Missing the Forest for the Trees

With the release of Tweetbot 3 Tapbots brought a complete user interface overhaul to the beloved Twitter app alongside a whole slew of other improvements and changes. One such change saw the removal of both Tweetbot’s double- and triple-tap functionality. Citing increased responsiveness as the app would no longer have to wait for iOS to discern whether the user intended multiple taps, Tapbots replaced this feature with a curious swipe gesture. Believing it would work similarly to Mailbox’s finicky yet workable gestures where swiping different distances invoked different actions, I looked forward to this improvement; however, in this regard Tweetbot 3 fell far short of excellence.

Currently swiping roughly 1/3 of the way from left to right pulls a retweet icon in from the side, indicating that if I lifted my finger Tweetbot would prompt me to either quote the selected tweet or retweet it to my followers. Swiping much further, at around halfway across the screen, a reply icon slides into view. Given that Tweetbot does not provide for its users to change the action associated with a long swipe, it obviously considers this the most important function one would wish to expedite. I could live with this if approximate distances I could eventually relegate to muscle memory were the only complications over simply tapping the screen multiple times, but unfortunately Tapbots decided to add a second criteria for determining the intent of my gestures. Ironically, they chose time. In fact, the time trigger — counterintuitively especially given its designation as a “Short Right Swipe” — actually supersedes gesture length: if I swipe from left to right without coming anywhere near the screen’s halfway point but do so quickly, Tweetbot interprets that as a long swipe and fires the reply action. I find this annoying at times, and on occasion infuriating.

Unlike the vast, vast majority of Twitter users, I predominantly use the service as a consumption platform rather than a creation one. If you likened Twitter to Tumblr, I only created an account to follow other blogs rather than create my own. Granted I do tweet on occasion, but most of the time I sit back and let others do the talking. As a result, I retweet a lot and favorite as a means to save particular tweets or conversation threads should I ever wish to go back and reference a particular exchange. The likelihood of this aside, my primary use for Twitter lies in its ability to facilitate succinct conversations of which I can participate in a tertiary role with the option of greater involvement should the situation call for it. Given this use case Tapbots modifying the feature I used more often than any other impacted my daily workflow greatly, and in a negative way.

Previously, I could scroll through my timeline, absently triple-tap a tweet, and retweet it all without any conscious effort: consistent spacing allowed muscle memory to take over as soon as I found a noteworthy tweet; habit took care of the rest. In Tweetbot 3, however, I not only have to be sure not to exceed the requisite distance, I must also make a conscious effort to keep that gesture within the appropriate amount of time for a retweet instead of a reply. As I said earlier I find this incredibly frustrating especially when I fail in one regard or another, but particularly annoying because it now takes considerably longer to fulfill the one job I ask Tweetbot to do. Perhaps this change led to a net increase in Tweetbot’s speed, but at least for me I not only have to spend much more time executing basic commands, but I must also spend much more effort ensuring I get the result I intend. In my mind, this is no improvement — speed bump or not.