Where’s Colin?

Don't blog, just writeYou may have been wondering why there have been no posts since November. The simple answer is I am not blogging but I'm still writing...

I have decided to take a break from the requirements for perfection I place upon myself here and just give myself the freedom to write about anything, without pressure.

For now, you can catch up with me on Google+ where I am conducting a #write365 project to write something every day.

I hope to see you there.

Image by Sarah Reid

Where’s Colin?

App.net broadcast channels and an SOS.

What are ADN Broadcast Channels, what could they become? Could a variant be used to reduce the noise and save our streams?

App.net BroadcastAt first glance, App.net's new Broadcast feature could be seen as just an RSS replacement; dig a little deeper and you might see some parallels with Twitter's emergency alerts but what exactly is it?

Dalton Caldwell describes broadcasts over at the App.net blog as follows:

"A Broadcast is a new type of message that is always received as a push notification. A user only receives a Broadcast when they have explicitly subscribed to a Broadcast Channel. No "promoted content", no black box algorithms, just a simple way to subscribe to valuable information that might otherwise get missed in a busy feed or overloaded inbox."

The idea is for anyone to be able to publish and subscribe to push notifications about anything as long as it can push alerts to a broadcast channel via the API.

Do we need more notifications?

You may be forgiven for wondering why we would need yet another subscription/notification system and, on the face of it, I would agree but Caldwell makes an important point when defining how broadcasts should be used:

"A good Broadcast Channel will send at most 1-2 Broadcasts per day, and most likely even fewer. A successful Broadcast publisher will only publish the most important and high value messages to their subscribers."

We respond more positively and consistently to notifications than to items contained within a pool of feeds so a system to reliably deliver important information that subscribers will both see and act upon is desired.

App.net is designed to act as a standard, open social platform (the emergence of the Twitter-like Alpha was largely a proof of concept) so the potential is for us to receive various notifications from anywhere on the web and have them all appear in the same place. Using one app to manage notifications - regardless of their source - makes far more sense than the current scatter gun approach requiring us to switch between multiple apps and services.

The intention is not to be yet another source of notifications but the source.

Beyond broadcast

PushMy immediate reaction in response to broadcast channels was that the process sounded similar to my idea for push curation last year?

While broadcasts are intended for high value, low volume notifications (no "promoted content", no black box algorithms) I see no reason why the model could not be expanded for the purposes of social curation. Along with the targeted channels we could also have broader, more topic focused, dynamic subscriptions.

Perhaps we could set up channels based on user-created filters and the App.net Passport application (or similar) would let us build these filters from posts based on a range of criteria. If we are willing, I also don't see why we could not subscribe to channels that are based on recommendations and algorithms.

When Google Reader was closing I said that it was a perfect opportunity for ADN to show it wasn't just a Twitter clone. I also suggested that RSS functionality could be incorporated within a social network using Google+ as an obvious candidate.

Wheat from the chaff

While Broadcast aims to rescue the important notifications from the chat, we sometimes also need to rescue the chat itself from the deluge of links and shares.

One of my big criticisms of Twitter has been that it rapidly became a sea of links - the company calls itself an information network rather than a social one - so could a version of broadcast channels serve to keep curation within a social network but separate from the primary stream?

We like having curated links within a social network as it means we can get all of our news and conversation in one place but if curation overwhelms the social element, as it has done on Twitter, we start to lose out. A broadcast style arrangement could help us view exactly what we want if combined with better display and filtering options.

Maybe regular curators could use broadcast channels rather than sending shared content to the stream or links shared by "designated curators" could be automatically filtered. Normal client applications could include our subscriptions as well as our usual feeds - viewed separately or integrated based on personal preference.

Just the beginning

App.net still suffers from being considered an ad free, developer friendly alternative to Twitter rather than the social platform it actually is and Broadcasts is the first big attempt to demonstrate its possibilities.

Social news consumption has been touted as an RSS killer for a few years but never quite achieved it. I can imagine, however, that a derivative of Broadcast could become the mechanism for "push curation" letting us rescue our streams and still keep up to date with news or important updates via the same network.

App.net broadcast channels and an SOS.

Hop: first impressions

Hop claims to transform the email experience: can it live up to the hype or does the execution fall short of the promise?

HopA number of mobile applications are attempting to reinvigorate our use of email; AOL's web-based client Alto sought to improve the experience with better categorisation and easy access to all attachments (but in an interface that, at times, looked strangely reminiscent of old versions of Lotus Notes) while Mailbox aimed to help us to power towards inbox zero on iOS.

