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The problem with Gwibber (Tyler Rant)

We have reviewed dozens of new twitter applications for Ubuntu in the last few months. Indeed, feed aggregators seem to be the proving grounds for would be developers, as a new one comes out every other day and then seems to die off before it is completed.

And Ubuntu has had Gwibber installed by default for a whole release cycle now. But unfortunately, there’s something still lacking. And it isn’t Gwibber’s fault (Or Ryan Paul’s, btw). It’s the whole paradigm of Twitter applications, and heck, most Email clients and Feed readers as well.

The problem is, that using a local application should be easier/better/ or add in some way to the experience rather than accessing the web counterpart. For RSS Readers and Email Clients, this is rather easy: Offline operation. I mean, sure, the fact that they can collect from multiple sources, or access multiple email accounts is rad (I have 4 that need checked regularly, which will grow again when I go back to school in the spring and get a new .edu). But the thing is, I have to actually make myself open Evolution and download new messages. It’s simply faster to open a browser and bounce off to the multiple sites that I need to, rather than opening Evolution and waiting 20 minutes for it to grab all my email in all the different folders and labels. There is Benefit, but there is also Drawback.

When it comes to basically all Ubuntu Twitter apps, there is no benefit, but plenty of drawback. There is no benefit whatsoever in using Gwibber except that it aggregates from multiple sources. But it doesn’t even do that particularly well. The fact that Person A writing on Person B’s wall looks, in Gwibber, to simply be a status update makes it more or less worthless. The fact that trying to view a twitpic picture requires opening a browser anyway, kinda defeats the purpose anyway.

I hate to bring up an app on a proprietary system, but the official Twitter app for iOS? It actually adds to the experience, by first replicating it to the same quality, and then adding features to it. It actually allows me to view a users profile, and to subscribe and unsubscribe, not to mention actually allowing me to follow what’s going on in the conversation. I can actually access my lists, and thus, by extension, all of the people I follow. Meanwhile Gwibber doesn’t let me actually view any tweets from anyone in my ‘Ubuntu’ list, or my school list, or whatever. There is few user based sorting options, instead it is only account and directional sorting, i.e. replies or direct messages, but not by user.

So let me ask you: What is the point of shipping apps that do not add anything to the experience of just going to the web? Why do we not have a higher standard for these apps to really add to things? About the only use I have for gwibber is for using Ubuntu’s notification area.

The work Ryan Paul has put into Gwibber is fantastic. But we’re not finished yet. We need social apps that give us, at the very least, the same experience as the Web interface, and optimistically adds more features to the experience. A true twitter/facebook/all around social app should not require opening a browser to do a single thing, except for external links.

So what about you guys? Do you use Gwibber or not, or something else? What features does Gwibber need for you to use it?