I have a habit of signing up for any web service or social network that looks like it has a hope of going somewhere, simply because I like to be able to choose my username before anyone else snaps them up. Even back in 1998, no variation on the name James Pickett would get me a Hotmail address and firstname.lastname@example.org just didn't have a ring to it.
When Twitter launched, I really couldn’t see what it would achieve, but I signed up anyway, tweeted once and then left it for years.
But achieve Twitter has. I rarely see a piece of world news without Twitter getting a mention. It’s even helped mobilise and shape some of the events that are being reported. Thinking back to events like the Arab Spring, perhaps that might never have even happened, or at least taken years to achieve without the support of this relatively simple communication platform.
So Twitter now has millions and millions of users, but equally most folk I know don’t actually use it and aren’t really sure what they would use it for.
I got into it for the most mundane of reasons. I was stuck in a massive motorway traffic jam, nothing moved in 20mins, all engines switched off. The local radio station hadn’t reported anything, merrily trying to sell me kitchens and direct me to the nearest ‘Massive Golf Sale’ and I thought I’d just take a look on the smartphone at Twitter. Within 2mins, I had read tweets from the police who were attending a serious accident just a few miles ahead, there were also tweets from the recovery truck firm who were clearing the wreckage and even pictures of the air ambulance landing on the motorway to fly the injured away to help taken by members of the public close enough to see. Not to take away from the sadness of the situation, but the power of Twitter as a useful tool was suddenly clear to me.
From traffic information, I moved onto following the better known leaders in my fields of interest. Now I could see comment from my favourite comedians, journalists and technology evangalists.
Before I knew it, I was following 80 odd people and that’s when Twitter started to show some of its limitations. Ultimately, for every useful tweet, there is also a lot of noise. If I’m not happening to be looking at Twitter at the time, then the one I wanted to see could be easily missed. I also started to tweet myself. Mostly I just share links to tech stories that I think stand out, but I’m also enjoying joining in conversations with people that I’ve met on twitter that I share something in common with. Again though, I need to look at Twitter all the time, or that conversation would be missed and I don’t fancy reading 100 separate tweets to see what I could have been part of.
Perhaps that’s what the owners of Twitter want. After all, they’re a business and they want you to keep coming back, but for me it’s a barrier, but now I’m back because I’ve discovered a fantastic new smartphone app called Fynch from the guys at Rn Software.
Fynch presents an intelligent way for you to keep track of the people you follow on twitter by alerting you when something potentially interesting is happening and then packaging the tweets that triggered the alert together into one list. So for example, one of your friends hasn’t tweeted for a few days and then posts something; Fynch will let you know and will hold onto that tweet until you acknowledge or clear the alert. If one of your fellow tweeting types starts posting a lot, suggesting a conversation or debate has kicked off, another alert telling you how many tweets in how many minutes have just appeared from that person. Click on the alert and your shown just those tweets. It makes keeping up when you’re ready to take a look so much easier and gives you the opportunity to jump in and join the conversation when it’s happening, rather than finding out hours later.
Fynch is not intended to replace Twitter. When you first download and start it, you’ll need to give Fynch access to your Twitter feed, but it will only read from it. If you want to post a reply, you’ll need to have the Twitter app installed too and Fynch will automatically pass you across.
Using Fynch is simplicity itself. In settings you’re able to make a few simple changes like, how often Fynch will check your twitter feed and how often you’d like it to alert you to what’s going on. Notifications appear in the bar with your other alerts and tapping on each report in Fynch opens up the relevant tweets. One alert that I didn’t think I would use so much was the alert when someone you follows mentions a trending topic, but the election of a new Pope recently drew me to twitter to see what the reaction was, and sure enough Fynch had spotted it and wrapped up the comments together for me. Genius.
Twitter is a fantastic idea. It can be different things to different people and despite the noise and the rubbish the can and does go out on it, find a reason to use it and it will show you possibilities of communication that you didn’t have before. Fynch is a lovely little evolution of the idea that does some clever analysis of your twitter feed and repackages the myriad tweets back into a simple, enjoyable interface.
It’s free, the adverts aren’t annoying and you may find you use it every day. Give it a try and perhaps follow me and the blog on Twitter at @jfpickett and @dependongadgets.
Fynch is available for download now here for Android.