Friday, August 21, 2009

Twitterfail: twitter.com website, alternative clients, Nambu crashing

I've been happily using the Nambu twitter client for Mac OS X. After following a few people, and setting up a few accounts, it seemed clear using the twitter website was not very usable. It may be usable if you have one account but as soon as you set up multiple accounts it becomes very hard very quick.

Why set up multiple accounts? In my case my interests are pretty wide spread, and I wanted to have an account for each interest. Specifically the 7genblog account is meant to promote my blog http://www.7gen.com, while visforvoltage account is meant to promote the VisForVoltage forum http://www.visforvoltage, and wwwatts account is meant to promote the electric vehicle blog and podcast directory at http://wwwatts.net. Each has a distinct enough purpose it makes sense they have distinct accounts. Maybe the visforvoltage and wwwatts accounts could be merged since their topic area is the same, but the topic overlap between them and 7genblog is minimal hence it would be useful for them to remain distinct. Maybe.

I came across Nambu originally by default. Looking at the state of Twitter clients awhile back, Nambu seemed to be best. A lot of people googoo over Tweetdeck but it wouldn't run at all on my system.

Nambu generally works well and does a great job with multiple accounts. The traffic for each account is kept separate and it's easy to see which account has new traffic to look at. It's easy when sending a tweet to pick which account to send it as. It can also send info to ping.fm accounts which then gives the chance for your tweets to go to pretty much every social network via ping.fm's reach.

Additionally Nambu has a really great feature: groups. Nambu of course shows the traffic for all the accounts you're following and that's fine so far as it goes. I've found that the accounts I'm following fall into several types. Such as the people I really really really want to pay close attention to, if their tweets are lost in the firehose-like stream then I will have lost the value that twitter is. There's a lot of accounts publishing news-like tweets whose content is useful but not always desired to read. This is what groups solve, the ability to segregate the accounts you're following so you can more easily focus on the ones who are important to you.

Thus came the problem... Nambu has always been less than stable. There's something here about free software (cost=$0) and maybe I shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth. But it crashed quite a bit. Sometimes it gets really really slow. Whenever it refreshes the display because it has new tweets, the display jumps around which is real annoying if you were actually reading something because whatever you were reading disappears out of view and will be almost impossible to find again.

Then one day it crashed, and then it would only crash every time the app was launched. Ergle..

Somehow I had this notion that letting it rest for awhile would make something different and it wouldn't crash. Well, okay, obviously bits don't heal by resting unlike people.

After a couple days I looked at some of the other twitter clients. I remember using HootSuite, Seesmic, and Tweetdeck. Tweetdeck does work now but it appears to only support one account and the user interface seems horrid to me. I don't understand this multicolumn approach that appears popular in twitter clients. Each of them followed that style, and none of them were as nice as Nambu. Oh and Hootsuite made me tweet into all my accounts that I'd upgraded to v2.0.

Eventually I decided to take a drastic step.

% cd ~/Library/Application Support
% mv Nambu Nambu.broke

Yay! Nambu now launches. But wait, where's all my accounts and everything. That is, I moved the broken Nambu data files out of the way and now Nambu launches. The problem is obviously somewhere inside Nambu's data files. Such as some sort of corruption or other bit of data which is leading Nambu to crash. Unfortunately those data files are in a proprietary binary data format making it impossible to repair the data files myself. The only recourse is to start over from scratch.

The easy part is re-establishing the accounts to watch. But the most valuable thing in the old Nambu data files was the group lists.

Nambu has no way to export the group lists or other account data. So when it crashed it took my old data with it. Bleah.

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