A Brief Word About Twitter

People are angry about the recent changes to Twitter's API.

I'll be honest: I understand very little about what's going on with Twitter. I'm not a developer, and my eyes tend to glaze over whenever I try to read the jargon. (Marco Arment has a nice summary though.)

The gist seems to be that Twitter is clamping down on what developers can and can't do with the service, which, according to most, is going to make Twitter significantly less awesome. As a result, my Apple nerd brethren have begun defecting en masse to App.net, a new platform whose Alpha service resembles an extra-geeky Twitter with a $50 entrance fee.

I don't know enough about the issue to judge Twitter's actions. Presumably, they're doing what's best for Twitter. That's their prerogative. If Twitter becomes unusable, it will bum me out. I love Twitter.

But fortunately, App.net has come along just in time to shelter us from Twitter's turn to the dark side. If you're over there, you can find me as andrewmarvin.

As we transition from the old to the new, I'm reminded how important it is not to allow ourselves to become overly attached to anything, let alone a social network. Technology moves quickly. If Twitter becomes something to be abandoned, we will adapt, move forward, and be OK.

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Greener Pathtures: Part Three

Note: This post is Part Three in a three-part series about a social network called Path. It’s also about social networks in general and which ones are worth it. Be sure to read Part One and Part Two first.

This is an important quest. We are spending more and more of our time interacting with each other on the Internet. As such, I believe we must choose the highest quality methods of doing so. But which?

Part Three: The Path to Path

Parts One and Two of Greener Pathtures dealt with the nature of Path and other social networks, respectively. In this third and final installment, I will examine the potential role Path might serve in my realm of social networks.

As previously discussed, Path acts as a sort of all-in-one app, capable of handling virtually all social networking tasks. You can post a photo or video, check in with people and locations, post a song you’re listening to, post a thought, or log your sleep and wake times. By contrast, most social networks (Facebook notwithstanding) excel in only one or two of these areas. Twitter, for instance, is primarily text-based. Instagram is entirely photo-based. Foursquare is, to my knowledge, location-based.

So, we have Path’s Swiss Army knife approach versus the one-thing-well mentality of most other social networks and apps. To determine if Path will be useful to me (and perhaps you), I will compare each of its features to the app I am currently using to fulfill that need.

Photos: Path vs. Instagram

Instagram is the reigning champion of iPhone photo apps. I use it to post photos to Twitter. All of my friends use it. It’s great.

Path’s camera feature is similar, but with notable differences. Enter the bulleted list:

  • Path has fewer filters. There are some bonus filters available for $0.99 in-app purchases, which admittedly look quite nice.
  • Path’s photos are not square like Instagram’s.
  • Path’s photo filters do not have borders.
  • Path allows you to take videos and apply filters to videos.

Both apps feature tilt-shifts, flash options, and the ability to upload an already-taken photo. Both can post to Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr.

One thing that surprised me was Path’s ability to take videos. I took a thirty-second video and posted it to my Path and Twitter with ease. If the app took time to upload the video, I didn’t notice it. It just hopped onto my Path like it was nothing. I could view it on both Path and Twitter. The whole process worked beautifully.

I never tweet my own videos because: A) I rarely take them, B) I don’t have a dedicated video sharing app, C) uploading videos to Twitter isn’t usually seamless. Path, however, really impressed me with this feature.

You can save other people’s photos in Path. As far as I can tell, Instagram does not let you do this.

Also of note is the fact that Path is not a dedicated photo app like Instagram. That means there is no Popular tab, news feed, or profile — at least, not in the Instagram sense. People can still comment and approve of your photos on Path, they just do it on your Path timeline. It’s similar to scrolling down your Facebook News Feed, where there are many different types of posts. This contrasts with Instagram’s feed, which is only photos.

Will Path replace Instagram for me?

Probably not. Instagram is too great and too widespread for me to abandon. However, Path’s photo features are respectable, and I can just as easily use it to share photos on Twitter as I can with Instagram. Plus, Path’s video capabilities blow me away. Instagram will probably remain my main photo app, except in instances of sharing video and when I only want people on Path to see my photo.

People & Location Check-In

I’m including this as one section because they’re very similar. “I’m with so-and-so”, “I’m at such-and-such”, or some combination of the two. Checking into places or with people on Path is characteristically fun and easy.

I need to take a timeout here to point out that many features in Path can be accessed from within the other features. Stay with me.

When you click the “+” button in Path, you get a wonderfully animated radial menu that offers you the Camera, People, Places, Music, Thoughts, and Sleep/Wake options. Selecting one takes you to that feature, but then you are always taken to the Post screen, where you can add commentary, who you’re with, where you are, or choose to also post to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or Foursquare.

