Chris Hannah

Twitter


The New(est) Twitter Blue

Twitter announced yet another version of Twitter Blue, which is launching tomorrow. And in all honesty, if this was announced 6 months ago, I'd be all over it.

I mentioned this a few days ago, but it's now official. Twitter Blue will cost $8 a month if you sign up via the web, but if you do so via the iOS app, it will cost $11 a month. This is obviously to keep the revenue the same (or very similar) after Apple take 30%.

So, treating the web price as the de facto price, $8 (around £6.50) per month, I think is good value for what you get. Although I will add two caveats to that statement, the first being that it depends on if the people you follow are still on Twitter and have not migrated to something like Mastodon, and also that most of the features of Twitter Blue have been labelled as "coming soon".

If you subscribe to Twitter Blue tomorrow, this is what will be included:

And here is what is currently marked as coming soon:

The most valuable features for me would be the 1080p video uploads, tweet editing, and then the reduced number of adverts.

The problem for me is that I don't currently use Twitter as much. One reason is that I'm currently spending a bit of time on Mastodon, and the other is that I'm spending less time on social media in general.

However, if a time comes when I feel like I want to go back to Twitter in a more normal capacity. (And if Twitter is still standing at that point). I think this is something I would subscribe to.

It's also good to see that there's at least some level of verification happening before blue checkmarks are handed out. So at least they will mean something. And it's even better to see that the checkmark that a verified user can buy, isn't the same one that is applied to businesses or government accounts. With businesses getting a gold checkmark, and government accounts getting a grey checkmark.

One big complaint about the purchase of a checkmark was that you could pay for Twitter Blue and suddenly seem as official as any other previously verified account.  I think the distinction between different verification types, and that there is at least a phone number being verified for Twitter Blue subscribers, there's at least some value to it.

As for right now, I still plan on continuing to use Twitter. However, I won't rush into Twitter Blue, unless something terrible happens over on Mastodon, or something majorly impressive happens at Twitter.

Twitter Blue Will Cost More on an iPhone

There are quite a few publications sharing information regarding the pricing of Twitter's Blue subscription, that it will be more expensive from an an iPhone. This is to cover the revenue cut that Apple take from all purchases on the App Store and their in-app payment system.

This isn't exactly a solution that everyone can suddenly adopt. However, I think for large companies such as Twitter, it's a clever decision. That's as long as there is an alternative method to start a subscription from another device at a lesser price.

It's one thing to offset the commission that Apple take, but I would imagine it also makes the cut that Apple take off all payments, a bit more visible.

Let's say Netflix added an option to pay for the service via Apple's in-app payment system, and also made the price higher to offset the commission. I'm sure a lot of people would suddenly be aware. And I'm sure, if the reasoning was made clear by Netflix, a lot of people would be aiming their complaints in Apple's direction.

I'm not sure how this will play out. Especially as to some, Twitter isn't even a place to be for free, let alone pay for it. But, if they can get more public attention on the cut that Apple takes from in-app payments, it would be interesting to see if the blame is directed towards Apple, or Twitter for not just accepting that cut, and keeping the end user pricing the same on all platforms.

The Evolution of Twitter Fascinates Me

Twitter has just started to roll out a new composer tool, Twitter Write, which adds the support to write long-form content. It allows users to write a note, which can essentially be seen as a blog post, just hosted on Twitter itself. There are still limits to what you can write in a note, with the title being limited to 100 characters, and the body having a limit of 2,500 words.

In some ways, I find this feature to be an obvious addition to the platform, especially given the number of Notes app screenshots, or “TwitLonger” links shared on the platform. There’s clearly a demand to share more than 280 characters.

However, I think this feature is a lot more than just a mechanism of increasing the character limit. Especially if you think of the other features that have been added to Twitter in the last year or so.

To some, Twitter should be used as a pure chronological timeline, of tweets from the accounts that you follow. But it’s clear that Twitter as a platform is becoming more of an ecosystem, in which multiple social networking services exist.

