Tuesday, 6 October 2009

I love HootSuite. And it's not only to do with TweetDeck's maddening, irritating 'ping' - the sound the client generates when a new tweet arrives. It's better in several ways, and I want to talk about them.

The 'ping' in TweetDeck can be turned off, of course. I'm not a complete idiot, I assure you. But other problems with the app overrode its benefits.

The main benefit of TweetDeck as opposed to HootSuite is that the former is a client app. Client apps tend to have better response. In TweetDeck, a new tweet was signalled as soon as the app detected it. In HootSuite, you must wait for the app to turn over before tweets are delivered.

The main problem with TweetDeck is that there is no way to enlarge the user interface. This caused me neverending irritation. In vain I searched for the elusive control that would allow me to blow the whole thing up (make it bigger, not incinerate it).

I even went to the customer-service website to complain. It instead gave me a suggestion page where you can vote on enhancements that may - or may not - be delivered. My enhancement - the ability to enlarge the interface, or 'zoom in' - had a very low vote count. Little chance of getting it done, I thought.

Then I saw a tweet from a person I follow who said they had started using this app called 'HootSuite'. Intrigued, I Googled it and immediately logged in using my Twitter login details.

There it was, displayed in all its green-and-blue splendour. I was in love.

And I still am. I love the way you can assign multiple parameters to columns, such as hashtags, phrases or simple, unadorned words. This lets you include two different parameters that are associated semantically with each other.

Columns can be made up to a total of ten, in HootSuite. Another plus. You see columns at the far ends of the series by scrolling. It's easy and intuitive. You can also reposition columns by dragging them to the left or right with the cursor - just hold down the mouse and off you go.

Another winner, for me, is the ability to see more details about a person. Click on the name and a small window opens containing their profile information as well as a few additional yummy things. There's a link to click - which opens a second window - to see recent tweets.

The first pop-up window also contains buttons to let you follow or unfollow the person. This is very handy when you have finished investigating them. You might have visited their website, for example, or scrutinised their recent tweets in your search for a pattern that would convince you they are worth following.

The @ link inside the tweet can be a link as well as the tag of the person who made the tweet.

You can also click on a hashtag link to see the list of recent tweets associated with it. There's also a button right there which lets you create a column out of the hashtag. This is handy when you're in a hurry as it eliminates the need to go and configure a column manually.

The routine controls - such as the link-shrinker - are very easy to use. This is due in large part to the ability to zoom in and make everything bigger. But compared to the way, in TweetDeck, these controls are placed at the bottom of the screen, the placement in HootSuite at the top is a distinct improvement.

There's no way I'd go back, now, to TweetDeck (even if they let you zoom in). I'm hooked on HootSuite and I think ow.ly links are a total toot!

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