Seesmic Desktop: When Bad Updates Happen To Great Software

Earlier this morning, I loaded up Seesmic Desktop and was greeted with a pop-up window informing me that a new build of the software, version 0.7, was available. I like Seesmic Desktop a lot, and I like updates, so I happily clicked on the button to proceed.

Ten minutes later, I’d made the decision to roll back to my previous installation of Seesmic Desktop, and in this article I’m going to tell you why.

1. It Defaults To Twitter’s Rebuild Of the Retweet

Seesmic Desktop 0.7 replaces the old-style, organic retweet (RT @, via etc), which many of us have come to know and love, with Twitter’s ill-advised, controversial and poorly-implemented Project Retweet system.

I don’t like these new-style retweets for a number of reasons, and consequently rarely use them, and now I find that in the latest build of Desktop the software defaults to the new kind of retweet. Seesmic has added a feature to the software which lets you retweet organically using a new function called ‘quotes’, but that now takes two clicks to activate, instead of just one as before. That might seem trivial, but this extra step means everything takes twice as long. I’ve also built a habit of just clicking on the retweet button, which is something I would have to start to undo.

Yes, I could switch over completely to the new-style retweet, but given how tweets submitted in this way rarely even show up in people’s streams or mentions folders the majority of the time (certainly when using clients), I would consider that yet another step backwards.

Seesmic have added a way to view the new-style retweets in their own pane, including where this method has been used by others to retweet something you have submitted, which is a good idea in theory. But as it doesn’t give credit to the retweeter – all you see is a list of tweets that you have made – it’s really quite useless.

2. The Buttons On The Accounts Pane Have Been Removed

This one was the real deal-breaker for me. Previous installations of Seesmic came with a really neat function that gave you check access to your home feed, mentions, direct messages, sent messages, favourites and search.

You accessed this by simply clicking on your username in the left sidebar. I really, really loved this functionality, and being completely honest it was the one thing that kept me going back to Desktop again and again. And now it’s gone.

Like many, I own and regularly use a netbook and the smaller screen means I’m quite fussy about how many panes I want open in my software. I like three panes – one on the left for my choice of list, the accounts pane in the middle, and a search pane on the right.

The buttons on this account pane meant that I could happily do everything I wanted within Twitter using just three panes in Seesmic Desktop. With the new software, I’d need to have a nightmarish eight panes open to get the exact same functionality. And five of them would always be off the screen, meaning endless use of the scrollbar, which is really, really annoying.

People Hate Change

Yes they do, and you’ll have to accept my apology if all of this comes across as a whine or a rant. In the scheme of things, none of this really matters. Things change, some people complain, and life moves on.

But while software has to evolve and develop if it is going to move forward, I believe it’s always important to give existing customers as much choice as possible. Instead of just replacing the retweet functionality, they should have given us the choice.

You know, like TweetDeck did.

As to why they removed the buttons from the accounts pane, I have absolutely no idea. I’m hoping it’s a bug or glitch in the new build and it will soon return, as without it there’s very little to keep Seesmic Desktop as my number one choice of Twitter client.

It’s all so upsetting, I even installed TweetDeck again. Briefly.

Thankfully, I’d kept previous installations of Seesmic Desktop on my netbook, and so I rolled back to version 0.6.3, which was the last build that did everything I wanted. I’ve included a link to this below if you decide you’d rather have old-style retweets and the fully-functional accounts pane, too.

Important Note: If you roll back to a previous version of Seesmic, it will completely overwrite your existing version, and you will lose all configuration, including panes and API setup, and any lists you have made (within Seesmic – it won’t affect Twitter lists).

I encourage you try out the latest build and make up your own mind. There’s every chance that the things that are important to me are meaningless to you. You can always roll back, as I did.

I’m hoping this is a temporary oversight from Seesmic and the next version of the software will be a little bit more accommodating to the existing userbase. Seesmic has a great team, and the @askseesmic account on Twitter is fantastic, and this is less of a moan about those guys, and more about some programming decisions that have, in the opinion of this fan, been poorly thought out.