More recently, Hop (formerly known as Ping) has stepped into the ring with the ambition of truly transforming how we deal with email by treating it more like instant messaging.

Get in the queue

It seems to be in vogue that applications are soft launching with users held in a queue while the infrastructure ramps up to cope with them. Mailbox started the trend and were lucky enough to be acquired by Dropbox who could better handle the scale involved.

Hop, on the other hand, were willing to admit that they initially dropped the ball at launch and things finally got moving after a couple of false starts: problems scaling to meet demand causing slow movement of the queue and then the legal wrangling with golfing equipment manufacturer Ping which prompted the change of name.

The legal issues meant the launch of Hop was delayed and this time was spent developing "a new and improved version" but my initial impressions are that the app still feels unfinished.

Using Hop

As mentioned above, Hop tries to change the way we think about and deal with email by treating it more like a conversation in a messaging app but not all email can, or should, be thought of in this way.

At first glance the default email UI is a bit unintuitive and seems messy compared to certain other clients, especially the clean look of Mailbox.

Hop: a conversation with no emailHop lets you toggle between an email list view (Incoming) and a "conversations" view (Chats) but, regardless of which view you are in, all mails seem to be treated as being in conversations or threads even if they are not. For example, deleting a mail leaves you in the conversation view for that sender even if the other mails are not related. If there are no other mails from that contact Hop still keeps you in a blank conversation (see right) with no messages rather than returning you to the Inbox.

While we are on the subject of deleting mails, there is no quick way to do so and you are forced to open an email, long press on it then select the trash icon from the resulting toolbar. As with some other actions in Hop there are too many steps involved to perform simple tasks. You can long press an email in the list view to toggle read/unread but perhaps this should be expanded to include other actions.

Zero no more

Having used Mailbox as my primary mail application for a while I have definitely been converted to an inbox zero kinda guy, consequently there are a couple of issues with Hop that leave me wanting. Firstly, there appears to be no "mark all as read" option or, if there is, I can't find it. Secondly, there is the ability to toggle the view between all messages or unread only by long pressing the view selector at the top of the app but this setting is only temporary and the state does not persist when switching from the message list to conversation list.

It also appears that Hop doesn't properly support Gmail's structure correctly as archived mails still appear in the Incoming view unless you archive them again within the app itself.

One other annoyance is the need to tap the option to view the full message on long emails - it reminds me of being on a Blackberry and does not seem entirely reliable, especially when there are multiple emails in a chat.


Obviously, the unique selling point of Hop is that it treats mails as instant messages but for this to work all parties involved need to be using the application so that proper real-time messaging functionality can be enabled; convincing someone to switch their mail client will be difficult. I'm a self-confessed geek and early adopter and am having a problem envisioning myself using Hop over Mailbox so, if I'm not yet convinced, I can see more mainstream users wanting to switch.

Until you are in a proper chat the email experience feels clunky and treating all mails like items in a chat feels wrong - it feels as though everything is being forced through one workflow.

The effect is also somewhat ruined when exchanging mails with a non-Hop user who has email signatures attached.


Like Mailbox, Hop gives you the option of saving mails for later with the ability to assign items to three different categories: couch, desktop and passholder. There is no explanation of the options and it is currently unclear if they are merely flags to highlight messages for you to manually browse or form the basis of a reminder/recall system like with Mailbox.

I get the impression it's the latter.

Sending, or not...

I'm obviously missing a trick (at least I hope I am) but sending mail seems far more complicated than it should be. On hitting the compose button I am shown a few recent contacts with a search box but no ability to enter an address that is not in your contacts.

Surely, this can't be right?

What about those addresses we just want to fire off a quick one-time mail to? Do we really need to add every address we ever want to mail to our contacts?

Update: Paul on Twitter advises that you can enter addresses not in your contacts by typing in to the Contact Search box and waiting for it to pop up "Add address" but this is far from intuitive.

In summary

Hop probably suffers from being a bit too late to market. Other email clients have better interfaces and more intuitive controls for handling emails.

Where Hop shines is in the chat-like conversation view of email threads but not all emails are equal. Hop seeks to make email more like messaging but we do not interact with every sender in the same manner and, just because mails come from the same sender, it doesn't mean that they should be treated as part of the same conversation.

