This Is Twittering: Meta-commentary Digest, Episode 21

Welcome to another episode of This Is Twittering: Meta-commentary Digest.

REACTION:

Time heals all teeth.

This is not strictly true.

WORDPLAY:

Don’t beat a dead gift horse in the mouth.

See, here I combined the two old chestnuts about “beating a dead horse” and “not looking into the mouth of a zombie horse, because—at that point—it’s already too late.”

REACTION:

There’s a special place in hell for app developers who implement “pull to refresh” stupidly.

If you don’t have an iPhone or other smartphone with apps, or if you’ve never seen an app with pull-to-refresh, just skip this one… In iPhone apps, pull-to-refresh is user interface convention created by developer Loren Brichter for the Twitter app Tweetie (now Twitter for iPhone). It is an ingenious bit of design, and is completely intuitive for an app like Tweetie. It works (by which I mean, it is well-designed) because Twitter feeds are lists of tabular data arranged reverse-chronologically (i.e., newest at the top). The act of refreshing (i.e., updating the data) will most often occur when a user is looking for the newest content. In order to get to the newest data currently stored in the app, the user performs the gesture to scroll to the top of the list. Once the user scrolls all the way to the top, he or she will automatically engage pull-to-refresh, thus updating the data. It works so well because it feels like it is almost anticipating what the user wants. For apps with lists of data arranged reverse-chronologically, it is (in my opinion) one of the greatest advancements in user interface design since drag-and-drop with a mouse on a PC.

If that was the end of the story, it would be a happy one. But of course some people have to ruin the fun. Other developers saw how cool pull-to-refresh was and rushed to implement it in their own apps without taking the time to understand why it was such a joy to use. So you end up with apps containing date arranged horizontally—or in static tables, or anything else—that use pull-to-refresh in a completely unintuitive way. If a user is not already scrolling the top to get the newest data, then pull-to-refresh is a stupid gimmick that has to be taught to a user, rather than being discovered organically. In other words, it’s shitty UI.

My rant is almost over, but for a great example of how stupid it can become, check out this video for a jailbreak hack of a web browser with pull-to-refresh (I like how the guy in the video basically explains why this implementation is such a stupid idea, but still thinks it’s cool and worth having because… well, uh, it’s something).

OK, moving on.

WORDPLAY:

Next season on The CW: Can, Shall, Must, May, and Will compete to see who will be… America’s Next Top Modal.

This is a super-nerdy language joke. It could have been made with music, statistics, or logic, all of which have definitions for the term modal. Truth be told, I only remembered that modal was a thing, but I had to look up what it actually meant.

REACTION:

If success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration, I think *I’m* success.

Because I sweat a lot?

STUPID:

Give a man a taco, and he’ll eat for a day.

Teach a man to taco, and it sounds like you just invented a new kind of dance or something.

I think the taco would be a cool dance. I’d like to taco. Would you like to taco with me?

REACTION:

I truly have lots of respect for people who are Doing Stuff, even if I think the stuff they’re doing sucks.

But at some point, it runs out.

I had the first part of this toot stewing for a while, because I was thinking about how lots of people are just trying to do cool stuff, and lots of other people like to complain about how the people doing stuff are lame and the stuff they’re doing sucks. But you know what? The people who are doing sucky stuff are doing more than I’m doing; they’re at least making an effort. If people only put effort into things that were immediately awesome, there would be a lot fewer awesome things. So, I respect those people for trying and sucking.

But I didn’t want to toot that because it’s not funny or interesting. So I added the punchline, which was tricky because of the 140-character limit. I had to trust readers to recognize that “respect” was what “it” referred to. Beyond that, the punchline also had to be true, which it is. After watching people do stuff and suck at it over and over and over (and over and over), I’m not particularly impressed anymore. Thus, a toot was born.

That concludes this episode of This Is Twittering: Meta-commentary Digest.