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[Discuss] Gwibber

Bill Ricker wrote:
> Do you know if Gwibber will manage multiple Twitter IDs simultaneously ?

It appears that it can't. The account management UI is set up such that
you can add to an arbitrary list of accounts, and it next prompts you
for the network, but if you select Twitter and you already have a
Twitter account authorized, it just shows you the authorization status
and doesn't prompt you for additional credentials.

> Interesting, Gwibber has improved a lot since i last used it.

I've been using it for several years, with some long breaks when the
version in the repository seemed broken.

Gwibber started off strong at a time when there were few 3rd party
Twitter clients available, but its feature set has long been eclipsed by
even the most basic Twitter clients found on Android. Development
progress has been frustratingly slow.

It has numerous usability problems. Scrolling is slow, often pausing as
it retrieves more messages. Even loading cached messages from the local
disk is slow. And there is no UI feedback while this is happening. The
scrollbar behaves in an atypical way.

Recent versions actually seem to have removed useful functionality. With
earlier versions there was a per-message menu that let you view the
message online in a browser. This was a convenient way to fill in for
all the missing features in Gwibber, like viewing a profile or seeing a
message in the context of its full conversation, but that was removed.
(There is a "View user profile" menu option, but I haven't seen it work
in a long time.) Copying a full tweet with user ID is also no longer
possible with the newer UI.

I also still sometimes see Gwibber stop updating and CPU usage spike,
necessitating that I kill the process. For a while it did this
consistently, which is why I stopped using it for long stretches. It now
does this only occasionally.

Gwibber has two big selling points. One is that it is multi-protocol. At
one time I had it successfully working with and Facebook, but
the Facebook authorization has been broken for a year or more.
 changed its name and servers 3 or 4 months back. It seems like only
Twitter remains working.

The other is "Multicolumn user interface for viewing multiple streams."
I'm not sure if this is a vaporware feature, or if it is just a problem
with the UI for it, but I've never seen a way to actually create
additional streams in the UI. To make Twitter practical, this is really
a must-have feature once you follow more than a few dozen people.

I'm running 3.4.2, which seems to be newer than any version mentioned on
the Launchpad page,, or even the daily
build PPA, which I do
have configured in my sources list, but apt-cache tells me my installed
version was sourced from precise-updates from the main repository. Something is a bit broken when the
distribution version is newer than the developer's PPA. Maybe the
project has been forked?

If I had not shifted most of my Twitter use over to Android, I'd be
looking for an alternate Twitter client on the desktop. Web-based tools
like Hootsuite are OK, but they still fall short of the potential for
what a multi-protocol social networking tool could be. They also tend to
leak memory badly.

In recent years Twitter has gone out of its way to discourage the
development of general purpose Twitter clients. They really don't like
the idea of competition and the possibility that a 3rd party client
might be able to bypass their ads. They've limited the number of users
permitted under an application's API token. A few Android apps have hit
this limit and had to stop accepting new customers. So knowing your
product will be limited to a small audience, and that Twitter could
clamp down on restrictions even further at any time, I imagine this has
really taken a lot of motivation out of writing Twitter clients.

Over on Android I use Plume and Slices (both are Twitter-only). The
latter makes good on the vaporware feature mentioned above. You can
categorize each of the users you follow, and then view just that
category. It also lets you create a home screen widget that shows
messages from only one specified category. So you can easily keep tabs
on people in your industry, or just your friends, without having their
messages lost in "the fire hose."


Tom Metro
Venture Logic, Newton, MA, USA
"Enterprise solutions through open source."
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