Although the app is divided into two "views" (Incoming and Chats) you feel that everything is being treated as part of a chat and you lose the differentiation between the two modes. It's almost as if the Incoming list view is superfluous to requirements but, at the same time, is a necessary evil.

With a sleeker interface, more intuitive controls and a better distinction between incoming mails and chats, Hop could be an effective and enjoyable email/messaging client. I am a big advocate of the unified inbox but Hop's execution falls short of truly achieving this. I appreciate the move to treat emails more like messages but including all communications with a contact in the same "chat" feels inherently wrong

Hop includes the ability to invite others to try the app but, until its shortcomings are addressed and the need to queue (you want to be up and running immediately) is removed, I can't see it being widely adopted.

I had every intention of giving Hop a fair crack as my default mail client and I really wanted to like it but the more I use it the more unusable it seems.

Hop: first impressions

Thoughts: building a new global village.

"Social as a quality is still something we're trying to (re)discover..." +John Kellden

BuildWe are social animals and throughout history have gathered in groups for various needs: protection, food, social companionship. Recently, however, we have been less social as a species than at any time in our history.

20th century thinking, self-absorption and technology have made us isolated within crowds but we are finally learning to use that technology and social tools to rekindle that old flame (albeit virtually) beyond political, societal and geographic limitations - rebuilding a new global village with 21st century social presence and collaboration forming key pillars.

The internet replaces the garden fence and our "neighbours" could now be anywhere.

Image by Karin Dalziel

Thoughts: building a new global village.

The social jigsaw.Comments

The social jigsawSocial

  1. of or relating to society or its organization.
  2. needing companionship and therefore best suited to living in communities.

Social is a series of shared experiences.

We join networks to communicate and share data with our peers. We may gather in subnets (communities or groups) to better manage resources but there is something more fundamental:

Social is building a jigsaw.

Social is sharing little pieces of you so that others might fit them together and see the full picture - our individual jigsaw, but there is the wider scope.

We identify our corners: our starting points, a base from which to grow.

We find our edges: the connections to others and work out how they fit to establish a social framework.

We recognise shapes and patterns so that we might see how we can build this framework together.

We might think that we are imposing our own structure on the network, defining our own topology but, in reality, we are trying to find our place and, in doing so, uncovering the bigger picture of which we are all a piece.

We don't have the box lid when we start out so don't know how it is all supposed to look. In fact, everyones part of the jigsaw looks a little different even though we are sharing some of the pieces.


Our jigsaws are never finished as we are always able to add more pieces, move sections we have built to establish their proper place and take pieces out when we realise that they do not belong.

Using social we are organising new communities beyond the influence of politics or geography, outside of the old narratives.

This post originally appeared on Google+ here.

Image by craftivist collective

The social jigsaw.

Does the IPO herald a new dawn for Twitter?Comments

How can Twitter grow to satisfy investors after the IPO? Is change essential, will it foster much-needed engagement or does it come at a cost?

TwitterOver the past couple of years I have found myself going in circles when writing about how Twitter might develop; ideas that seemed fanciful wishes might actually become a semblance of reality. In the run up to its IPO, the company is making the news on a regular basis with much of the focus around how it will make money for potential investors, if at all, and whether a new design or functionality may contribute to this.

When the company's S-1 filing revealed that there were only around 50 million monthly US users and that mobile growth seemed to be stagnating (a worrying sign for a "mobile first" company) talk, obviously, turned to growth, where it might come from and how it could be achieved.


Some tech news outlets took to wondering if Twitter would ever become mainstream but, as I wrote before, being mainstream isn't just about the number of users but exposure to data and how engrained into our daily routine a service can become.

Just as when Google+ was accused of being a ghost town, seemingly low monthly active users isn't necessarily cause for alarm just yet (numbers did increase slightly in the latest figures albeit at a reduced rate) but the network does still need to expand its user base and this is indeed a challenge.

As Josh Costine pointed out over at Techcrunch Twitter's very nature could be part of its problem.

I first asked if Twitter needed to change at the beginning of last year and, while it is widely acknowledged that filtering the main Twitter feed would be a bad idea, you have to wonder about other options to both present and consume the data.


It was reported recently that Twitter is working on the next, more visual, revision of the service with new mobile apps to enhance the user experience. Part of this reworking is said to be the removal of the #Discover tab in favour of a more media led main feed. If #Discovery is to be removed, how much of its functionality is going to pass to the primary stream?

