Friday, May 16, 2008

A Pre Twit-Out Experiment - The Results

Earlier today I conducted an experiement. First I'll talk about the behavior that I expected, then I will note the five unexpected problems that I encountered during the experiment.

First, here's what I thought would happen:

  • While still at my desk, I would post a blog post, which would then launch a conversation in FriendFeed.

  • I would then edit the blog post to link to the FriendFeed conversation, then I and my mobile phone would head off to lunch.

  • While I was at lunch, I would use MojiPage on my mobile phone to add comments to the aforementioned conversation, thus gaining the ability during lunch.

  • Because I couldn't view comments in MojiPage, I would occasionally switch back to my FriendFeed page, so that I could see all of the comments from the conversation.
Well, that's what I thought would happen. Here are the five problems that I didn't anticipate:
  1. It took longer than expected for my blog post to show up in FriendFeed. I actually documented this via a native FriendFeed item, which ironically launched a conversation of its own.

  2. So, once the blog post showed up, I successfully used MojiPage to comment on the post, then I edited the blog post (to include the FriendFeed link), drove away to lunch, and again tried to use MojiPage to comment on my blog post. That was when I encountered my first MojiPage widget error, a fact that I documented via a second blog post. Eventually I could get to the first page of MojiPage, but when I'd try to scroll back to the entry for my first blog post, I'd get widget errors more often than not. Finally I gave up and started using the conversation that was connected to my second blog post.

  3. As I (and Morton Fox) continued to post comments for this conversation, a third problem dawned on me. I had assumed that I would be able to see the entire conversation, but I had forgotten that FriendFeed hides the middle of the conversation once it gets too long. This isn't a problem on the desktop or a laptop - you just click on the "Show n more comments" text to see the additional comments. But I can't do that when I'm on my mobile phone with the equivalent of Internet Explorer 4; in IE4, those comments aren't clickable.

  4. A fourth problem dawned on me, but it's actually something that I've known about for months. In FriendFeed, comments are not timestamped. Therefore, you can't tell when a comment was made, only that it was made before or after another comment. All of a sudden I realized that I was manually timestamping all of my comments, and I asked myself, "Why am I doing this?"

  5. The fifth problem ties in to the things that I knew BEFORE I started the experiment. I knew that I was going to have to switch back and forth between MojiPage and FriendFeed, and I knew that I was possibly going to have to scroll through several pages in MojiPage, but I didn't realize that it would take so long to do this. As a result, I was so busy trying to comment on my own stuff that I couldn't comment on other stuff. Pity, since Duncan Riley and Steven Hodson were both talking about a story which appeared to interest me, but I didn't have any time to look at it.
So I'm glad that I conducted this experiment before Wednesday. In short, FriendFeed/MojiPage is not a suitable alternative to Twitter at this time. One way to make the experience better would be to improve MojiPage's FriendFeed widget. In addition to making sure that widget errors didn't occur, here are some additional suggestions:
  1. FriendFeed has both a "friends" tab and a "me" tab. The MojiPage widget only has the equivalent of a "friends" tab. I suggest that the widget include a "me" tab so you can see your own stuff.

  2. FriendFeed lets you go directly to the feed pages of other people; the MojiPage widget doesn't. I suggest that the MojiPage widget let you view any individual's feed.

  3. FriendFeed allows you to search for items with particular text in it. For example, I can search my own feed, my "friends" feed, or the "everyone" feed for the string "twit-out." MojiPage's widget has no such widget. I suggest that the MojiPage widget include search capability.

  4. As I've noted previously, I was very happy when the MojiPage widget introduced the capability to comment on items and like them. But this capability, nice as it is, is not enough. I suggest that the MojiPage widget actually display comments and likes within the widget, so that I don't have to switch to FriendFeed to see them.
So that's the summary of my experiment. I know that Corvida would suggest that I just get a better phone, but unfortunately that's not possible at this time. And my employer wouldn't allow me to get an iPhone anyway. :)

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