This seems puzzling, but I think it speaks to Path’s versatility. You don’t have to go back and forth between features when making a post. You always get the option to add People, Places, Thoughts, or post to other social networks before submitting your entry. However, you cannot, say, take a photo from the People screen, or post a song from Thoughts, if that makes sense.

It sounds squirrelly, but the more I think about it, the more logical it becomes. The radial menu has you pick your primary reason for posting, and then the Post screen lets you to add people, places, or thoughts to that post. For example, “Oh, I want to post this song to Path”, so I hit the Music button and select my song. Then, I decide I also want to tag my friend Rich, who’s with me, and say we’re at Friendly’s. The Post screen lets me add those details to my song post.

OK. Moving on.

Will I use Path for check-in services?

Again, the only check-in services I use are on Instagram or Twitter, and only if I feel it’s relevant. Path, however, makes it easy to tag friends and locations in posts, so I can see myself using these features more often. I actually already have. Again: versatility.


Posting music with Path is great. The song preview works well, and people can easily listen to what I’m listening to. I can post the song to other social networks with no problem.

I’ve been using the SoundTracking app for posting music, but I’m going to switch to Path. It’ll be one less app, and I don’t use SoundTracking’s other features enough to warrant keeping it. Path lets me post what I’m listening to, and it does it well.

And you know what? Path does everything it does well. Photos, videos, people, places, thoughts, music: it excels at all of them. Don’t think that because this app does many things, the experience of each thing suffers. If I can use Path for something, I’m likely to do so.

Thoughts: Path vs. Twitter

I can’t abandon Twitter. I love and rely on it too much. Path allows me to post virtually anything to Twitter though, including Thoughts, which are essentially tweets. This means you could use Path as a tweeting client, but not as a Twitter client because it doesn’t allow you to read your Twitter stream.

For me, it’s end-of-story: Path won’t replace Twitter, and it probably won’t for any Twitter user. Path does, however, make it easy to post additional things to Twitter. I see myself using the two in conjunction. Also note your audience with each service: you have varying degrees of friendship with your Twitter followers, but Path is reserved only for close friends. That should dictate which app you use for which types of sharing.

And now, the ultimate showdown…

Path vs. Facebook

Path and Facebook are, in some ways, very similar. Both services allow you to post virtually anything: photos, videos, links, check-ins, music, you name it. Both your Path and your Facebook News Feed will be filled with a variety of stuff from people.

But that’s where the similarity ends.

As I said in Part One, Path is a quiet, cozy living room full of great moments with close friends. Facebook is a raging house party. The dynamics of the two could not be more diametrically opposed.

On the Internet, there are people you know, and people you don’t know. Your Facebook is filled with people you don’t know. OK, sure, you “know” them, but you don’t give a crap about them.

Path is designed not just for the people you know, but for the people you genuinely care about. Well, why not just delete all your Facebook friends and start over? I guess, but the concept of Facebook has become so nauseating to me that I’d rather just leave it all behind. I don’t want to deal with the invites and the games and the ads and all the garbage. To me, Path feels like a green, idyllic pasture, free from the pollution of Facebook’s tainted, blue and white, Lucida Grande factories.

How can Path replace Facebook?

By being everything Facebook is not:

Real people instead of meaningless e-friendship.

Memorable moments instead of creepiness.

Quality instead of quantity.

Beauty instead of clutter.

Signal instead of noise.

Path needs no labyrinth of privacy settings because it does not encourage you to share your life with people who have no business being in it.

I’ve always preferred a small circle of close friends to a hundred sort-of acquaintances. Path shares that value.

So, now what?

What is to be the result of this long and arduous journey through the world of social networks? Well.

My current arrangement:

  • Twitter, for communicating and sharing with the Internet.
  • Instagram, for photos.
  • Facebook, for communicating and sharing with people in whom I (mostly) have no interest.

My proposal:

  • Twitter, for communicating and sharing with the Internet.
  • Instagram, for photos.
  • Path, for communicating and sharing with those closest to me.

Note that this new arrangement doesn’t necessarily see a reduction in the number of social networks, but it certainly does see an overall increase in the quality of my online life.

I will be leaving Facebook in the near-future, after I research how to properly save my photos, delete my account, etc.

You — and the rest of the Internet — will be able to find me on Twitter and here, at andrewmarvin.net. You VIPs will be able to find me on Path.

If you enjoyed or benefitted from this article, please consider sharing it with the button below! Also, you should follow me on Twitter.