Just to name a few of the recent additions, there’s got Spaces that brings live audio conversations to the platform, Communities that allows groups of people to create dedicated places for people to connect, Shopping is a recent experimental addition, and soon people will be able to post longer written content via Notes. For a platform that was originally designed to share tiny pieces of text, it’s evolved substantially.

On top of all of that, there’s Twitter Blue, Super Follows, Tips, and a ton more that I’ve forgotten about.

It’s fascinating to me to see the visible evolution of the platform. And while the big elephant in the room is Elon Musk, I’d still prefer to keep a positive mindset on the situation and think about the ways the platform could still improve.

Twitter Blue - Twitter’s New Paid Subscription

Twitter have officially announced Twitter Blue, their first subscription, which will give users access to a few extra features and perks. It has been rumoured for a while, so it’s not exactly surprising. But it’s still good to see it officially. It’s only available in Australia and Canada now, but at least we can get a preview of what will be included.

As for features, there are three that will initially be part of the new paid subscription - bookmark folders, an undo tweet option, and a specialised reader mode for threads.

Bookmark Folders are pretty easy to get your head around, it’s just a way to organise bookmarked tweets. Although I think this should be available for all users.

The Undo Tweet feature is a bit interesting. Because it may seem like it’s just another way to delete a tweet, but instead, it’s probably better to think of the feature as a customisable tweet delay. Matt Birchler had this idea not long ago, and his reasoning was that a delay could give you time to rethink whether you really wanted to tweet something. This won’t allow for a huge amount of consideration, as the maximum delay will be 30 seconds. But you’ll definitely be able to quickly stop a tweet from being posted that may contain a wrong link, image, or spelling mistake. I think this could be quite useful.

As for the Reader Mode, this is a way to condense threads into a single view so you can read them much more seamlessly. Rather then manually scrolling through tweets, and getting replies from other people in the way.

There are a few extra perks for subscribers, and they are custom app icons, colour theme options, and dedicated customer support. I haven’t seen any of the app icons or themes, but I’m definitely up for some customisation.

Twitter only announced the pricing for Australia and Canada, with them being $4.49 AUD and $3.49 CAD. But with the way In-App purchases work, you can see what the app offers from the App Store page. And from that, I can tell that Twitter Blue will be £2.49 a month in the UK. Which I don’t think is that bad, and I’m 99% sure I’ll be signing up whenever it’s available.

Write-only Twitter

I've come across this idea before, where you would use Twitter as a write-only service. The aim is usually to minimise the time spent on the platform, either to avoid distraction, or to keep away from the content, when all you want to do is publish a tweet.

I understand the reasoning. Sometimes you just want to write a quick tweet, share a link, etc., but you don't always want to be trapped on the social network itself. A few examples for myself would be sharing a link to a new blog post or a photo that I've taken.

As for the reasons to stay away from the content on Twitter, I guess that will be different for everyone, and every situation. I have thought about trying this myself, where I would avoid reading Twitter entirely, and treating it as a one-way street. But this always felt hypocritical, since it's like you're putting your content above everyone else's, expecting your followers to read what you tweet, but you have no intention to do the same.

Nevertheless, there certainly is the market for solutions where you do treat Twitter as a write-only service. And it just happens that I've come across a blog post by Josh Ginter on using Twitter without reading the timeline, and also a product called Typefully by the creators of Mailbrew. Which allows you to create write and publish tweets without any form of timeline distraction.

Josh Ginter's solution was to only tweet via a dedicated Shortcut:

First, I created a simple “Tweet” shortcut that provides a simple text input box. Once I’ve inputted my tweet, tapping Done shoots me through to Tweetbot (or you could tweet through the Twitter app — whichever you prefer), pastes the tweet I previously typed, and a final tap of the “Tweet” button sends the tweet and shoots me back to Shortcuts.

