Some Thoughts on Customer Treatment and Twitter Clients.

I love Twitter. I depend on it to keep me in touch with my friends, give me news, as I grow more house bound, it is my life line. I admire and am extremely grateful to anyone who develops products which mean that I can access it more easily. I have been using the clients developed by Christopher Toth for many years now. But that changed when, on Friday morning, I saw the tweet which proved to me conclusively that, though he is a brilliant coder and develops products which are of great use to our community, he feels he can afford to treat his paying customers with a total lack of respect. If you didn't see it, let me show it to you.

For every tweet asking when I'll release an update with 280 characters I will push back the release by 280 minutes. Go outside people. The world is beautiful.

This question of software updates is a thorny one. When a customer buys a piece of software they are apt to think that frequent, timely and free updates are theirs as of right. They are not. When you pay for a piece of software you are paying for what you have bought and no more. The developer has the absolute right to update it, stop updating it, continue developing it or dump it in the trash as he or she wishes, that is a risk we all take with every app or program we buy. Because most developers care passionately about their products and update them frequently and for free, we are all apt to forget that this is not something we have a heaven given right to.

That said, I do strongly feel that when you pay for a product you have the right to ask pertinent technical support questions without being sneered at, given the brush off or being made to feel foolish. If you are not receiving good service you have the right to say so.

Constructive feedback should at least be listened to. Ideas may not always be possible to carry through, but what your customers would like should matter to you. Above all, you, as a paying customer, have the right to be treated with respect and courtesy.

Going outside, the world is beautiful, for some people is not physically possible. A number of people, such as myself or the hundreds of customers we work with daily, have limited options in terms of going out anywhere and socialising. Twitter is very much a window on the world, enabling us to gather news and information of many kinds as well as to "talk" to our friends. It's far more than a program which is nice to have. Social networks are a way of bringing people together.

For myself, I feel that my rights as a customer have been violated, and not for the first time. When something like this happened before I would say: "Well, I don't like it, but Chicken Nugget is the best option, so I have to keep using it." But this time it went too far. I know I am by no means alone. I have spoken to some of you who are saying: I'm so used to the invisible UI, to the sounds, to the scripts, I'll lose all that. Not necessarily. Before you feel you have no choices, let's talk about some alternatives.

Available Options.

From a Windows PC perspective, there are a number of Twitter clients which have been developed for visually impaired people to use and at least one mainstream program. Lets start with the mainstream option first.

Despite the OpenTween client being designed for anyone to use, regardless of whether a person uses a screen-reader or not, it is a highly accessible interface with very many shortcut keys included. Well-known JAWS script developer, Doug Lee, not only has provided a scripting package which is freely available for OpenTween, but his web page also details many of the shortcut keys available for the program. Users of Hartgen Consultancy's Leasey also have a set of scripts available for OpenTween which take a slightly different approach in some areas. Users of other screen-readers, such as NVDA, will also be able to benefit from the approach taken by a group of mainstream Twitter client developers from Japan.
It is also worth saying that anyone who wished to do so could benefit from the 280 character expansion as soon as Twitter made it universally available, although a small update released just afterwards did improve this still further.

OpenTween uses a list view control in which to display its posts from Twitter. Many blind people prefer an "invisible" interface, meaning that Twitter posts can be accessed regardless of the application in which you are working. However, an advantage of viewing tweets in a convenient list is that Braille access is possible. We mustn't forget the usefulness of Braille and many people prefer to read their tweets in this way.

Without going into too many specifics in terms of keystrokes, with OpenTween you can:

  1. View your tweets.
  2. Rely, quote and respond to the original sender in a variety of ways.
  3. Compose your own tweets. Both sets of JAWS scripts allow you to be reminded of the number of characters typed. Leasey did have the ability to notify you when you had reached the character limit and this will be reinstated.
  4. Easily examine the content of a tweet, such as word by word or character by character. Using Leasey, press Enter to do this.
  5. Receive audio cues when particular events occur, such as when new tweets arrive.
  6. Easily apply hashtags or use an auto-complete feature so as to mention users without typing the full username.
  7. Switch between Tabs, so as to keep track of mentions, Direct Messages or any Twitter lists you may have.
  8. Control the behaviour of individual Tabs, such as to display a notification when specific events occur.
  9. Easily like or unlike an item.
  10. Interact with a user in many ways, including following, unfollowing, viewing a profile, bringing into view a list of tweets relative to the person sending the message, and so on.
  11. OpenTween is portable, meaning that when you download it, the program is contained in a zipped archive comprising all its files. While this means for some people it may not be particularly easy to install and create a shortcut pointing to its executable file for launching, it does mean that everything about it including all your personal settings can be transferred to a USB device, thus making it possible to transfer from one machine to another.
  12. You can customise your screen-reader to speak or Braille only the items you are interested in, such as the author and post only if necessary.

There are many more reasons why OpenTween is an extremely versatile, usable and free Twitter client, but those are the advantages which come to mind.
Leasey will also have the ability to allow you to switch to the OpenTween window with a keystroke, together with allowing you to revert back to the application you were working within previously.

Specialist Options.

TWBlue has always been a favourite client with visually impaired people. This does contain an "invisible" interface and is free for those people who feel that is an advantage. You can Download it here. It works extremely well and and can deal with most aspects of Twitter people would need. The Qubeis also still around and is available for people who need another option. Lets not forget too that apps such as Twitterific can be downloaded for people who would like to work with Twitter on their mobile device.

Summary.

So, am I throwing a tantrum of my own, having a massive whine, using this to try to promote our products, saying Chicken Nugget is awful? Not at all. Chicken Nugget is an excellent Twitter client, it has advantages such as good muting, OCR text recognition on images, filtering and probably more. What I am saying is that there are other options out there, good options. For myself, I've decided to use one of them rather than being made to feel as if my custom was of no value, rather, an annoyance or even a burden. We all have to use what works best for us, but I'm still smarting about that tweet two days later. If you, like me, choose to vote with your feet and need help with Open Tween, which is what I am now using, there is help out here, you know where I am. If I can help I'll be happy to, or point you in the direction of someone who can. Have a great day.

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