There’s been a lot of talk over the past few days about Twitter developers merely “filling holes” in Twitter and not really building anything new. The idea being that most of the apps created for Twitter merely fixed problems or inefficiencies in Twitter, not create something truly new.
This debate comes as Twitter has released its first official app, thus competing with the developer ecosystem it has created, and purchased the popular iPhone client Tweetie. It also comes ahead of Twitter’s first conference for developers, Chirp.
With this context in mind, I set out to try and find a Twitter application that was doing more than merely “filling holes”. Though some, like Seesmic, do a great job integrating other social networks, I was looking for a more unique and powerful Twitter experience, something I found with Pluggio.
Though far from perfect, Pluggio does much more than fix Twitter’s shortcomings and, instead, manages to create an entire workflow system around Twitter that makes it easy to manage nearly every aspect of your Tweeting life. Though it isn’t for every Twitter user, it may be for you depending on your Tweeting style.
How it Works
Pluggio, formerly known as Tweetminer, is aimed almost purely at the more professional Twitter user. Its feature set is designed to make Twitter as “hands off” as possible and automate as much of the process as possible.
To do that, Pluggio includes a set of features including:
- Follow/Unfollow Suggestions: Pluggio can help you find people to follow and scour your list for people who are not following you that you may wish to drop. This helps you grow your Twitter list while maintaining a good ratio.
- RSS Integration: Pluggio makes it easy to tweet our stories for blogs you read by letting you subscribe to their RSS feed in the service and then Tweet the stories you find interesting.
- Scheduled Tweets: Users can schedule tweets based on either a rolling schedule or with a time-specific one. This lets users set up a bunch of tweets first thing in the morning and have their feed update throughout the day.
In addition to the above features, Pluggio has most of the other features you would expect from a Twitter client including all of the usual streams (including groups) the ability to reply, DM and RT messages along with various search functions for finding new tweets to interact with.
In short, Pluggio is a fairly standard Twitter client with automation features that take away a lot of the “dirty work” with Twitter, including finding new followers, tweeting articles and remembering to post throughout the day.
Pluggio is free for its most basic account, which allows users to add five accounts and offers 1000 API calls per day and offers various paid plans with additional features.
Though the features of Pluggio may not be unique and, in some cases, may be better implemented elsewhere, Pluggio is the only Twitter client I know to integrate all of these elements into one neat workflow. Pluggio makes it so that the process of maintaining your Twitter account is as simple as possible and lets you save time without sacrificing effectiveness.
All of your Twitter needs can be managed from within a single dashboard and, for the most part, there is no reason to step outside of it. Whether you are culling people you follow, seeking out new ones, planning your day of Twittering or just searching for news, you can do it all within Pluggio with a minimal amount of effort.
I can safely say that Pluggio has both made me more effective at most of my daily Twitter tasks while saving me time. Thanks to Pluggio, I’m able to find new followers daily, rather than just doing searches when I have the time, and can tweet more as I can set up several tweets to go out at once when I have a few moments. This has definitely helped make me a more effective Twitter user and I’ve seen an increase in interaction thanks to Pluggio.
However, that doesn’t mean that the system is perfect or for everyone. There are still several gripes about Pluggio that have to be addressed before one can consider this a “rave” review.
Pluggio’s biggest problem is that, for the purpose of actually reading Twitter, it isn’t very effective.
First, the site doesn’t use a multi-column layout. Not only is there a lot of wasted space on the screen, even looking outright odd on a widescreen monitor, but it involves a lot of clicking.
Pluggio mitigates this some by having users select streams to automatically update but, showing the number of new tweets next to the name of the stream as they are discovered, but that bumps into a different problem, the API limit.
Pluggio, on free accounts, limits the number of API calls to 1,000 per day. While that is a pretty good amount (a regular Twitter account gets 150 per hour), it’s a bit low to be comfortable. Though I haven’t run out yet, I’ve come close and had to curtail my use in the latter part of the day to ensure I have enough API calls left. The paid accounts correct this problem, though the cost may be a bit high, between $60 and $200 per year.
Overall, I would feel better if Pluggio would do like Twitter and limit the API calls per hour so that, if a user does run out, the time they have to wait is much less.
But even without the API issue, Pluggio is not for users who enjoy the multi-column layout of Tweetdeck and Seesmic. There’s no “at a glance” viewing of all streams and that can make it seem sluggish for those most basic tasks, especially since it has to load each stream every time you click it unless you automatically update it. As great as the automation is, Pluggio falls short when trying to read what’s going on.
Though I would hate to see Pluggio fall into the Journotwit trap and throw too much information at the user, it definitely has a great deal to learn from the likes of Tweetdeck and Hootsuite in terms of providing a healthy balance.
All in all, this omission seems odd considering that Pluggio is clearly directed at more professional users, but fails to provide an efficient UI that rounds out the otherwise stellar package.
Despite its clunky and somewhat slow UI, Pluggio still has some very compelling features. You may want to sign up for an account and use it to manger your followers, find RSS stories to tweet and schedule your other tweets for the day, but use something else to actually do most of your Twitter reading.
Through it all, it is still refreshing to see a Twitter app trying to do something more than find creative ways to display Twitter data and help users get more of the system. Pluggio is dedicated to building a real workflow around managing one’s Twitter accounts and that is a huge asset by itself.
Though I would like to see it improve its UI, Pluggio is clearly worth it if you either hate messing with the small details of Twitter or feel you spend too much time with it. Complete control freaks will be reluctant to give up their current tools and casual users will see little benefit, but those who want to Tweet without too many headaches will likely find something to enjoy in Pluggio.
So, if you think it might be for you, give a free account a try. There’s nothing to lose.