Part of my original idea for change was iteration of the #Discover tab and for it to become the default view - the main, unaltered feed would still be available. Are we seeing the network take a similar approach but by merging #Discover with the main feed?

I have no doubt that #Discover would have been far more popular if it had not been a secondary view.


Twitter falls victim to contradiction: it knows it needs more engagement, which is why we have the conversation view, but the current appearance is not very engaging. I have previously referred to it as being "awash in a sea of links".

At the risk of repeating myself, there needs to be enhanced discovery to allow people to find interesting content. In this context many tweets would become almost comments on those discovered items - a ready-made conversation starter.

The new @eventparrot account illustrates that although Twitter is already a real-time broadcast network it needs to make better use of the data and actually get it in front of people. By sending notifications of breaking news events via Direct Message you not only engage those who are currently online but also, because many will have either email or SMS alerts set up for DMs, draw people back to Twitter to see what's going on.

The company now also allows you to receive DMs from anyone who follows you without the need to follow them back first. This is opt in (at least for now) and is obviously designed to increase engagement (especially for brands) but could be a double-edged sword as it leaves the door open to increased message spam.

It would appear, however, that Twitter may have tried to preempt this as some are reporting that most links can no longer be included in DMs, although this could be a glitch or the first signs of a complete messaging revamp.

It's in the cards

Twitter CardA new visual approach will make much greater use of Twitter Cards and the network has been sowing these seeds for a while. Things could go further.

If more media is going to be available pre-expanded and visible in the stream then Twitter could work with e partners to provide better text summaries of news items and, maybe, allow more characters.

We are not online 24 hours a day and often miss breaking news (especially in other time zones) so why not utilise cards to summarise key tweets while you were away? Resurfacing popular or breaking content from when users were offline could be a good way of kick-starting a new wave of engagement.


As has been demonstrated time and time again, people are usually terrible at managing their social circles: lists are underused on Twitter, Circles are poorly managed on Google+ etc. To counter this could Twitter benefit from employing Facebook-esque smart lists? Would automatic classification of some of our connections into pre-defined groups help us manage our feed more effectively?

Twitter placed the hashtag firmly in our minds but has since seen its implementation surpassed by the likes of Google+ inserting up to three related hashtags automatically. While Twitter has maintained its simplicity this could have been working against it.

The network could take advantage of the automatic application of related hashtags for enhanced discovery and extend the conversation especially when a tweet is identified as relating to a trending topic.

With an increasing amount of data appearing outside of the body of a tweet can the network start adding meta data of this nature to cards? It was always argued that all data had to be retained as parts of the tweet body because of those using the network via SMS but with the increased prevalence of smartphones running applications capable of displaying this data is it time for Twitter to give in or, at least, offer a two-tier service with available functionality scaling to your method of use?

All will be revealed

Twitter has been trickling out new small features regularly in the run up to IPO no doubt in an attempt to convince the market that it is innovating and has more tricks up its sleeve.

It is unlikely we will see any major changes before the company goes public as there is a danger that drastic action could negatively affect the opening share price. Although this will be a risk at any point post IPO, after the Facebook fiasco, there is a need to make a good initial impression.

Twitter has plenty of options to modify the service in an attempt to increase engagement but it all depends how far it is willing to go without over-complicating the service or alienating existing users.

Does the IPO herald a new dawn for Twitter?

Jungian archetypes in the social age.Comments

Collective Unconscious - Jungian archetypesDoes the spread and impact of social media allow us to redefine the archetypes behind the core of our personality and behaviour?

Jungian psychology proposes that we take on the traits of established personality archetypes - patterns and images that define our behaviour; derived from the collective unconscious and a counterpart to instinct.

Once an archetype is imprinted upon us it is modified according to the experience of the individual and cultural influence but the archetype remains as the central core to our personality.

Collective unconscious

Does the collective unconscious exist? Is there really a reservoir of primal knowledge and experience that we all tap in to or is it merely a derivation of instinct from prehistoric times?

We might wonder what's the difference?

Are personality archetypes simply a natural product of parental, societal and cultural influence?

If personality traits are reproducible across social, class and cultural barriers then what does it matter where they come from. Just as eusocial species like ants are imprinted with their roles in the colony are we, too, imprinted with a base, instinctual purpose but one which has become diluted due to evolution?

Does social change us?

