Last week Twitter opened up the Twitter fire hose to two apps, TweetDeck and Echofon. As soon as I heard about it, I signed up to give TweetDeck’s user stream preview implementation a run for its money.
At first I was less than impressed. The All Friends column (all tweets sent by people you follow) looked nice and real time, and flowed reasonably fast with my set of follows. Most of my other columns were very slow to update, though; they’re mostly Twitter lists inserted into TweetDeck as columns. Even where the same tweet should have appeared in the All Friends column and one of those List columns at the same time, the list would always show a marked delay in getting it.
After playing around with it for a while I got a sense for what was happening. It looks like, at least in the current build that I’m using, Twitter list columns are actually still using the Twitter API limits, not the user stream.
Once that revelation struck me, I immediately started playing with other column types. I discovered that search columns are also real time, so I set up several searches using some of the top trending topics, and suddenly the experience was a lot more what I’d pictured in my mind – a very Matrix-like constant stream of incoming data. Probably too much data,but those columns WERE intended to show the stream at its most intense. (See video below!)
Since then I’ve spent the weekend using it in a more typical fashion, and I’ve just about forgotten that I’m experimenting with the user stream. That’s not a condemnation – in fact I see it as a testament to just how natural the experience of seeing Twitter this way really is. As more and more people get to use this with TweetDeck, Echofon or eventually other clients, the days of API call limits will become a distant unpleasant memory.