It’s rare to come across a web service you use every day, and rarer still to come across two or three in one year from a single author. However, James Wheare managed that for me last year. Both IRCCloud (with RJ) and TwitShift are now part of my daily life. However, it’s a third, Exquisite Tweets, that I’m going to be writing about.
Everyone knows that Twitter is, even though arguably not well designed for conversations, somewhere that they end up happening. It’s also very focussed on the now, so what happens when you want to refer back to that enlightening discussion on the very ephemerality of the service itself? It’s an obvious enough problem that there are lots of websites attempting to solve it.
Some, like Aaron’s Twitter Viewer, are very minimal. Some are full-blown startups. My favourite, Exquisite Tweets, is somewhere in the middle. It has a public front page of the most recent conversations, and a personal archive page (although I’ve used the service enough that mine apparently makes the server cry a little). The display of a thread uses the background of an account, making changes in voice very easy to spot, and it inlines media (which is a matter of taste, but I think I prefer it).
More importantly to me, though, is that it offers lots of ways to load and curate the conversation. Starting with a single post’s ID, it will try to do the right thing, using Twitter’s API to look forward and backwards for the thread. However, if it can’t (perhaps someone dropped the all-important in-reply-to metadata), you can go to the bottom of the page and “merge conversations” or just “add a tweet”.
ET handles privacy properly. If you authorise your account, it will include posts you can see (handy for me, since I’m a private user, and so are many of the people I follow)*, but it knows to keep them from public view. If there’s someone who made a joke that detracts from the point (or vice versa), there’s a [x] next to each post, so you can quickly drop it. The URL contains hashed IDs, so you can share it, or use the star at the top to preserve it, giving it a permanent ID and URL and making it available in your collection.
All of this is before you even go to the search page, where you can curate posts from a single user (good for the likes of James Bridle’s soliloquies) or a general search (for recording the reactions to a conference talk, for example), both of which use a nice highlighting mechanism to build the thread. There are also pages that I’ve only just noticed for creating a conversation from your timeline or mentions.
The end result is a service that I use perhaps not every day, but every time there’s a noteworthy thread on Twitter that I want to preserve. It’s easy for me to curate with, nicely designed, and it correctly handles privacy. What more can you ask for? If you ever want to refer to a thread, or save it for later, I strongly recommend you give it a look.
* At one point Wheare was working on a feature that enabled the poster to make individual entries in a thread public, but unfortunately it never quite made the cut. Ah well.