What it would take to make me say a definitive “I like Flock”?

FlockImage via Wikipedia

Last week, I posted the following on Twitter:

trying to decide if I like Flock 10:00 AM August 21, 2008from web

And got this reply:
@kamccollum: You don’t sound totally convinced. What could we do to make it a definitive “I like Flock”? 🙂 12:41 PM August 22, 2008from web in reply to kamccollum

I also noticed this comment on my post about my shifting IP address problem:
Ben, on August 22nd, 2008 at 8:31 am Said:
Also, I noticed that the end of your post says “Blogged with the Flock Browser.” How’s Flock working for you? Do you like it?

So I figure that I ought to try to answer the questions.

I decided to give Flock a try as part of my never-ending quest to find my “ideal learning software application”  and I thought Flock, with its integrated blogging and social networking functions, might be slightly closer to the customizable portal that I’m looking for than my beloved Firefox browser.  In some ways it is closer.  The built in web clipboard is a nice function, as is the integrated blogging tool (that I’m using right now).  I also like that it includes a notifier for my various webmail accounts and I thought that the built in feed reader had potential.  But Flock isn’t quite there.

The blogging feature is nice and worked well for the first simple post that I used it for.  However, it is limited; it doesn’t even have a spell checker.  For this post, I tried using the web clipboard function with the blogging tool and found myself engaged in the tedious process of cleaning up unwanted formatting in the source code.  Could we have a remove formatting button please?  Additionally, I found out about Zemanta just after discovering Flock and am disappointed that the Flock blogging tool isn’t compatible with Zemanta, and offers none of the functionality that Zemanta offers.  I have to choose between two tools, each giving me only half of what I want.

The RSS reader reminds me of Sage, a Firefox add-on.  One could argue that it looks prettier than Sage, but doesn’t offer much that Sage didn’t.  As much as I want an integrated tool, I prefer Google Reader to either Sage or the built in Flock RSS reader.  What I like best about Google Reader is that I can share posts with contacts and read shared posts from contacts within the reader.  I use the Notes function in Google Reader as well.  For the Flock reader to win me over, it has to allow me to share posts (with notes) with at least some of my contacts with a single click and without cluttering up email inboxes.  Additionally, I want to be able to tag saved individual posts for future reference.

Flock attempts to integrate with social networking services within the browser.  I think it works fine with Facebook.  However, I don’t think it works particularly well with Twitter.  With Twitter, it appears to show only the most recent comment from each person you follow.  This makes it even more difficult than usual to follow a Twitter conversation because you can’t easily scroll back through previous tweets.  I also find it annoying that I can’t filter comments to quickly find any tweets that have been directed at me personally.  When I click on the button indicated new messages, it takes me to twitter rather than bringing the messages up the browser sidebar.  The Flock developers need to understand that I am attempting to use their product to avoid actually going to the Twitter page.  If they need inspiration for what I’m looking for, they should take a look at Digsby.  I want Digsby as a browser sidebar instead of a separate application.

The social bookmarking services Delicious and Magnolia are both compatible with Flock, but I primarily use Diigo.  Why isn’t Diigo compatibility built-in?  Might it come in future versions or would I be hoping in vain?  I had to install the Diigo Toolbar separately and that adds extra clutter to the user interface.  I’m trying to streamline my work area with an all-in-one browser, and I feel that I shouldn’t still have to rely on a patchwork of plug-ins.

My last complaint may seem like a small thing to some, but it was the first thing that I noticed about Flock.  The live search results are set by default to come from Yahoo!  Google isn’t even an option.  After several disappointing Yahoo! searches in which the object of my search remained unfound, I have pretty much broken myself of my dependence on Live Search results and retrained myself to use only the Google Toolbar that I installed later.  I shouldn’t have had to do that.

I like the potential in Flock, but I don’t really like Flock . . . yet.  Because it is compatible with Firefox add-ons, it can do everything my old Firefox browser could do (albeit with more visual clutter); It just can’t do what I was hoping it would do.

Blogged with the Flock Browser
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About Kimberly McCollum

I'm a former middle and high school science teacher and current stay at home mom.
This entry was posted in Technology, Tools and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to What it would take to make me say a definitive “I like Flock”?

  1. Ben Mc. says:

    I came to similar conclusions when Flock was first released. After reading your post, I tried it again, but still didn’t find it living up to my expectations. Perhaps one day Flock will provide a one stop portal without so much clutter.

  2. One point is simply that the more functions you include in any program, the more complex that program becomes. It might not be obvious to you, the user, but the code will become harder and harder to develop and maintain, with more and more opportunities for bugs based on subtle conflicts to crop up. Then, when you are asking that program to integrate with outside services whose updates, standards, etc. are all uncontrolled by the program developers, the problem becomes even more difficult. You’d end up with a browser with features that didn’t work for months after an “integrated” service changed their code, just as now many Firefox add-ons aren’t updated for some while after Firefox itself is.

    The key is to find plugins (for Flock or Firefox) that integrate well. Some have toolbars which allow buttons to be moved to the main toolbars, removing the need for a separate toolbar. Some work better than others. For blogging, for example, have you tried ScribeFire? Not perfect, but not bad, either.

    I do understand your unhappiness. I am one of the hardest people on earth to satisfy when it comes to software. My working methods aren’t “mainstream”, so I find the usual culprits all but intolerable. The closest to a perfect solution I have ever found is to seek software that is highly customisable, so I can set it up to work my way. For something as complex as a browser, that can only be done by using plug-ins. Say someone designed the perfect browser, in your opinion. Some of the details would no doubt annoy many other users who like things done differently. So there’s no reward to including “everything”. Sorry, but I think you’ll wait in vain.

  3. @Ben – It’s nice to know I’m not alone. In the meantime, we get by the best we can 🙂

    @Wandering author – Thank you for your comment. Having done some programming myself, I’m aware that that adding features requires more complexity and more opportunity for bugs. I’m also aware that plug-ins and add-ons introduce even more complexity. As you suggested, the key for me has been to to find a combination of add-ons that meet my needs tolerably well.

    At the same, I was hoping that the built in features of flock would reduce my reliance on plug-ins and add-ons, and ultimately provide a more stable product. I want Flock to build in the functionality of some of my key add-ins so that I can stop using so many add-ons. It may never happen, but I figured that if the nice people over at Flock are asking, I have a better chance of getting it if I tell them what I want than if I keep it a secret.

  4. inpi says:

    Hi Kim,
    Thank you for sharing about Flock. I keep my Firefox for the moment; lately I’m trying new add-ons like BlogRovr – the dog who fetches blogs for you – and Iterasi – a new way of bookmarking sites instead of urls. I’m enjoying Zemanta, it just can’t follow me when I write in Portuguese: http://inpi.edublogs.org – I’m translating several articles from edubloggers and other bloggers to announce and explain the Student Blogging Competition 08. I though that perhaps you would like to compare translations and check for yourself as Portuguese is so similar to Spanish.
    I belong to a French Ning where a conversation on connectivism is going on; while searching about this subject, I’ve found the wiki-book by George Siemens both in English: “Knowing Knowledge” and in Spanish: “Conociendo el Conocimiento”. Here is the link:

  5. inpi says:

    Hi Kim,
    I would just like to tell you that I found edmodo, just launched at http://www.edmodo.com, a microblogging platform specially conceived for teachers, students, school life… And it enables to form students or teachers groups between different countries. It could be useful within any philosophy of teaching 🙂

  6. Ines, as always, thanks for the resources. You have been so generous that I can’t help but think of you as my “best friend” that I’ve never met. 🙂

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