The number game

Let me describe a phenomenon I experience sporadically. I’m an avid user of Tweetbot on my iOS devices, although I heartily recommend Twitterrific to most of my friends and colleagues for its splendid interface. Even the aging Mac desktop app which I still use is better than nearly everything else out there. Tweetbot, however, avails several power user features that I’m very fond of using on my mobile devices.

While not exactly a power user feature, one thing I like about Tweetbot is the persistent unread tweet counter. One annoying caveat of it, though, is the frequency at which I accidentally tap the status bar which scrolls my timeline all the way to the top and zeros the counter. Scrolling back down to find where I left off doesn’t restore the counter. It starts again at the point where I scrolled to the top of the timeline. I’ve periodically asked Tweetbot developers to consider implementing a way to restore the counter at the current timeline view, or better yet have it count higher as I scroll back down for older tweets.

Today, I was asked why the unread counter was such a big deal. Indeed, I’ve seen the myriad of articles and punditry that say we will always feel more productive if we eschew hard numbers out of our digital lives. Their advice: ignore the unread counter, turn off the battery percentage viewer in mobile phone status bars, don’t fret about how many people follow you online, etc.

I’m here to tell you, I’ve tried these things. Maybe I’m a horrible example of the status quo, but I always feel I’m making better progress on anything I’m doing if I can see literal numbers.

I’m not saying I like statistics. I hate statistics. Statistics make numbers say whatever you want them to say. Statistics try (and typically fail) to help people digest lots of numbers. But small number tidbits are perfectly fine and I prefer having them available whenever possible.

I like the battery percentage indicator.

I like knowing how many tweets I have yet to get through (regardless whether I’m just quickly skimming or actually reading.)

I like seeing estimated time remaining for lengthy digital operations.

I even like having my signal strength indicator show the dBm measurement instead of the vague information that bars (or iOS 7 dots) convey.

So, for those who’ve asked me, this is why I groan whenever I goof and reset my unread tweet counter.

And to those who wonder why I have in the past (but am striving to stop doing) poked fun at letting apps auto-tweet account statistics. I am definitely in favor of being able to see that information, I’ve just never seen much reason for publicizing it. Case in point, I naturally have no intention of occasionally tweeting how many unread tweets I have left or what percentage of my iPhone battery is remaining (which, by the way, is almost always 100% thanks to my Mophie battery case.)

I’ll close this soapbox with a promise to discontinue future tweets about having accidentally killed the unread tweet counter. :-)

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