The rise of social media on a global scale causes us to reassess our interests, our behaviour and our relationships. The meaning of the word "friend" became diluted as our social circles widened and our sphere of influence increased.

Suddenly we are part of a global village with global concepts, global trends and global concerns. Our day-to-day experience is no longer limited by physical location or restricted to a tiny fraction of the population. We share ideas across social and cultural boundaries which would have been previously thought impossible so are we changing?

In the social age are we heading in a more eusocial direction with crowdsourcing turning us into temporary colonies with a natural division of labour according to our archetypes as opposed to enforced division according to power or status?

Knowledge is power

Does direct access to knowledge and the thoughts and experiences of others via social media and the internet now allow us to define new archetypes or redefine our own nature?

If archetypes are modified by parental, social and cultural influence is social media - despite its global impact - merely an additional cultural influence forcing us to remould the archetypes according to our experience?

As we evolve so the collective unconscious should evolve with us; surely, it is not an intransient thing but a fluid amalgam of what it means to be human. With technology and social media changing our thoughts, behaviour and relationships the collective unconscious should, over time, adapt to match the human experience. At what point do we cross a boundary and an existing archetype become sufficiently moulded as to form a new genus?

If we as a species are changing (culturally and intellectually, if not physically) then how long before the traditional archetypes no longer apply?

This post is a rewrite of an original discussion on Google+ here.

Image by Justin Davila, Wikimedia Commons

Jungian archetypes in the social age.

Twitter going mainstream by not being social.

Not a social networkIt's hard to believe that it was over five years ago that I started talking about social media's dream of going mainstream.

I said that it would happen when social services became part of everyday life, part of what we normally do and sat invisibly in the background.

We can talk all we want about having billions of accounts but numbers are only part of the story; we need to look at how services are used. Twitter, more than the others, seems to finally be achieving this new status with the likes of TV agreements (making it the second screen network of choice) and the recent announcements of instant NFL replays and crisis alerts.

By being a data channel rather than a social channel (albeit one that allows for social interaction) Twitter is positioning itself as a bite-sized traditional media style service for the Internet age.


Service updates such as the recent conversation view keep us in the social mindset but the new ethos leading up to the IPO involves making Twitter a point of discovery for anyone with or without the need to actually be social.

Social discovery is something I've been going on about for a while, especially in the context of Twitter. The service has needed a way for new users to be able to find interesting content and things that matter to them in order to invest in the platform and, possibly, start tweeting.

The #discover tab started moves in this direction but didn't iterate as much as expected. The rumours that it will be shelved in a future update is, therefore, not that surprising but a better alternative must be found.

Why Twitter?

You can see what Facebook was trying with Home: altering the context by taking your social content outside of the social sandbox. Facebook was also first to have strong connections to the 'normal web' with the Open Graph so why is Twitter the social network that seems to be making the biggest "mainstream" inroads?

There are two factors, in my opinion, which have caused Twitter to lead the way:

  • its innate simplicity, even after UI & service changes, and
  • the deals it has done for content originating outside of the network

Here is the news

Twitter made it's public mark as the go-to home of real-time, crowd sourced news as far back as May 2008 when a massive Earthquake hit China. On the ground reports from normal people "as it happened" far faster than normal media channels could manage made the world sit up and take notice of a service that had been previously seen as just a geek playground or a passing fad.

I remember watching Robert Scoble collating all the information he could find and retweeting it to the rest of us mere seconds after being published - it's a small world on Twitter!

Events such as this led many to view social, especially Twitter, as an RSS replacement years before Google decided to sunset Reader. Not only could you follow the accounts from your favourite blogs (who would be tweeting their posts) but get the thoughts of others and a wider context all in one place.

Bring this right up to date and you have shared links served up within Safari on iOS7 - social news without the need for a social app. Some have criticised Apple and Twitter for tucking this away in Safari Favourites but they are thinking "socially" rather than as Joe Public - there is a different mindset at work.

By the back door

I used to say that social would go truly mainstream via the back door (by incorporating it into our normal daily tasks) and this certainly appears to be the way we are heading with the current shift in focus.

Twitter is embracing the non-tweeters with content while Google+ seeks to expose itself to a wider audience via it's commenting service. The trick is to latch on to whatever people already enjoy doing and add a social element without placing too much of an imposition upon the user.

Twitter seems to be closest to finding the right balance.

This post is an updated version of one that originally appeared on Google+ here.

Image by whatleydude

Twitter going mainstream by not being social.

A social paradox.

