don’t get very much of it. But like many people, I hate the apps I have to use to get my email. Apple’s Mail.app on iOS and OS X is barebones, tired, and does not support modern email features like labels and stars. I don’t like web apps, so I refuse to use Gmail, Hotmail, or IMAP in a browser. Google’s Gmail app for Android is pretty good, but their stock “other” Mail app leaves much to be desired. And don’t even get me started on Microsoft Outlook.
Aside from our love of writing down our thoughts for the masses to read and enjoy, there is one thing the team here at CE: The Magazine can say we unanimously enjoy — and possibly couldn’t survive without — the read-it-later app Pocket. In the latest installment of our interview series “Five Minutes With…” we had the opportunity to chat with the Lead Platform Developer for Pocket, Steve Streza, the man leading one of the best development teams around today. We asked Steve a few questions about growing up with technology, what drove him to become a software developer, and where he sees himself ten years from now.
Unless you have been living under a rock — or less fortunately in a coma for the last ten years — you would be cognizant of the fact that Apple is the biggest technology company in existence. One of the people who has been at the forefront in covering the iDevice-creating behemoth is Victor Agreda Jr., the editor-in-chief of The Unofficial Apple Weblog, better known as TUAW. We had the opportunity to ask Victor a few questions about his history with the Internet, Apple products, and what companies outside Apple excite him.
Last week, on the day he unveiled his newest project, I had the chance to catch up with Jon Mitchell, founder of The Daily Portal, the newest addition to a rapidly growing collection of high-quality digital magazines. Mitchell has expanded the scope of coverage from solely reporting on technology at his previous journalistic home, ReadWrite — from which he left in February to start The Daily Portal — to writing “stories about the future we’re making and what it’s doing to us.” We spoke about the stress of the perpetual news cycle, the future of publishing, and what went into building The Daily Portal.
Nikhil Goyal is an international speaker and the author of “One Size Does Not Fit All: A Student’s Assessment of School”. He is currently penning his second book, scheduled for release next year. Goyal’s work has appeared in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, he was selected as a member of Forbes 30 under 30, won the 2013 Freedom Flame Award, which counts Martin Luther King Jr. as a past recipient, and was called the “future Secretary of Education” by Diane Ravitch, the former Assistant Secretary of Education, and the Washington Post last year. He is also 17. We had the opportunity to ask Goyal a few questions for the inaugural edition of our new interview series, Five Questions With.
Let’s be honest, most of the third-party Twitter clients on Android are complete crap. Outside of select few, they are slow, frequently crash, and for some clients, significant updates can take months, if they even come at all. But there is one new app that has the ability to change the stereotype of third-party Twitter clients on Android.
Released earlier this month, Tweet Lanes is by far the most beautiful Twitter app available on Android. Adhering strictly to the Android Design guidelines, Tweet Lanes interacts perfectly with Android swipe controls, and takes some liberties with Twitter’s own mechanisms, removing the ‘New Tweet’ button, and replacing it with an ever-present Context Tweet Box.
Designed for power-users, Tweet Lanes includes features like multiple-account support, and VolScroll, a brilliant feature which allows you to navigate your feed with the hardware volume buttons. While these options are great, Tweet Lanes does lack basic features like notifications and direct messaging, both of which are expected to be added within the next few weeks.
I had a chance to speak with Chris Lacy, the author and designer of Tweet Lanes about his rampant update schedule, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo’s recent statements about third-party clients, and the future of Tweet Lanes.
There are a lot of Twitter apps for Android, and most of them are sub par. What made you decide to build your own?
You hit the nail on the head in the phrasing of your question. At the end of last year I started using Twitter more and more, and my frustration with all the Twitter clients available on Android at the time began to grow and grow. Eventually it reached the point where I decided to write my own.
Unlike most Twitter clients, you have added power-user features like multi-account support and scrolling with hardware volume buttons, before including basic features like direct messaging and notifications. Was it a conscious decision to build an app for power-users first?
Honestly, I was just focused on building the app that I wanted to use myself. I rarely use direct messaging personally, and I didn’t need notifications because at the time Twitter was a bit of an echo chamber for me and other people rarely spoke to me.
But I did use multiple accounts, so it made sense to implement that early. VolScroll was an idea that I came up with at lunch one day while trying to eat and read my timeline at the same time, and given it was only 10 minutes of work to implement and was a unique feature, I put it in the initial release.
When can we expect basic features like direct messaging and notifications to become available?
The next Tweet Lanes release will be a ‘project butter’ release that improves the app’s scrolling performance, as well as a few bug fixes. It will also contain some UI tweaks so I can enable Nexus 7 support. Once that release is done, I will get straight on to direct messaging and notifications. Direct messaging is in fact 90 percent done, with the threaded conversations already displaying correctly in a lane. I just need to finish them off. I’m hoping to have that release available in the first week of August.
What was the thought process behind getting rid of the ‘New Tweet’ button, and how has the response been to the Context Tweet Box?
