Praxis makes perfect.

This week, I’ve been learning a lot about investigating digital interfaces (sorry to break out the big vocabulary words so early in the week.) I spent the weekend analyzing three different Twitter platforms – Twitter on Google Chrome, Twitter on the iPad and Tweetdeck for the iPad – and digging deep into the different services they do and don’t provide.

Side note: I am very proud of this blog post’s title. Praxis is most easily defined as an established practice or custom, and I have learned that in order to understand an interface’s inner workings and history, I must understand it’s praxis (praxes?) Before that, though, here’s a basic breakdown of the way I use Twitter on the Mac.

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This is the first thing you see when encountering my Twitter profile (the above picture links to the profile itself, by the way.) This is not the profile of a very active Twitter user, although according to my account I manage to tweet at least twice a day. I also consider my following list to be small, but only because I have tried to whittle down the list several times. A strong majority of the users I follow are somehow related to Virginia Tech or journalism, and the rest are simply friends or organizations I am strongly interested in hearing from regularly. My followers, in comparison, are a colorful mix of random spam accounts, friends/coworkers and people who have found me through stories I’ve had published. Because I am a stubborn curmudgeon, I refrain from using hashtags on Twitter in most situations (it’s a personal vendetta against the hashtag and it’s use on Twitter, not because I don’t like engaging the Twitter community.) This probably accounts for my visibility on Twitter, although I don’t really mind. Now that you have a little insight into my own personal praxis, I can explain the three applications/extensions I analyzed.

Twitter was a great platform to begin with because several apps and interfaces have been created to help users interact with Twitter to the fullest extent. Using Twitter as I normally do on my computer was also a familiar exercise, because I have explored their website in my regular use. Twitter for iPad was almost as easy to use, with some exceptions. I try to keep application use to a minimum when using the iPad to save battery and stay organized – it’s like keeping a desk clean, but virtual – and interacting with some of the features on Twitter opened applications that I didn’t want to use (I’m looking at you, Safari.) I never felt truly lost using either of these applications, despite the wide variety of tasks I tried to figure out.

Then came Tweetdeck, one of the most impressive-looking Twitter platforms I’ve ever used. In the past, I’ve used Tweetdeck on my iPod Touch (along with HootSuite and Twitteriffic.) Tweetdeck is meant for users who want to dig deeper into Twitter and really use it to the fullest, but it expects the user to come to the table with a lot of knowledge. Tweetdeck feels like a waste if users don’t create several customized lists to fill the wide screen space it allows. Tweetdeck also seems to drum to a different, more literal beat when it comes to the idea of live-tweeting. Updates scroll by themselves on Tweetdeck, rather than waiting for users to refresh their pages. The inattentive user might get lost in the ever-flowing river of tweets if they are following a significant amount of users.

I don’t think the point of this was to pick a favorite, though. Even though I don’t like to spend too much time on Twitter regardless of platform, I enjoyed truly investigating my options. We live in a world were certain options are marketed to us much more than others, and as a result we lose sight of the variety that exists in the digital world. We are a group of people who learn and use interfaces in a variety of ways, so why not use them the way we use fashion and create our own styles? Some of us will definitely become the fashionistas of the digital interface world and develop our own applications, it just takes steps like this to get closer.

Every so often, a new app surprises me.

As it turns out, you can download and use iPhone-specific apps on your iPad. I found that out this weekend when I downloaded Snapchat and began to add my friends and family. For those who don’t use Snapchat or aren’t aware of the application, it is a photo and video-sharing application.

But Jess, you might ask, why not just send someone a picture or video text? That’s a great question, I’d respond. One that plagued me for a while. Snapchat was designed (with certain shady intentions) to completely erase the video or photo you send after a certain amount of time. So if you send someone, for example, an ugly picture of your face, and you don’t want it to be around forever, you can set the snapchat’s time limit to 5 seconds. After that, it’s like it never existed.

In it’s own little way, Snapchat is trying to solve a privacy issue that has grown since the age of digital media sharing. I really don’t want to open the floodgates of a discussion about digital privacy, but I will say this – I’m glad the app has started some discussion. Sure, having the ability to send gross pictures of yourself to friends without fear of embarassment is fun, but this app goes beyond that. Snapchat is making it safer for you to be vulnerable online and over text/multimedia messaging systems. Snapchat says you’re in control of what you send, and you don’t have to let your mistakes rule you. It says hey, you may not look your best today, but we’re not gonna remember in ten seconds so it’s fine.

That, my friends, is the beginning of a great friendship – a friendship I didn’t expect to want in the first place.