Like a lot of people, I try almost every Twitter client and interface that comes down the pike — I try out beta versions of things the way some women I know like to shop for shoes. I started with Twhirl, which I quite liked, and I’ve tried gTwitter on Ubuntu and accessing my Twitter account through Digsby and other chat clients, and I’ve used Twitterlicious and Twitterfox and Twitterific on the iPhone (a great mobile client). But in my opinion there is nothing — so far — that even comes close to Tweetdeck.
When I first tried it, the Tweetdeck interface looked too cluttered to me, with multiple panes and buttons and so on, but it’s a lot simpler than I thought, and it’s extremely customizable. I have five panes open at a time (but they scroll from left to right, so you don’t have to see them all at once): I have the people I follow, then I have all the @ replies to me, then direct messages in another pane. And then I have a group that I’ve created to track specific people — one of the key features that I like about Tweetdeck — and finally a pane with a Twitscoop.com search-keyword cloud.
As a journalist, I’m not just trying to keep up with what my friends are doing (although that’s a big part of the appeal of Twitter). I’m also looking for links to newsworthy things, and following what people are talking about to see if it merits a story or a link somewhere, and the Twitscoop pane in particular is invaluable for that. When the bombings occurred in Mumbai, I saw tweets about it, but I also saw the keyword getting bigger and bigger in the Twitscoop cloud, which meant lots of people were mentioning it.
When you add the ability to customize groups — and add people to groups with a single click — as well as do searches, shorten URLs with multiple shortening services, and all the usual features like the ability to re-tweet, favourite and direct message and so on, you have a pretty feature-packed app. I suppose someone might come along with something better, but until then Tweetdeck is the king of the hill as far as I’m concerned, and that’s why I’ve been telling every journalist I work that if they’re serious about Twitter as a social-media tool they need to download and install it.