Why I almost love Mixero

I’ve been tinkering with twitter for almost two years now, on multiple accounts, trying to find the perfect way to integrate it into my daily life.  And while my activity level on twitter has never been consistent, one thing has — the growth in the number of people I’m following.  I realized early on that there comes a time when you have to decide whether to be lean in who you follow, or whether you have to start counting on tools to help you organize the data flow.

Never one to turn down a chance to play with tools, I’ve taken the latter approach (though in moderation; I still follow less than a thousand people).  My latest twitter client is the Mixero beta, and after talking about it with a friend I decided it was time to do a little writeup.  See, Mixero is almost great, but it’s the almost that is nagging at me week after week.  I’m hoping that when it goes GA, we’ll see the client I know it can be….

The biggest seller for Mixero off the bat was grouping.  I follow nearly 200 EMC accounts (group one), and another 150 or more of competitors, customers, and partners (group two).  I also follow people who talk about professional topics that interest me: management, leadership, engagement (a third group). I have other smaller groups — a group for close friends, a group for fitness bloggers, a group for gamers, and so on.  The groups overlap at times, and that’s fine.   Unlike Tweetdeck, Mixero makes creating and maintaining these groups simple (well, as simple as manually dragging/clicking hundreds of people into groups can be).

Just like Tweetdeck, Mixero lets me create searches and persist them as well.  So I can have a search on my name, a search on EMC, a search on Ionix, and so on.  They call these channels.

What immediately set Mixero apart was the concept of context.  You can combine groups and channels into a persistent context, and assign that context to a window.  So, for example, I have a “Work” context which contains the three groups I outlined above, plus some channels for searches relating to my day job.  This is the context I want to use to view my tweet stream during the working day.  I can set up other contexts for specialized needs, and switch between them.  At night, when volume is lower, I can switch my context back to “Everything” and just watch the data roll by.

In fact, if you look at Mixero’s screenshots, you can see how they set up UI layouts with multiple contexts at once.  This is the ideal that I’m trying to approach — a big section of the screen for my work context, a smaller section for replies and mentions, one for my hobbies, and a small place to just dip my toes into the overall tweet stream.

But like I said, I almost love Mixero.  So where does it fall short?

  • UI polish.  Switching resolutions regularly can make handling complex layouts difficult.  I’ve had problems where I can’t see UI controls any more, or where popups from Mixero always pop under something else and are impossible to access.  The controls for minimize/maximize/restore are nonstandard and behave unpredictably.  Setting up complex layouts is very challenging.  Switching contexts is harder than it needs to be.  Overall I feel like the UI ease-of-use could be improved by an order of magnitude.  They solved the hard problems, but some easy stuff is just messy.
  • Community.  I want a forum, or something, so I can know whether the things I dislike are being actively worked.  Their blog is updated far too infrequently for my taste.
  • Performance.  Especially when I have a complex layout on the screen, and it’s been running for 8+ hours straight, things get a bit ugly.  Hover controls are delayed, right-click menus might not appear right away, drag-and-drop doesn’t work right, and so on.  I think this is a memory management issue but I can’t be sure.  A restart will fix the problem.
  • Settings.  Your groups, channels, and contexts are saved at Mixero.  You can’t back them up locally, or export them for your own use and analysis.  I’d love to be able to share my groups for others to use.  I’d love to have some reassurance that if Mixero goes belly-up, I’ll have my groups for my own use in some other client.
  • Nagging issues.  Some stuff is silly.  A tweet can appear in your context for a half-dozen different reasons, and when it does, you’ll see it a half-dozen times.  My primary context contains a couple groups and a few channels.  A tweet could in theory be from someone I’ve grouped (one), be a reply/mention (two), and contain a search string I care about (three) meaning that tweet shows up three times in my window.  It’s just one of these areas where I think a little polish would go a long way.

I want to keep using Mixero.  I’d be much more comfortable doing so if they would be a bit more open with what they were working on, so I could see whether the Mixero we’ll see in mid-2010 is closer or further away from the ideal.  In the meantime, I’ll keep my eyes on other clients.  You never know when the next game-changer is going to appear….