Nowhere in this shortcut is there an ability to see who has tweeted in your timeline. There’s also no way to cancel the tweet and read tweets in the timeline mid-way through the shortcut — if you hit “Close” in Tweetbot, the shortcut will shoot you back to Shortcuts.

Twitter, But Without the Timeline

I think this solution would start to get on my nerves after a while. Because the Shortcuts app opens when you launch the shortcut, and it navigates back to the Shortcuts app afterwards. However, it still has the desired effect.

One app I use when sharing content to Twitter is Linky. It has a very good share extension, and lets me share content without ever opening the Twitter app.

As for Typefully, it is essentially a Twitter composer. There is no feed, or any content from Twitter at all. The only things you can do is to compose tweets, and either publish them, or schedule them to be published later. It works great in a web browser, and also if you add it to an iOS Home Screen.

This tool is what I would probably opt for, if I wanted a write-only experience for Twitter. But I think it's also a great tool if you simply want to compose a thread of multiple tweets, or want create a batch of tweets to cue published at different times. Matt Birchler made a useful video on Typefully over on his A Better Computer channel.

I'm interested to see if this idea of a write-only Twitter is appealing to others. And if this does become a trend, I wonder what other products will be created.

Twitter Finally Adds Support for iOS Live Photos

After four short years, Twitter have added support for Live Photos. A feature that was announced alongside the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, in 2015.

If you ignore the strangely huge delay, I do think that it’s a very welcome addition. A lot of people including myself take Live Photos all the time. So I can see this being quite popular.

It doesn’t literally keep them as Live Photos though, they are converted to GIF format. That’s not exactly a bad thing though, as I’m sure there’s quite a few benefits of storing them as a GIF rather than the raw video from the Live Photo.

One thing I didn’t like about the video alongside their very brief announcement, was the attitude towards the newly added support. They talk about how millions of Live Photos are taken every day, but how they go unshared and forgotten about. But “Today is a new day”. Sure, today is a new day and it’s a pretty cool feature, but I think it easily could have been done a number of years ago. The only blocker for adding this support earlier was Twitter themselves.

Twitter Announces New Gesture To Open Camera

Twitter have announced (on Twitter) that an updated camera interaction is on its way. So you’ll be able to access the camera with just one swipe:

This is a really good improvement. I’ve even downloaded the official Twitter app again, so I’m ready to try it out.

Twitter Plans to Break Parts of All Third-party Apps

And some of the developers have responded:

After June 19th, 2018, “streaming services” at Twitter will be removed. This means two things for third-party apps:

  1. Push notifications will no longer arrive
  2. Timelines won’t refresh automatically – apps-of-a-feather.com

Twitter has always had a strange relationship with developers of third-party clients, with certain features never even making it into their hands. A quick example would be Polls. They don’t show up on apps like Tweetbot, because they don’t know they exist.

I’m not so sure how much of a loss timeline streaming would be, but push notifications?!

Maybe this is time for more people to check out Micro.blog.

Better Support for Tweetstorms, Exactly What Twitter Needed!

From the Twitter Blog:

We’ve made it easy to create a thread by adding a plus button in the composer, so you can connect your thoughts and publish your threaded Tweets all at the same time. You can continue adding more Tweets to your published thread at any time with the new “Add another Tweet” button. Additionally, it’s now simpler to spot a thread – we’ve added an obvious “Show this thread” label. – Full announcement.

As much as I think this is a good addition to the Twitter app, even though my thoughts on tweetstorms are mixed, I can’t help but thinking that they’re still not working on the important things.

It sounds stupid, and I understand there’s different departments for different things. But the native Mac app doesnt even support 280 characters yet.

And what about all the god damn abuse!

I was a bit weary of blaming Twitter directly for these types of issues, where maybe things such as blocking, or other reactionary actions could help. But it’s a real mess.