Greener Pathtures: Part Two

Note: This post is Part Two in a three-part series about a social network called Path. It’s also about social networks in general and which ones are worth it. Be sure to read Part One first. Part Three is here.

This is an important quest. We are spending more and more of our time interacting with each other on the Internet. As such, I believe we must choose the highest quality methods of doing so. But which?

Part Two: My Network of Social Networks

In Part One, I talked about what Path is. Here, I will discuss the social networks I currently use and how I feel about them. This exploration will help us determine what role Path can fulfill, if any.


Facebook sucks. Everybody knows it, but everybody’s on it, so nobody can disconnect from it. If you’re still in that phase where “Facebook stalking” is a thing, I can’t help you. The older I get, the more I realize just how useless Facebook is. I’ve hidden everybody I don’t care about, and I still rarely find anything of value in my News Feed.

The people I actually love, I see or text on a regular basis. The news sources I actually care about, I subscribe to via RSS or Twitter. The events I actually want to go to, I don’t hear about through Facebook invites. The games I actually enjoy playing are not about planting virtual crops. As for photos, I just don’t care about putting them up on Facebook anymore. If I think you’ll like a photo I took, I’ll text it to you or show you on my phone when we hang out. Or I’ll tweet it. I don’t need everyone to see the hundred pictures I took on vacation. It’s probably none of your business anyway.

Facebook is a means for people to feel validated on the Internet. It feels good when someone Likes your post or comments on your photo. It feels good to read other people’s sad Facebook statuses, or to see how fat that bitch from high school has become, or to check if so-and-so is single. It feels good to know someone is having a worse day than you. It’s all a distraction.

Organizations are no better. I cringe when I see respectable businesses telling people to “Like us on Facebook!” As if that’s going to help you or anybody. Facebook is a waste of time. How much of a waste of time depends on the user. It’s social titillation, and it’s shallow and lame.

Hey, jerkface. If you hate Facebook so much, why don’t you just delete your account?

An excellent point. I should, but there are two main reasons why I haven’t yet.

  1. The Quarter-Life Enlightenment Facebook page. While I personally see little value in Facebook, I can understand the fact that some might use it as their primary news source. I want to provide as many ways as possible to subscribe to QLE, be it Twitter, RSS, email, or Facebook. If you’re on Facebook every day, then Liking the QLE page might be the easiest way for you to stay up-to-date on new posts.

  2. I’m fortunate to not be affected by Facebook’s addictive qualities. Usually, I just read the new posts in my News Feed a couple of times a day, and then I close it. I don’t look at people’s profiles or pictures, and I very rarely search for anything specific. Thus, the need for me to disconnect from Facebook is less severe than it might be for other users. It’s definitely a matter of time though.


I love Twitter. You know this. Twitter is a tool. And it is fun.

William Gibson:

[Facebook and MySpace] feel like malls to me. But Twitter actually feels like the street. You can bump into anybody on Twitter.

Yes. I’ve interacted with people I greatly admire on Twitter who might have otherwise never known I existed. That’s really cool.

The beauty of Twitter is its simplicity. There is no forced, awkward Internet friendship. You’re either following someone, or you’re not. The 140 character limit cuts out all the crap. You have to think about what you say and how you say it. Twitter reflects the way I feel about relationships, in the sense that you actively choose who you want in your feed. You can follow celebrities, athletes, writers, politicians… whomever you feel contributes value to your life. There is no obligatory, regrettable acceptance of friend requests.

Twitter is a wonderful ongoing conversation. I love it very much.


I love Instagram, but I mainly use it for its integration with Twitter. If I take a photo I want to share, I’ll usually take it with Instagram and post it to Twitter in addition to my Instagram profile. It’s a great app — well-designed, fun, and simple to use. Plus, it has a widespread user base. Every iPhone user I know uses Instagram.


Google+ is weird. It’s like Google Facebook for nerds. Some people have really started to use it as a publishing platform, but I haven’t felt compelled to do anything more than post a link each day, like the Facebook fan page. I’ve yet to find a way to automate this process. Google+’s interface is certainly nicer than Facebook’s, but it’s become quite clear that people are having a hard time switching.

In addition, there’s been a lot of talk recently about users moving away from Google because of their increasing tendency to “be evil”. Many have taken to DuckDuckGo for their searching needs. I’m heavily invested in Gmail, so I haven’t yet begun to get off Google, but it is on my radar.



Foursquare, Gowalla, etc.

I’ve never really used location-based check-in services, mainly because I rarely feel compelled to let people know where I am. From time to time, I’ll add a location to a picture in Instagram if I think it’s relevant, but that’s all.

