Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Taming the Blackberry 10 Hub

Since the launch of the Blackberry Z10, there has been so much talk about The Hub. We saw it in the previews, and heard so much about how it was going to revolutionise the way we work with our mobile devices. Peek and Flow, gestures, unified inbox on steroids, we heard all of the comments, and in the demo's it sure did seem the best thing since sliced bread. Being able to peek into your inbox regardless of what you were in the middle of seemed ideal.

For some, the transition over to the hub has been pretty smooth. All the social accounts you use, all in one place, filter them by type if you so wish, or whack them all in together in The Hub itself. In general, I am one of those who is quite happy with the way it performs, and it does what it says on the box. It simplifies the way you communicate across multiple social platforms, all from one single place.

BUT... of course there is a but, this is me!
There are a few things, that possibly for the sake of sanity, or maybe just for functionality reasons that are not as I would like them certainly, so I shall go into a few now before I go on.

The first thing I noticed was a Twitter feed thing. On OS7.1 and before, periodically I would get a notification from twitter into my unified inbox that would say there were new tweets to view. Alas this does not happen with the hub. Now the reason for it is quite simple, only things directed at YOU will appear in the hub. Messages which may require you to respond are the only things of interest to the hub. Naturally it didn't take long to get used to this 'short falling' if you can call it that.
But while talking about Twitter, there is another thing. Mentions. When composing a new tweet and mentioning a contact in it, the long winded approach to adding their @ to the message is quite simply horrible. I don't want a drop down of all my contacts to appear, so I can then enter their name in the search field. What was wrong with the old way, or indeed the way Blaq manages them. Type an @ then start to type the name, and as you type the options appear to select from.
This plus the rather basic and lethargic layout of the whole native Twitter app are the reason I bit the bullet and got Blaq instead. Multiple accounts, real time feed, nice interface, and simple mentions.

After the Twitter thing was overcome, the next thing to understand was how the other apps integrated into the hub. Facebook for example, for a while I thought that I would be able to update my status from the hub also, but this again is not the case. You can compose direct messages on the hub for Facebook only. The same I should say is the case with Twitter.

In short, for those not quite au fait with the hub situation. The hub is ONLY used for direct communication with people, be it SMS, BBM, email, or via social networking apps.

Once you understand what it can do, the next thing to do is get it doing the things you want it do do for YOU, customise it.

This is where the confusion around the hub really starts, and if you were keeping up with what I have been rattling on about so far, hold tight, its about to get a little crazy around here.
Notifications in the hub are for all the native apps to the Blackberry 10 devices, and a little more, as shown below.

As you can see, quite a list there indeed. So can you cope with updates and history from all these feeds showing up in the one single inbox? Well apparently most cant, and it gets a little heated and hectic. The problem is, or is perceived to be, that if you turn them off in the hub management, you then lose the ability to use the feed. But this is not the case, allow me to explain a little. First up you need to get into the hub settings, the following sequence shows where you go to do this.

Firstly, go into the hub, and select the overflow menu, 3 dots, bottom right of the screen. Select settings.

Next up, from settings you want hub Management.

Once you have entered the hub management, you will be presented with the following screen. I'm pretty sure 90% have already seen all this, but just to be sure.

Right, now you are ready to decide what shows in your hub feed and what doesn't. There are important things to know here, so read carefully.

First up, emails, the hub is the only place on your Blackberry 10 device you can access these, so it is important to have your main accounts switched on. If you have other accounts that receive a lot of junk, but periodically get used for something more productive, I would say turn them off. I will explain why in a bit.
Next up are other forms of messages, BBM, SMS. This is where the options start. The BB10 devices come with BBM and texts available from stand alone icons. BBM from the actual app, and texts from its own icon to open JUST text messaging if you so choose. These applications do NOT have to be left open and running in an active pane to receive messages if you turn them off in the hub.

Same applies to your social networks, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, FourSquares and so on.

Now to explain how to go about this.

By turning notifications OFF in the hub for any of these applications does not mean you wont receive messages through them, you will, and the hub will still take care of this for you. You just have to understand the slightly complex way in which it works. By turning them off in the hub, it simply means that the notifications will not automatically populate the hub. So when you turn twitter off for example, the device will still receive and acknowledge direct messages, and it will still tell you that you have them. It just wont display it.

An example for you to make it a little clearer. I have Twitter turned OFF in my hub, purely because I don't like the native app as I have explained before. Instead I use Blaq which I will usually leave running in an active pane, as I tent to use Twitter quite a lot. The Blaq app shows within the active pane if I have any mentions or direct messages, as well as new tweets to read. But what if I close the app, then how will I know if I get a message or mention.
While it is turned off in the hub, I wont see the message, but I will get a notification still. I will get an LED flash if set up for that application, I will get an icon on the lock screen, and I will also get a spark on the hub menu button (as pictured below)

Soon also I am hoping that we will see BeBuzz for the Q10 arrive, which will also allow you to have the addition of a specific colour flash on your LED.
So now you have your notification, its up to you to decide how you deal with it.
You can go to the hub and choose the particular inbox for that application, and view it there, or you can open it in the stand alone app. A BBM can be opened in the hub or on the app for example. One thing to note here is that third party apps wont update the hub. So if you get a mention on Twitter and open it in Blaq, the notification spark will remain in the hub until you acknowledge it.

So I guess what I am trying to say here is The Hub is actually a very clever and versatile notifications centre, which is highly customisable, but it is for the end user to make the effort to spend a few minutes going through it properly, setting up what you want to simply be notified of, and what you want to actually see populating your hub.

I hope this hasn't confused you more than it has helped.

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