Upon moving to the Nokia N8 as my primary mobile, I have taken a good bit of time on reevaluating my communication needs, especially around social networking and email. For the most part, I am offloading some of the larger thinking communications (email, RSS reading, and blogging) to my iPad. The more immediate communications (text, media messaging, voice, and social networking) finds it’s way on the N8. Doing this has changed my attention span towards and the way that I interact within those modes of communication. It has also changed how much value I ascribe to those channels and behaviors.
Social networking has taken the biggest hit. Or, more radically, gets the most inspection. Anytime that I am unable to read tweets or engage my reading list, I do sense a bit of loss. And then I have a sense of “living.” It is to the point now where social networking services either blend into my life and enhance it, or the channels and the apps used around them are woefully ignored. With my N8, I have ignored one of the more popular social networking applications – Gravity – because using it took me away from living, and pushed social networking into an email-like state – find a time in the day and do this activity, rather than live and the activities are a result of life.
When I do find the time, it’s a matter of the application. Does it blend in with the rest of my doings on a mobile or tablet? Or, does it break conceptions an perceptions. Does it make the channel more worthy of the attention it requires, or, does the friction of using an app make the channel less valuable. I’m different. The integration of social networking and communication services on HP WebOS and Nokia Maemo 5 devices is worth being jealous of. Channels like these should blend well where possible. Hence my look at both Nokia Social and Different Tack. Both applications poke my mind and time differently than Gravity. And both oftentimes leave me wondering if social networking probably just means “trying communication too hard.”
If there was an application that could be considered “good enough” for my social media needs, Nokia Social would be it. Yes, it’s an application that doesn’t neatly integrate into the contacts – it does ok given some effort. But, it is also a fit of friction. Even with it’s latest updates, I still find that doing things like commenting on a retweet (missing) and immediately sharing from anywhere on the device (missing too), require too much effort.
It makes Twitter livable though. I can see some of the activity that I keep tabs on just fine. I can’t see items from both my account and MMM’s Twitter account. And that means that I can have those “gone dark” moments that really shouldn’t exist these days. It kind of forces me to live. Have tweets that just aren’t a repeat of the things already said, but add value to those who considered me valuable enough to follow.
That said, there’s friction. The kind you get when the aim of the channel can’t or won’t be captured best by an app. Social is good, but not great. It would be enough to let some folks feel a part of the Twitter world (or Facebook), but not enough to not feel like “something extra” to do on your mobile.
Different Tack is, well, different. I was drawn to this application because of it’s novel UI. Ad even though it is lacking compared to some Twitter apps in terms of features, it is one at actually better helps me digest tweets. That is really the point of Different Tack, and it fits this form quite well.
Like Nokia Social, I am only able to use Different Tack with just one of my social networking accounts. However, unless my finger slips and makes everything as favorite (this actually happens quite often to me), I am able to get in and out of my twitter feed fairly quickly. Of note here is that it actually shows you which tweets you’ve read versus those you haven’t (read tweets are of a darker color tone than new ones), which makes for a bit help on the morning marathon twitter run. The latest update is also able to view image previews within the app, which is a help except for the smaller size of these previews.
I do have to admit that it is a bit harder to live with Different Tack. There’s no home screen widget to let me see the latest tweets at a glance. And once getting into the app, I see Different Tack’s latest tweet, not the latest in my timeline (should be a configurable option). And it doesn’t show you tweets in a conversational thread – which I kind of admit would be hard with this interface. As a nitpick, I can’t link contacts to their twitter IDs from the app as I can with Nokia Social, which is a help for some folks, but not a major thing by any means.
Hence the friction with this application. At least as it stands, Different Tack is truly an app. You get in, do what you need to do, and then leave it and it’s out of your head. You really can’t ask for anything more, and yet, for social networking there is a bit more. Different Tack at least makes keeping up with your timeline on your mobile a mentally less taxing affair. The UI is a help here, but I think also in terms of how much it silos itself from the rest of the UI of my mobile or UX of the activities on my mobile.
I’m not really going to review Gravity. It’s considered the best social networking app on any mobile for a vey good reason. However, I’ve found that unless I need the attention space on my mobile,I don’t need something as heavy. When I want to dive that deeply into social networking, I also tend to be on my iPad where I need the larger screen and multiple account-tweet-switching activity that makes sense in those kinds of sessions.
Hence, Gravity is a mental hole of sorts. Its a great app, but takes too much mental energy to use it well all the time. Nokia Social and Different Tack are more or less designed to just work quickly, almost instinctively. And of course, they offer smaller feature sets and abilities than Gravity. This becomes the tradeoff for social networking on a mobile.
Either you are so into social networking that you need something like Gravity, or you might work such that you need something simpler, more to the point of your context. For me, I’m finding my mobile use needing the UI thinking behind Different Tack, but also the integration of Nokia Social. For now, this will work. I’m known to change up when my context shifts.
Side note: note sure that this would be an issue if I were using the N900 or N9. The way social networking, IM, and voice contacts are integrated is pretty slick to the needs of these communication channels on these devices.