SoundTracking, Last.fm, etc.

I love music, and I often want to share what I’m listening to with people. Posting lyrics as tweets or statuses isn’t very effective, so I’m more interested in services that allow you to post a preview of the song you’re listening to. That way, if I post about a song by The Long Winters, people can click through and listen to what I’m hearing. I prefer that to only posting out-of-context lyrics.

I had a Last.fm account a while back, but I don’t use it anymore. I’ve taken to posting songs with the SoundTracking app, which works well enough. Nobody is on SoundTracking itself, so I use it to post songs to Twitter. It gets the job done.


I can’t really take LinkedIn seriously. To me, it feels like adults were jealous of Facebook and decided they needed to get in on the game. LinkedIn feels like Facebook for adults, rationalized under the pretense of “networking”.

So, what about Path?

Where does Path fit into all this, if at all? My online social needs are being fulfilled by the above services with varying degrees of efficiency. Is there any room for Path? Can it replace or supplement any of my existing social networks, or is it just another unnecessary account? That’s what I’ll be discussing next.

Tune in tomorrow for the thrilling conclusion to Greener Pathtures!

If you enjoyed or benefitted from this article, please consider sharing it with the button below! Also, you should follow me on Twitter.

Tweetbot vs. Twitterrific

Yesterday may forever be known as the Day of Tweetbot.

Not only did Tapbots release version 2.0 of Tweetbot for iPhone, they also unleashed Tweetbot for iPad, both of which were met with much fanfare on the interwebs.

Lots has already been written about Tweetbot (see Federico Viticci’s reviews of Tweetbot 2.0 and Tweetbot for iPad, in particular), and the majority of reviews are overwhelmingly positive. Personally, I’ve always been a diehard Twitterrific fan across all of my devices. However, Tweetbot has recently managed to supplant Twitterrific’s position on my home screen. Here’s why.

A Few Words About Twitterrific

First of all, I love Twitterrific. Anybody would do well to use it as their main Twitter client, but there are two features that I would use to determine whether Twitterrific is right for someone. The first is simplicity. If you enjoy a minimalist, yet capable, design, you’ll probably find Twitterrific to be a wonderful experience.

The second feature is less an issue of aesthetics and more an issue of function, and that’s the unified timeline. All tweets, mentions, and direct messages show up in Twitterrific’s main timeline. This is great if you: A) read every tweet, or B) don’t follow many people.

One usually informs the other. If you follow hundreds of people, you probably don’t read every tweet and are content to just jump in and read whatever’s going on in your timeline at the moment. If you follow a smaller number of people, you might like to read all of the tweets since the last time you checked Twitter.

Users in the former category will probably dislike Twitterrific’s unified timeline because the lack of a dedicated Mentions tab makes it easier for them to miss replies and mentions. On the other hand, if you read every tweet anyway, you’ll see your mentions as you scroll through your timeline, and you probably won’t miss having a separate Mentions tab.

I’m obligated here to mention something about gap handling. Gaps are what happens when you don’t check Twitter for several hours, and you missed more tweets than your client is capable of loading at one time. Most apps offer some sort of “Load More” option when this happens, at which point you have two options: skip the old, unloaded tweets, or tap to load them manually.

I don’t know the specific technical requirements that go into making an efficient “Load More Tweets” mechanism, but I will say that Tweetbot handles gaps consistently better than Twitterrific. Again, how many people you follow and how you read Twitter will determine whether this is a selling point for you.

In any case, do note that Twitterrific does have a Mentions-only view, it’s just two taps away. From your main timeline, you need to tap your username in the upper left-hand corner to get to your account screen. From here, you can choose to view All Tweets, Mentions, Messages, Favorites, Lists, or search Twitter. So it is there, but it’s out of the way due to the minimalist, clutter-free design.

Behold the Power of Tweetbot

One phrase that’s often heard in association with Tweetbot is “Power User”, and I will agree that those are the people who are going to prefer Tweetbot the most. That’s not to say casual users won’t like it, but Tweetbot’s abundant features will speak to those who use Twitter as a tool, rather than as a diversion.

The most prominent feature of Tweetbot is the unmistakable Tapbots style. Tapbots’ apps have a particular look to them, and if that look doesn’t agree with you, you might as well stop reading now. The interface doesn’t quite match Twitterrific in simplicity, but it’s just as clean and pretty to look at. The bottom toolbar has tabs for Tweets, Mentions, and Direct Messages, and you can customize the last two tabs by assigning things like Profile, Favorites, or Retweets, depending on which features you use most. The app scrolls very smoothly in a way that’s hard to describe. Tapping a tweet reveals the tweet drawer, which contains Reply, Retweet, Favorite, Options, and Detailed View buttons. Tapping and holding on avatars and links brings up a variety of options, like muting or sending to Instapaper.