I’m a massive fan of Twitter. But if certain people can’t use it because of things like abuse, safeguarding issues, the special treatment some people get even when they break such basic rules (especially that prat with the blonde combover), then you’re doing something fundamentally wrong.

In no way is this me trying to create a comprehensive list of the problems with Twitter. I don’t have enough patience to write about them all. But it pisses me off when I see constant “improvements” to the things that don’t really matter.

Use Regular Expressions to Return to 140 Character Tweets

As we all know, Twitter is now changing the character limit of a tweet to 280 characters, from the original 140. I’m sure they have reasons, and I’m not here to argue against any of them.

However, if you find yourself wanting to go back to the “old Twitter”, where tweets were short, and we had to abbreviate things when we couldn’t fit all of it in. There is a way to achieve this.

The method is by simply hiding any tweets that do not meet your length preference. The most popular twitter clients for iOS and macOS (Tweetbot, and Twitterrific), have some form of muting feature, which also allow advanced muting with regular expressions.

Some people make use of this to mute certain hashtags, overuse of hashtags or @mentions, and some really advanced things. But for the purpose of checking a tweet length, you just need to see how many characters there are.

And that’s simply:

[sS]{MIN_LENGTH, MAX_LENGTH}

You use [sS] to match any character, and then use the lengths afterwards to specify a minimum and/or maximum length.

Just to explain it in a bit more detail, the square brackets are a way to define a collection of character matching rules. And the curly braces are sequence quantifiers, that can match minimum, exact, or maximum length of a match.

And then there’s the s and S.

The s is used to match a whitespace character, so spaces, tabs, new lines, etc. And the S is used to match the opposite, all non-whitespace characters, So if you put them together, then you’re going to match every possible character. Which in a scenario like this, is all you need.

The Patterns

So now I’ve explained the scenario, and solution in a bit of detail, I’ll get to the actual regular expression patterns.

In this case, we simply want to hide all tweets that do not fit the old standard of 140 characters in a tweet.

However, we aren’t setting rules, but instead writing patterns to match tweets that will be hidden, we will need to inverse the logic.

Seeing as we only have one parameter – the maximum length we want to see, it will be very easy. Because now we need to say, if a tweet matches these conditions, hide it.

The conditions will be of course, that it is over the limit we set. In this example I will use the old 140 character limit, but you could set your own custom preference using this same method.

If we take that logic and apply it to the simple pattern I mentioned earlier, we can simplify it even further. As we’re not checking a maximum length, that’s irrelevant. We just want to hide anything over a certain amount.

Which leaves us with:

[sS]{MIN_LENGTH,}

You still need the comma in there though, as otherwise it will only match if it is the exact same length as the number entered.

Now the last part, the actual number.

Remember, this is not the length that we want to see, but instead the opposite. So if you want to see all tweets that are 140 characters or less, you need to check for anything 141 characters or over. (The same logic also applies to other limits).

So that makes it:

[sS]{141,}

Simple!

Using The Patterns in Tweetbot/Twitterrific

So we have the regular expression created, now we just need to make use of it in a twitter client.

Tweetbot is the slightly easier option, as you just need to navigate to Mute filters, and then add a keyword filter. Where you’ll have to type your pattern in, which will enable a regular expression switch, which you will have to tap.

In Twitterrific, it’s somewhat more confusing, but only initially. In this app, the mute feature is called Muffles. And you add a new muffle, to mute tweets just like Tweetbot. However when you navigate to the Muffles section, it doesn’t mention regular expressions, which lead me to initially thought they weren’t supported.

However, you can use them in Twitterrific, it just takes one extra parameter, a pattern title. You specify a RegEx Muffle in the following format:

Title :: Pattern

P.S. I know there is more formatting available, but it’s not relevant here.

So for Twitterrific, you might want to use something like this:

Classic Twitter :: [sS]{141,}

And that is it. Now you can hide away from the future, and pretend these long tweets just don’t exist.

Apps Mentioned: