I counted: 31 tweets. That’s the number I was able to see in my traditional TweetDeck window recently. But at the same time, TweetDeck’s new preview showed me only 21 tweets — 38 percent fewer, and that’s with the narrowest columns and smallest font available, just to be clear.
For over a decade, people have sworn by TweetDeck as the powerful user alternative to the original Twitter app, but what most people really mean is one specific thing: it shows you more tweets. TweetDeck allows you to see more tweets without having to scroll. It gives you a whole dashboard of tweets that you can post unattended on a monitor. The power of TweetDeck is that it clear, a way to passively tap into a fire snake of personal interests. That’s why it’s such a powerful tool for the world’s editors, and a resource The edge used daily.
It’s also why I can’t understand how Twitter was able to let this new version of TweetDeck go to the world, even in beta form. I’m now concerned that Twitter has forgotten why we use TweetDeck.
Breaking it down, there are easily half a dozen minor culprits, each perhaps forgivable in its own right:
- There is a lot of wasted space around tweets.
- The reply, retweet, and like buttons are staggered and take up more space.
- TweetDeck’s left rail is wider, for no apparent reason.
- Twitter lists inexplicably come with an “overview” at the top, one that leaves an ugly “show overview” button even if you minimize it.
- Tweet previews within tweets (ie citing tweets) now take up much more vertical space.
- Scroll bars are now coarser, as they are browser native unlike the previous custom bars – and in Chrome they don’t seem to display properly in dark mode.
Together, these changes make for a less manageable TweetDeck, whether you have it on a dedicated portrait monitor (like me) or not. I’m frustrated that my 16:10 monitor can no longer fit in four full columns without changing my browser’s zoom, but it can honestly be worse in landscape: if you follow people who retweet a lot, you’re lucky to have four simultaneously in any column before disappearing from view.
When Twitter teased the new TweetDeck on Tuesday, the knee-jerk reaction was that our precious columns may have been scrapped for good, due to a teaser image that – to say the least – was unsuitable for TweetDeck’s power users. Hours later, Twitter realized his mistake, tweet out “Do not worry! Your favorite TweetDeck features aren’t going away,” suggesting columns are very much alive. Eric Zuckerman of Twitter, who helps the company partner with news publishers, even defended the design by Tweet your own photo:
I’ve been using the new TweetDeck preview for 9 months now. If you are a longtime user and thrown off by the image below, rest assured that you can customize your columns to look and behave like the version you know and love. For example, this is mine: pic.twitter.com/i9bT1Mkfr8 https://t.co/16dHgdVXAQ
— Eric Zuckerman (@EricZuck) July 20, 2021
And yet some of Zuckerman’s columns only show you two large tweets at a time. Two.
The new TweetDeck has some silver liners. I’m glad Twitter is bringing its new composer and direct message box from Twitter.com. It’s nice to have more fine-grained control over images, for example, and you could argue that the message popup saves you having to set up a special column for them (although, for The edge‘s private news account, it just blocks part of our view). And while I care less about being able to switch between “decks” filled with columns from a single Twitter account, à la virtual desktops, I’m sure some social media executives are excited.
The new Notifications column is neat too, so you can easily see alerts for certain users and when your tweets have been liked and retweeted, rather than just seeing when you’ve been mentioned. That, plus columns for your own profile, Twitter explore tab, events, topics, moments, and advanced Boolean searches could make TweetDeck a complete alternative to Twitter, rather than letting you switch between the two every now and then.
But aside from a few conveniences, I’m not looking for TweetDeck to be more like Twitter.com. Vanilla Twitter already exists, and it’s just a click away. (Or at least it was until TweetDeck Preview added its own TweetDeck.com URLs for individual tweets, yuck.) I chose TweetDeck because it more efficient, just like I picked out a bunch of third-party Twitter apps when that was still a thing, before Twitter limited most of them to death and kept them from auto-renewing tweets as they came in.
Ironically, I’m having a bit of trouble with the TweetDeck Preview there too: if I step out of the new TweetDeck window for a while, I notice that the auto-refresh feature doesn’t always let new tweets pop up in my view. Twitter says TweetDeck is currently trying to maintain your current scrolling position so that you don’t lose track of when more tweets come in, but that it wants feedback. (My feedback: turn on “don’t auto-scroll”.)
Twitter tells me that there is a lot of early feedback that tweet density is important to people, and that feedback is the point to push this preview into the world. The company wants to explore what it should actually include in the final version, and criticisms like mine can help. Oh, and it’s especially important here because Twitter expects people to pay for this new version of TweetDeck. “With this test, we hope to gather feedback to explore what an improved version of TweetDeck might look like in the future within Twitter’s subscription offering,” a spokesperson wrote.
I really hope so, because there aren’t many things that keep me on Twitter these days other than TweetDeck’s efficiency, and this preview version is less efficient on practically every front. If Twitter blows up TweetDeck, not only will I refuse to pay — I’ll probably leave Twitter for good.