Tweetdeck – An Example Of How Not To Roll Out Software Updates

July 1, 2009 at 3:05 AM (Uncategorized)

The team responsible for the third-party Twitter client Tweetdeck is, at this moment, providing a perfect example of how not to provide updates to software.

Tweetdeck commits three egregious sins:

  1. It includes an update checker and notifier that cannot be turned off or set to manual.
  2. You can close that update notifier or click the ‘Download Later’ button, but it will nevertheless pop up again later.
  3. After successfully harassing the user into downloading and installing the update, it breaks things.


There is no way to set the update check to manual? Really? What year is this again? I thought this particular, odious behavior had been laid to rest years ago by most software companies. Even Microsoft, hardly the paragon of “don’t be annoying”, gives users an easy-to-use method to set updates to manual.

As has been demonstrated repeatedly throughout the last several years, there are countless situations that would require software update checking to be set to manual. At the same time, there are no valid reasons for failing to provide the user with that option, at least at the administrator level.

Not to mention the fact that it is extraordinarily rude to users.

Worse, the software will perform its update check repeatedly, which leads to the notifier window popping up again and again. This only exacerbates the problem and is what makes the behavior truly obnoxious.

If the programmer is going to omit such a basic feature as an “off” button for the updater, the least he can do is to make sure it checks only once per session. Some of us need to download the update on our schedule, not their’s. Having to close that same window over and over and over is extremely annoying.

As if to complete some unholy trinity of bad software practices, Tweetdeck provides a third and final insult. After badgering users into installing the update, it breaks things.

After finally installing the new version last night, I tried to add someone to a group. It wouldn’t do it. The update broke that function.

It also booted several dozen people out of my largest (and most important) group, then refused to add any of them back. A quick search of Twitter shows numerous people having the same problems.

In the end, I reinstalled the previous version[1], the installer for which I just happened to have in my downloads folder. I always prefer to download update installers to my hard drive instead of installing directly from the server. This is a perfect example of why.

Reinstalling the older version fixed the “add user to group” feature. Unfortunately, I had to sit here all day adding back to the user group the dozens of people who were unceremoniously dumped from it by that buggy update last night. All the while, repeatedly closing the window telling me about an update that I knew would break it again if I installed it. Thanks for all that, Tweetdeck. Stellar work.

I nearly removed Tweetdeck out of frustration, because this behavior is unacceptable. Unfortunately, the only real rival to Tweetdeck that I would consider using is Seesmic Desktop, which uses a font so small I cannot read it.

Thankfully, it wasn’t necessary to replace Tweetdeck. I decided to disable the update checker myself – the old fashioned way. I edited my HOSTS file and now my PC thinks tweetdeck.com, http://www.tweetdeck.com and downloads.tweetdeck.com are at the IP address 0.0.0.0.

It is not an ideal solution. It is still checking for updates. It is just looking for those updates in the wrong place. Eight hours after doing that, the update window hasn’t been seen.

Now I just have to wait for word of an update that fixes the update, so that I can unblock Tweetdeck’s web servers long enough to download it. Let’s hope it doesn’t break anything else when it comes.

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[1] Version 0.26.3 is the bugged version that broke my group columns. Version 0.26.2 is the version to which I reverted and am running now.

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