New to Tweetbot are inline photos, which show you a thumbnail view within the tweet itself, and a New Tweets bar that shows you how many tweets you have left to read. Other new features and tweaks are too numerous to mention, but all are for the better. Despite being a day old, the iPad version is just as functional, and of course you can sync timeline position with the iPhone version via Tweet Marker. Tweetbot is one app where exploring the Settings menu is an absolute must, as there are many customizable options to be found.

Why I Switched from Twitterrific to Tweetbot

Again, Twitterrific is great, and for most users it should be a lovely fit. But, Tweetbot contains features that I — as a guy who writes a thousand words about Twitter apps — need and want.

The first is List Management. Tweetbot allows you to create and edit lists, while Twitterrific only lets you view them. If you don’t use lists, it’s not a problem, but I keep lists for apps, services, and people I don’t need on my main timeline, but still like to check in with once in a while, like bands or tech writers.

Second is the ability to mute people for specific periods of time. I was getting ready to go see one of my favorite bands in New York City a few weeks ago, and I didn’t want to see the previous night’s setlist, which the band tweets during each show. I could have unfollowed the band for a day and then refollowed them, but that would have been a pain. Instead, Tweetbot allowed me mute their account for twenty-four hours, so I never saw the setlist. After, their tweets reappeared in my timeline. No need to remember to follow them again. You can mute someone for a day, a week, a month, or forever. Handier than you might think.

Then there are other features like Favstar integration, Retweet views, and a Mobilizer switch for the in-app browser. You can tell Tweetbot to “sleep” and not bother you during certain hours of the day. I can’t possibly go into every little feature, so suffice it to say I’ve yet to find a need Tweetbot cannot fulfill for me. This is an app that was lovingly crafted by a company with an astounding attention to detail.

The choice between these two apps comes down to simplicity versus power. Both are beautiful, well-designed apps, so ask yourself if you need Twitter to have less or more features. While I love Twitterrific and will continue to keep an eye on its future updates, as well as recommend it to others, Tweetbot is now my default Twitter client for iPhone and iPad. Its beautiful design and rich features make it fun to use and a powerful asset on my home screen.

You can buy Twitterrific, Tweetbot 2.0 for iPhone and Tweetbot for iPad on the App Store.

If you enjoyed or benefitted from this article, please consider sharing it with the button below! Also, you should follow me on Twitter.

To Follow, or Not to Follow

Frank Chimero:

The new criteria is that I will follow you on Twitter if I would help you move. If I’m willing to carry a box full of photo albums, kitchen gadgets, and spare blankets, I’m probably also going to be interested in hearing about how it’s annoying to file receipts, in seeing photos of your coffee, and in knowing how it smells like wet dog on your subway ride to work.


A lot of people don’t get Twitter. They say, “I don’t want to read about what somebody is having for lunch.” For a long time, I agreed with them. It wasn’t until after I joined Twitter that I finally understood how valuable it is.

The amazing thing about Twitter is that it can be as useful or useless as you want it to be. Twitter doesn’t force you to read about what people are having for lunch. If you, the user, choose to follow people who tweet such inane minutia, then yes, you will have to put up with that. But the better option is to only follow people who make quality contributions to your timeline. For example, I follow a bunch of writers and minimalists and nerds because I care about what each of them has to say. So much so that I’m willing to put up with the occasional tweet, as Frank Chimero says above, about something that doesn’t interest me. Like when John Gruber tweets about sports.

Unlike Facebook, where you’re socially obligated to accept someone’s friend request or risk offending that person, Twitter is not a forced two-way street. You don’t have to follow everyone who follows you, and just because you’re following someone doesn’t mean they have to return the favor. There’s no fake virtual friendship to maintain. You’re either following someone, or you’re not.


James Shelley, in “The Purloined Tweet”:

The person who “benefits” from a Facebook update that says “Hey, I’m drinking a vanilla latte!” is probably the person enjoying the vanilla latte. After all, the only guaranteed reader of a text in social media is the person who wrote it! Such is the curious phenomenon of posting personal notes with no specific benefactor or recipient in mind.

As a closing point of reflection, perhaps in a cautionary tone, consider the old maxim of Cyril Connolly: “Better to write for yourself and have no public, than write for the public and have no self.”