Recently, a friend asked me to share my experience with Plurk saying that he needed some guidance through it. While not being a "plurkanista" just yet, I do spend my fair share of time there and, thus, am happy to comply with my friend’s request.
First, this screenshot from Plurk’s home page…
Note the line, "Tired of your existing Social Networks?" While I don’t know if that’s a direct shot across Twitter’s bow, they hit the nail squarely on the head. (Sorry for mixed metaphors.)
It seems to me Plurk is positioning itself as the fresh alternative to Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and the like. After all, we’ve been there, done that, right? The shine has worn off, and like kids in a toy store, we’re on to the next, newest thing to scratch our social media itch. (More on that in a minute.)
Back to the Twitter vs. Plurk comparison…
One reason people are moving over to Plurk is they’ve grown weary of Twitter’s instability. "Enough with the @#$%! ‘fail whale’ already," we shout at the monitor. In that respect, Twitter’s loss is Plurk’s gain.
Aside from that, Twitter falls short in one key area that Plurk has made its sweet spot: The ability to carry on a threaded conversation.
Twitter has been defined, among other things, as a "high latency instant messaging system." In some ways that’s just fine. For those who want to use the app to carry on a conversation though, "high latency" is a drawback. And it’s that part that Plurk addresses.
Plurk is a communal instant messaging system. Think Yahoo! IM or Skype + Twitter and you’ve got it. Where Twitter is great for broadcast messaging, Plurk is all about developing a network of friends.
Whether the conversation is as mundane as what someone had for breakfast, as significant as passing along a business lead or referral or even carrying on a virtual workshop, Plurk enables conversation at a much more rapid-fire pace than Twitter ever could.
(Keep in mind, Twitter was never designed for that purpose. It’s members refitted it with the use of the "@" symbol. Twitter was kind enough to accommodate that behavior, but it still wasn’t the reason the application was built.)
There are other key differences too. Plurk has done a 180 on Twitter’s "plain jane, just the facts ma’am" interface and developed a fancy, somewhat playful, "artsy" design that incorporates little "creatures."
Cute, huh? But it’s part of Plurk’s kitschy charm.
Not only that, but Plurk presents all conversation threads as part of a time line.
I liken it to a conversation "river" into which each participant steps. A conversation or thought "stream" if you would. (BTW, in each of these examples I’ve blotted out the names of the "Plurkers," as they’re called.)
Here are a couple of screenshots showing more detail.
Followed by the conversation thread…
It’s really a lot of fun and very addictive. Occasionally, it’s even productive too!
Remember what I said about "new toy" earlier? I don’t mean to minimize the value proposition of any of these various and sundry social media applications. There is value to be had. I’m referring to the fact that many, like me, tend to be early adopters at best and fickle at worst in our use of them.
What’s with the "Karma" thing?
Plurk uses a points system it has dubbed as "karma," to encourage usage. The more plurks you post, conversations you engage in or friends you invite, the more points you get. While this appeals to some people, most I’ve talked to pay little attention to it. (Unless Plurk takes away points for lack of participation. Then, we pay it some mind. Otherwise, not so much.)
As your points increase, you get more bells and whistles, such as more smiley face icons for example as well as the ability to customize your profile.
Personally, not being into eastern mysticism or religious thought, I’m not a big fan of the term. (How about "grace" as an alternative? Now, that, I can get into.)
Neither am I a fan of another term Plurk uses, "cliques." Plurk uses the term to mean "groups;" in that you can create groups of plurkers which you can message collectively.
I’ve never been a fan of cliques, mostly because I never was part of one. To me, they carry a negative stigma. While I like the functionality, I don’t care for the terminology.
Even though Plurk is communal, you can choose to send messages to one or a few plurkers via a private channel only they can see.
Like any other social network application, Plurk allows you to "friend" others. However, it takes things a step further by allowing you to become fans of others as well. I love the notification message, "so and so is now a fan of you." Makes me feel like a rock star…but only for a moment. Heh.
If you happen to be one who likes chatting with others online, then Plurk is made in the shade for you.
BTW, I asked some plurkers want they felt was the differentiating factor and/or Plurk’s value proposition and several were kind enough to respond. (Did I mention each plurk is it’s on little HTML file?) You’re welcome to add your two cents (or three…or four…etc) to the conversation, either to that thread or by leaving a comment here.
Oh, and if you’d like to friend me, I’m @pchaney. (Yes, Plurk uses the "@" symbol too.) Fan me too. That’s even better. I love that momentary rock star feeling you know.
Finally, tomorrow I’m going to talk about a recent development in Plurk user behavior, something called Plurkshops.