Quick App: Reportage Twitter "Radio Tuner" for iPhone
If the iPhone and Twitter go together like chocolate and peanut butter, then for the most part current iPhone Twitter client developers give us many variations of the peanut butter cup. Tasty confections though they may be, and each unique and delicious in their own right, at the end they still tend towards variations of the peanut butter cup.
Too obscure? Okay, rewind. Reportage bills itself as a "radio tuner" for Twitter where followers are treated like stations on the FM dial and you can tune in (or tune out) to what they're saying, and spin the dial to move from user "station" to user "station".
It should be noted at the beginning that Reportage isn't a general purpose Twitter workhouse. There are tons of those already. Like Birdhouse, which models itself on a "notebook" writing experience for Twitter, Reportage has also chosen to focus on one specific concept -- pseudo-"live broadcast" of the Twitter users you follow.
Keep that in mind as we go along...
Reportage is a single account Twitter client, so the setup is simple enough.
Once you're done and enter -- or subsequently launch Reportage -- you're placed into World view and presented with iPhone home screen-sized icons of the people you're following, badged with the number of new tweets they've made since last you checked. The icons seem to be sorted by how recently they've tweeted, and only those that have tweeted fairly recently are shown.
There's a refresh button top-right you can hit to update, at which point a a golden-yellow, highly contrasting status bar drops down at the top to give you visual reassurance something is really happening, and in a very nice touch, the icons animate as they fly around to re-order themselves.
Tap on an icon and you get a list view of that person's tweets along with @mentions from people you also follow (with avatar for easy visual separation). If they've @mentioned you, it's highlighted in green. A more button at the end does just what more buttons at the end tend to do.
The most interesting UI concept is found at the bottom of the list: the manifestation of the above-mentioned "radio tuner" -- the other active user icons arrange themselves in a horizontal band and you can flick through them, a vertical band just like an old-style radio, indicating which one is currently tuned in. To highlight attention to UI detail, if you flick to a point in-between two icons, Reportage will drift on or back and center itself on the closest one.
Needless to say, you then get the newly "tuned" person's tweet list.
Tap on a tweet and you get that user's name, follower count, and location along with the contents of the tweet and a date stamp.
I didn't see nor could I find any "in reply to" indicator or button to allow tracing back through the reply train, which is something I personally do quite often but doesn't really fit the "radio tuner" metaphor. Also, no indicator of which client was used to post the tweet, which is something that admittedly only client aficionados may miss.
If an @mention is in the tweet, tapping it brings up a webview of that user's twitter.com/[username] page which is a tad disjointing. It would be nice if that could stay part of the Reportage user experience.
Tapping on an avatar (presented if the user is in your current World view) will take you to the Reportage profile page, however.
Tapping the small info icon at the bottom right brings up a screen displaying fuller stats, including followers, following, and updates, Twitter bio, homepage, etc. as well as a Follow/Unfollow toggle.
Interestingly, there's also a Mute/Unmute toggle, which nicely fits the radio metaphor. Muted users are still displayed everywhere I could see, however an icon overlay shows that they've been muted. (I'm tempted to use the feature just for tweeting screenshots, however...)
Along the bottom are options to reply, resend (which uses the RT/re-tweet rather than via approach), message (direct message/DM), and star/unstar.
Star, which might be confused with Twitter's own public "favorite" system, in Reportage allows you to favorite a user. Favored users get a star icon overlay and seem to become sticky in the World view so they don't disappear if they've become tweeting slackers, momentarily or otherwise. It also gives them a place on the separate Star View screen we'll get to later.
Heading back to the World view, the "compose new tweet" icon is top left and provides exactly the needed typing, location, picture adding, and trashing (clearing current contents) functionality you need.
Tabs along the bottom let you switch from Wold view to other views. Next in line is the aforementioned Star view, which is identical but contains only your Starred, or favored, twitter users.
At this point it's important to remember that caveat about users only tending to exist if they're in the World view. Combined with @mention links going to webviews rather than in-Reportage pages, it makes adding less-frequent twitter uses a challenge. For example, I wanted to add Dieter to my Star view -- and while I may be the archetypal "dumb user" -- I just couldn't find a way to do it other than to wait and see if he'd pop up in my World view eventually.
Those who appreciate the concept of groups if not their complexity might find the Star view suits their needs very well.
Next along is Local view, which provides a list of location-based tweets within a user-selectable 1, 5, or 15 miles.
Last is your own [Username], or Me view. Tapping on your own view gives you a list of your recent tweets interleaved with @mentions sent in your general direction.
A Public/Private button lets you toggle to direct messages rather than @mentions. Somewhat confusingly to me at least, the dark rather than light button represents the current state, and labels not withstanding, hitting either button at any time switches between the two states. However, DMs are distinguished by a purple/burgundy color rather than green color so it's apparent enough which type you're looking at.
Again here, Reportage seems to limit you to users currently in your World view. Dieter, for example, @mentioned me yesterday wasn't there, while someone more active who hadn't @mentioned me for 5 days was.
Note, you can exit Reportage, go to Settings > Reportage > Filter and change the World filter anywhere from 1 hour, 1 day, 1 week, or none (no filtering). This didn't expand the amount of users in my World view, however, but it did seem to increase the amount of @mentions in my [username] view. I still couldn't get to Dieter, though, as the "more" loading stopped going back as far (12 hours only). My conclusion: Reportage doesn't much care for Dieter.
(Joking, of course. We have every confidence wherecloud is working to address some of this -- as appropriate to their app's focus -- in an update release.)
So this Quick App turned into anything but. Sorry for that. Blame Reportage for engaging my Twitter geek. Now, I can't help coming back to Birdhouse by way of comparison. In Reportage we have another innovative take on a specialized, focused Twitter application designed to address the shortcomings of general purpose clients.
With the "radio tuner" metaphor, in keeping with Gruber's Design Playground theory, Reportage works amazingly well at presenting and navigating current views of the Twitter users you follow, all wrapped up in a startlingly good UI.
Can't wait to see where wherecould goes with it next.