There were quite a few little reasons that led to my going with the Context Tweet Box instead of a New Tweet button, but the crux of it was this: I felt the standard way of covering the screen with a giant new tweet box was limiting and a little heavy, and I wanted to try something different.
Overall, I’d say the response to the Context Tweet Box has been very positive. I’ve had a few requests from people who either want to be able to hide it, or compose a tweet ‘the old fashioned way,’ but I think those are natural requests as people get adjusted to such a different UX paradigm.
I am a bit surprised it’s not been done before, yes. I think it makes navigating a feed much easier when using the device with one hand, especially larger devices such as a Galaxy Nexus. As far as the name is concerned, for a long time I couldn’t think of a name for this feature, but then VolScroll just popped in my head one day, and it was too simple and obvious not to use.
Twitter hasn’t been too kind recently to third-party clients, with CEO Dick Costolo stating that they want to move away from companies that “build off of Twitter, to a world where people build into Twitter.” Are you worried about Twitter limiting API access for third-party apps in the near future?
All the talk coming out of Twitter does seem very ominous for third-party clients such as Tweet Lanes, but until they announce what (if any) changes they will be making, there’s not much for me to comment on at this point. That said, given how prevalent Twitter has been in helping people rally against dictatorships and oppressive regimes around the world, I certainly hope that the company will continue to provide freedom of choice to its users when it comes to how they consume and interact with the service.
Tweet Lanes has been consistently updated at a pretty fast rate. Do you have any assistance, or are you doing all this on your own?
I’m fortunate to have an ever-growing army of users who enjoy using Tweet Lanes that constantly provides me with feature requests and messages of support, as well as helping me with beta testing. The Android Design guidelines have also provided me with much assistance along the way. As far as the actual implementation of the app is concerned, I am and have always been the sole developer.
You have made it known that some premium features will come at a price. Are you worried about the recent piracy issues with Android?
Not really. I’d rather spend my energies improving my app and engaging with users to the point where they want to pay to support Tweet Lanes rather than worrying about factors beyond my control.
Did you create Tweet Lanes as an Android-exclusive app, or do you have plans to expand in the future?
I’m a ‘never say never’ type of person, but for the foreseeable future my focus will be entirely on Android. I’ve got far too much I want to add to Tweet Lanes for Android before I even think about other platforms.
Where can people find you?
MetroTwit is as good as it gets when it comes to Twitter clients on Windows. Inspired by Microsoft’s Metro design, MetroTwit may be the most beautiful Twitter client ever made. Created by Long Zheng, Winston Pang, and David Golden, the team has unveiled their biggest update yet — MetroTwit 1.0 — with features like multi-account support and filtering that match those included in power clients like TweetDeck, while maintaining an elegant design unmatched by its competitors.
I have been using the newest version of MetroTwit for a few weeks, and it has quickly become my favorite desktop Twitter client. I spoke with Lead Developer David Golden last night about the new additions to MetroTwit, Windows 8, and the possibility of a Mac client.
MetroTwit is famous for its great design. Was it a struggle to add power features like multi-account support and filtering, while maintaining your sleek and lightweight design?
Yes, we spent a lot of time going over the design and trying a number of options before settling on the sidebar with account switching to keep a sleek user-friendly design. We had users complete a survey on how they used multi-accounts on other Twitter apps and the problems they had, and worked to create a design to overcome issues with accidental posting, and confusion about which account they were using.
Speaking of other Twitter clients, where you making a conscious effort to bring in power features, or was it simply an overwhelming request from users?
Definitely both. We have planned for a long time to add a number of power features (with more to come), and our users were requesting a number of features on an almost daily basis. We’ve added the power features in a way to keep the app easy to use for the novice twitter user, while still allowing power users to get access to those features.
MetroTwit has grown in popularity substantially since we spoke last year. Has there been any more consideration into whether you will build a Mac client?
At the moment we’re still totally focused on the Windows platform. We are looking forward to Windows 8 and taking our Metro design to a Metro-styled App. That said, you never know what the future might hold.
Speaking of Windows 8, what are your thoughts on the new OS, and have you had any contact with Microsoft about working on your Metro App?
I’m really looking forward to Windows 8, I haven’t yet updated my original iPad, I’m waiting for Windows 8 tablets. We’re still in early stages of working on the MetroTwit Metro-style app, and are still learning some of the new WinRT features.
There are many major additions in MetroTwit 1.0, did everything you want to add make it in, and do you have any personal favorites?
There are always more features we wish we could have got in, we had some features that just didn’t make the cut for our timeframe like the Nest integration (@nestapps) and keyboard shortcuts. I’m a big fan of our new Undo Tweet and the Sidebar background feature.
With all of the additions, will MetroTwit become the only desktop Twitter client that I need?
We hope that the new version covers pretty much everything for a Twitter desktop client. There are always more great ideas to be added though (a lot of them suggested by our awesome users).
MetroTwit 1.0 is available now. Download it here.