Tweeting on Ubuntu

I have a love-love relationship with Ubuntu.  It’s my preferred operating system and I usually have it as my alternate OS on my laptop.  My experience is that it is faster and cleaner than Windows and, as I’ve moved further into cloud-based or Web-based tools, I know longer have any app that I need that can’t run on Ubuntu.

Social media is not a huge thing for me.  I’m not on Facebook and I don’t use LinkedIn for social purposes.  But I enjoy Twitter, both sending and watching the stream that flows by.  Compared to most, it’s a trickle but it’s rare for a day to go by that I don’t gain from it.

When I upgraded to Saucy Salamander, a.k.a. Ubuntu 13.10, I was interested to see which Twitter clients were available.  I’d used Gwibber and Qwit in the past.  They were all right – and Gwibber was a default in older Ubuntu versions – but I wanted to see what else was happening.


The first one I tried was Hotot.  It can be installed from the Ubuntu Software Center inside your system or grabbed from Github.  It has a slick interface but caused some users problems when they installed.  All of the Twitter clients I’ve tried use an authentication method like this:

  1. Click on an authentication link that should open in your Web browser;
  2. Log into to your Twitter account on that Web browser page;
  3. See a PIN from Twitter;
  4. Cut and paste the PIN into the Twitter client.

If you click the link and nothing happens, then you’re stuck.  There is a small slider next to your account name on the Hotot home / login screen that you need to click to invoke the authentication process.

Hotot supports multiple streams, which you can scroll through with the icons on the top bar. The search function is at the top right. Hotot has loads of customizations in the preferences.

Hotot seems to have the most features of any of the Twitter clients.  Users of Hootsuite on Windows will be familiar with having multiple columns all running at once and Hotot will display the most common streams.  It comes with some additional extensions and a lot of customization.  One that I particularly like is that, if you run your own URL or link shortener, you can tie Hotot to your YOUrls server API.

The one failing / irritation for Hotot is that it continues to make some calls to the old Twitter API.  If you click on the Retweets stream, you’ll get errors if you try to view either Retweets by Others or Retweets by Me.  It looks as though the calls are going to the wrong place.  I hacked a bit on the Javascript files that seem to affect this element (/usr/share/hotot/js folder, lib.twitter.js ) and was able to shift from a 410 error to a 401.  The errors go away if you toggle the stream to My Tweets, Retweeted.


Another client that is nice looking, supports multiple columns, and is easy to get up and running is Polly.  It’s pre-Alpha release so you might expect it to be buggy.  So far (a couple of days using it), I haven’t seen any problems with it.  Polly has fewer options for customization – like most Twitter clients, you can just from a dropdown of URL shorteners but not use your own, for example – but it has all of the basics.


Polly is far broader in the kinds of streams you can capture.  The File menu offers a variety of choices relating to your stream (tweets, mentions, etc.), your lists, followers, and even the ability to stream based on search terms.  Again, for anyone who has used Hootsuite, some of the functionality is similar.

Like Hotot, Polly supports multiple accounts if you are a marketing person and want to manage more than one account.  I haven’t done that, so I don’t know how careful you have to be to make sure you’re only activating tweets from one or another account.

I’ve been using both clients for consuming Tweets in the past couple of days and like different things from each.  Hotot is probably my preferred but those error messages and the limited streams are a drawback.  Either way, the Twitter client on Ubuntu seems to be much more mature than it was under Ubuntu 12.

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David Whelan
I improve information access and lead information teams. My books on finding information and managing it and practicing law using cloud computing reflect my interest in information management, technology, law practice, and legal research. I've been a library director in Canada and the US, as well as directing the American Bar Association's Legal Technology Resource Center. I speak and write frequently on information, technology, law library, and law practice issues.