How social do you want your TV?

Or why Panasonic’s Twitter client misses the point

Panasonic's Twitter Client
Now you can tweet from your TV! Panasonic's Twitter client, shown here running on a 2009 V10 series Freesat TV

I mentioned last week that one of the things that Panasonic talked about at their Convention this year was the rebranding of VieraCast as VieraConnect, and the addition of some extra services. One of the ones that they made a big fuss about was the new Facebook service, which complements the Twitter application that was rolled out last year on some VieraCast sets (apologies for the slightly ropy quality of the picture).

One of the things you can see is that, for reasons best known to themselves, Panasonic has decided that when you use Twitter or Facebook on your TV, you want to do it full screen.

I can see that might make it a bit easier if you’re wanting to do certain tasks, but equally, I’m just not sure that this is really the way that people really do want to use these applications on their TV.

Sure, social networking is about sharing, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to share absolutely everything with the people in the same room as you; some people just feel a bit uncomfortable at having other people watch as they write messages, others might not want a message from certain people to be seen – and when Facebook or Twitter is taking up the whole TV screen, it’ll be a bit embarrassing when someone points and says “So, who’s ‘BigBoy69’ then?”

How to tweet on TV

What’s really missing from the social applications I’ve seen on TV so far is a very simple thing – limited social functionality, while you’re watching TV.

The reason I might want Twitter, for instance, on the television is not as an alternative to using the computer or mobile phone – both of which are considerably easier to control than a TV with a remote – but as an adjunct to those.

If I’m watching Question Time, for example, or the Eurovision Song Contest, I want to watch those programmes – but if the TV could also provide me with a ticker or scrolling list of tweets with the appropriate hash tag, either beside or below the picture, that would be a fun addition. Add an option that lets me retweet the finest bon-mots to my followers, and that’s it. All I need.

When I want to share my wonderful insights or caustic cattiness with everyone, I don’t want to reach for the TV remote, mess about with a numeric key pad, and take three times as long to compose a message as normal. I’ll just pick up my phone, or my laptop, and compose the message there. The TV shouldn’t be trying to replace the other ways I interact with Twitter; it should be an adjunct to them.

Most people I’ve mentioned this to (hardly a scientific survey, I know) feel the same; if you’re going to put Twitter – or any social networking – on a TV , please do it right, and think about how people actually use the service. Otherwise it looks like someone in marketing just thought “Yeah, Twitter’s popular, let’s build it in to our TV.”

3 Replies to “How social do you want your TV?”

  1. Presumably Panasonic includes such crud to sell TVs, not actually to be used. If Panasonic cared about the user experience then the TV UI wouldn’t be so variously poor.

  2. Absolutely correct. MS missed the point when they added Twitter to the Xbox – it’s a self-contained application that can’t background. Twitter very much lends itself to ‘plugin’ status – to be overlaid, growl-like in the corner and disappear if not interacted with. (If you don’t know what Growl is, google it. A fantastic notification framework).

    Hopefully VM’s TiVO box will eventually offer us a connected Twitter client that we’ll want to use.

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