George strode languorously, rejoining no one in particular but loud enough for the room to hear. After settling on the preposterously plush yet visually modest throne upon which he spends most of the work day, he looked directly at me and sighed. Presently he spoke.
“Twitter feels like the inside of a television,” he mused. “Buzzing, busy cathode and anode. But no story! Some clever chap needs to put the gizmotrons behind the set and make with the drama. You know, do a Lewis Carroll and get us to the other side of the glass.”
George’s lineage is U.S. going back ten generations or more. They came here from Bottrop in Westphalia. This is what he claims. Of course he also goes on about how Germany is fiction and that Westphalia is rightfully Prussia.
I tried to explain that televisions don’t use tubes so much anymore, patting his head; a patronizing gesture. He tried to bite my wrist. He cut me off, purring, “I’m in a Microsoft kind of mood. Do me a favor and Bing Loic Le Meur. I remember that night Loic and I got so bourré at that little restaurant in Paulilles, and he invited that crank Rupert Sheldrake to join us. The sop blathered on all night about morphogenic fields or some such twaddle. The only cogent thing he said was something about people having the same good idea at the same time all over the world. I want to see if Loic is surfing my morphogeny.”
That’s how I found Seesmic Look. I think I binged something like “Loic Languedoc Binge Drinking Morphogeny Twitter Looking Glass”. When the page loaded, George became quiet a moment and then looked at me again as if to say, “well?” I fumbled with the download button a bit too lazily and George began to tell me, yet again, that he most certainly is a long lost Hohenzollern and I should know more about the “Hohenzollern Diaspora” if the whole affair hadn’t been suppressed by the Bavarian Illuminati. I distracted him by pointing out that I had successfully downloaded the installer and was executing it.
While we waited for it to install, I asked George what he thought about the name, “Seesmic Look”. I like the whole active voice/give-a-command kind of thing it’s got going on and I thought perhaps George might agree. Of course George never agrees with anything I say, but I was preoccupied with forestalling any further disquisitions into European aristocratic pseudo-history.
“I don’t get it,” he mewed. “What is the ‘Seesmic’ part all about? Is Seesmic the overarching brand of a software company? Is Seesmic a Twitter client? Is Seesmic a site where people have threaded video conversations? I mean, I get it in practice, but not in theory. Can I just call it, ‘Look’? If I call it ‘Seesmic Look’, am I saying, ‘the product, called Look, made by Seesmic’, or am I saying, ‘the special flavor of the Seesmic Desktop program called Seesmic Look’? It’s the kind of lazy hermeneutic that comes of imbibing too much Pétrus.”
I should point out that George can drink you under the table. I don’t know Loic personally, but I strongly suspect George’s attempts to paint Loic as a drunk amount to some heavy duty projection. As if to prove my point, George then puked on my shoes.
When things settled down a bit, I tried to run the freshly installed program. We saw the Seesmic Look splash screen, and then, crash. We were using George’s workstation. He built it himself. It has a quad-core processor, 8 gigs of ram, and it’s running 64-bit Windows 7. Up came the helpful Windows 7 error dialog about how this program did something naughty and Windows is just gonna shield your eyes while it puts a sheet or something over the offending bits. “Don’t worry,” says Windows. “I’m gonna check with Redmond real quick and see if there’s anything we can do about this. One sec.” A few seconds later and Windows let me know that, no, it’s never even heard about this program and then it kinda looked expectantly down its nose at me. You know, its rhetorical nose.
After a restart, during which George dozed off and began to drool, I was able to get Look (can I call it that?) running. I nudged George and he woke with a start, shaking his head an showering nearby objects in flecks of spittle. Evidently he thought I was Loic because he began berating me about how, “Arrington was right, you know. You’re one of the smart ones Loic and yet you remain obstinately French!” In his pique, he missed my eye roll (thankfully) and I was able to get him focused on the Seesmic Look interface now visible on the third of George’s four monitors.
“Sacrebleu,” was all he managed for several seconds. I navigated through the menus and used the scroll wheel to cycle through the tweets. Finally George said, “No wonder he’s focused on Windows first. I was ready to complain that I couldn’t run this on my hackintosh, but the plebes will love this! Le Meur! You magnificent bastard! You disgust me with your brilliance!”
He turned to me, wide eyed and said, “This is what I was talking about. This is the outside of the television. It’s as though someone took cable news graphics (without the infernally imbecilic talking heads) and made them interactive. It’s create your own news network! And talk to your soccer mom friends while you’re at it! A shrill hallelujah chorus of mommy bloggers that pull away from the screen only to toss molotov cocktails through the windows at Motrin corporate headquarters!”
I told him to ix-nay on the trashing the Motrin moms. I reminded him that he spent time in a Baby Bjorn and should take a larger view. He called me a Bolshevik.
The upshot is that I think this Seesmic Look is grasping at something important. It makes the Twitter experience something that feels less noisy, more manageable, and more channel-oriented. While the columnar layouts in TweetDeck, Seesmic for Windows, and other clients are powerful, they are also messy and overwhelming. Seesmic Look is Zen for Twitter. One column. Heavy visual weight on the focused tweet. Predefined channels of content. Clean and aesthetically thoughtful integration of things like user’s background images. It is a decidedly new vision for the Twitter client user experience.
After using it for a few days, George noticed some bugs. He pointed out that tweets which weren’t addressed to him were appearing in his “mentions”. He also pointed out that it seemed to be in conflict with some other program he’s running—he’s not sure which—because occasionally, Look (can I call it that?) won’t start without restarting Windows. Beyond that, he says he thinks there is much still that needs to be explored within this new vision for the Twitter experience. As he fell asleep in his chair, George muttered, “Loic is puant l’ivress, but this Look thing is lovely.”
For my part, I just want to apologize to Loic for George’s recalcitrance. If he weren’t so damn insightful, I’d let him go in the woods somewhere to fend for himself. But he led me to Seesmic Look, and he usually has the big insights, so I feel the need to keep him around. But Loic, if you’re reading, I beg you to forgive his rudeness. He says he loves you like a brother and to tell you he’s bringing the foie gras next time.