This is the first post in which I will be looking at the ideas of motivation and self-determination in social media, less of the "what" and more of the "why". What affects our behaviour and how can we resolve our internal motivation with external influence.

Fork in the pathSocial appears to be heading along two discordant paths: one where identity and the individual are less important as discovery takes deeper root, against a need to be identifiable for systems such as authorship and influence.

What is obvious is that we come to social (and the internet as a whole) from very different places and for different needs; what's good for the goose is not always good for the gander.

Social platforms must accommodate both paths so that creators and consumers, storytellers and audience can meet in the middle - find a common ground on which to build their relationships.

But, herein, lies a problem: how to weave both paths so that all can conduct their journeys in their own way?

Search and discovery

Search and discovery are two distinct sides of the same coin; traditional search supplies an expected answer to a specific question, nothing more - you get what you pay for.

Discovery, however, leaves things open to chance, leaves us to stumble across gems beside the path that we might not have otherwise found; those serendipitous moments of realisation and recognition.

Despite what some quarters would have us believe, search is not dead and search engines are not facing extinction but search on its own is not profitable, search is not truly able to surface patterns or interests. Search needs identity to move to the next level.

All paths lead to semantics

Search engines are trying to coerce users, leaving a trail of breadcrumbs in the hope they will entice us to the same endpoint even if our paths vary. Knowledge Graph data, related authors, social results, they are all designed to catch the eye and draw us away from basic blue link searches.

Linking search to social networks introduces identity but doing it in such a way that we log in for one and stay so for the other - one account for all.

Without realising it we are feeding search engines with a feast of our interests, our behaviour and highlighting patterns which, perhaps, we were not consciously aware.

Interests, context, semantics, discovery, impulse: these are profitable and we are exposed to temptation.

The social paradox is, therefore, not that we walk different social paths but that all paths lead us to the same end despite the direction of our journey.

Image by hockadilly

A social paradox.

Thoughts: Twitter conversations

Twitter conversationsTwitter recently introduced an update to make it easier to identify and follow conversations "in stream" linking related tweets by a blue line and placing the tweets in chronological order (first tweet on top).

We are used to the reverse chronological nature of social streams but, to follow a thread effectively, it needs to emulate how we normally read text: all together and from the top down.

An enhanced conversation view should be welcomed but has it gone far enough? Is anything more possible in a stream-like context? By introducing the new feature Twitter has already broken convention so why not go further?

Softly, softly, catchee monkey

The new conversation view need not be the end of the line and could herald further changes in future. twitter, however, has to be careful and not rush too radical a change.

How could we move on from here? I have written before about different ways to implement more conversational structures within Twitter:

  • beyond the hashtag -> could be achieved with modified event pages
  • native chats -> could be achieved with modified event pages
  • buying Branch -> spin out conversations based on a tweet but within the context of Twitter

It is widely recognised that the Twitter feed does not suit everyone and it has never been a very strong conversation platform. In fact, the busier it gets and the more people you follow the harder it is. This is why Twitter's move to group conversations in a more obvious visual manner is essential.

The whole point of "social" media is talking to people but the Twitter feed makes that hard so that we can end up with a broadcast of contextually redundant statements and a sea of links. For the casual user this doesn't offer much value.

Twitter conversationsI went on record in the past to say that I will continue to use Twitter despite finding more utility elsewhere but the inability to have decent conversations, as opposed to somewhere like Google+, has limited my usage. It is harder to feel involved on Twitter when you are not part of a regularly conversing group.

Short and sweet

The decision to stay with the 140 character limit has been a subject of discussion for quite some time as many feel you can't have a proper conversation in such short bursts but, with a proper conversation view this need not necessarily be the case.

Social conversations tend to follow a status + comments structure and this is what Twitter has been missing. The new conversation view is certainly a step in the right direction but I still feel that the service could be bolder.

Any change to an established paradigm is obviously going to be divisive - people don't like change - but a change such as this (and subsequent user comment) shows the fickle nature of the tech press who first hailed the feature before later comparing it to Twitter's Quick Bar which was universally lambasted and later removed from the iOS app.

Thin Blue Line

The current UI change might not be perfect and will most likely be modified in future iterations but it does show that Twitter is taking conversation tracking and discovery seriously; it has to.

Personally, I hope that this is just the beginning and that more advanced views appear in future, possibly akin to my earlier suggestions.

Thoughts: Twitter conversations