Over the last few weeks the armchair communication developers of the world have been solving the woes of the Twitter infrastructure and communication problems. And out of all this advice Plurk has come to light.
Plurk is interesting, it’s primarily focus is a social networking message service, with a true microblogging conversation, video or image sharing on a timeline.
So in a way it’s an extension of Twitter, but a little like Pownce. It allows you to group your friends into cliques and define posts to be personal (one to one), public or just to the members of a clique. bit like the private feed in Twitter.
It has it’s good points and it’s bad. One of the bad, I still can’t get it to run on FireFox 2, I suspect it is conflicting with one of my many extensions. It works fine in Webkit and Safari.
Timeline at it’s Core
The core of the interface is the message (plurk) timeline, your friends “plurks” are strung up on the timeline. These messages can in turn be commented on. The comments remaining linked to the original plurk like comments on a blog post.
The effect of this timeline interface is that you are constantly mouse scrolling to the right to expose the past elements of the timeline (side point, you can’t use this application with a keyboard alone easily). As the plurks you commented on, build up conversation are back in the past on the timeline they very quickly get moved out of view and take a bit of effort to keep track off.
This has a two fold effect.
- It makes the commented conversations of Plurk are only for the immediate moment in time.
- The use of Plurk as a social conversational tool does work in its favour, as the comments are displayed in an immediate conversational flow (best to date 70 plurks), with the notification being easy to identify .
Whether this has been deliberately engineered this way with a formulated UX remains to be seen.
On it’s downside Plurk is very much a Beta, you will find errors in the interface and sometimes logic of the information flow all over the place. Look for them a few days later and they will be fixed or in some cases made worse. These are little things point towards a product that should have been user tested at least a little bit before release. Also the number of cross browser issue are again pointing towards what you would expect of an alpha not a beta. But that said it is early days.
Karma is not Good
Plurk uses a system of karma points, that reward the user for having conversations, inviting other friends and the like.
The results of the Karma are not rewarded for several hours after you gain them. This is I guess to stop a gamer like cause and effect response. However Plurk by it’s nature doesn’t need to have them. They are really just a waste of time.
Let me explain, sure you unlock little enhancements that you can apply as you progress in Karma points. But for me it was being told, you are a not worthy so you don’t get the extra features until you have wasted time and effort on our little game service. I don’t want to be told I’m not worthy. I don’t want to last time and be rewarded. I don’t need Plurk to force me to invite friends.
It’s interesting within my social network most people joined without invites, just signing up and finding people. No encouragement required. No Karma rewards.
That’s not all, you earn the Karma, but if you don’t constantly plurk you will start to loose points, if you swear you loose points. If you post too many URLs you loose points.
Now that’s is just plain stupid. Give the proven UX rewards, and then take them away because people are finding a use for the product that the designers didn’t think off. Sorry but that is just a total failure, a complete lack of understanding.
The more I think about it Plurk appears to have been written with people experienced more in game play than social networking and general UX.
It gets better, if you really put out a lot of messages on the public feed, and become a top plurker, it will restrict you to only being able to post to your defined cliques. Again a reward for use, is a restriction, not the UX you are really after.
Yet again this application like many SNS suffers from the problem of promoting the phishing behaviour reenforcement. To sign up and invite your friends you are encouraged to hand over your username password pairs for your Facebook, Gmail, Hotmail, MSN accounts.
Remember you want those Karma points don’t you. So can you trust the developers on Plurk. Do you know who they are, really? I didn’t think so. So why trust them with these personal details. Again this could have been thought out a little more instead of being the usual SNS developmental sheep.
Not a Twitter
It really isn’t Twitter by a long shot.
With Twitter you can drop in, read the tweets and move on, the nature of the list interface allows this, online, via IM, or the API. Plurk however is locked to the web, with a timeline that requires constant attention. Even in the IM mode it’s just a wave of messages that can be confusing as Plurk attempts (poorly) to link the comments together.
No API , No Luck
There is no API or SMS based service as yet.
This is another major show stopper. As the constant having to go back and forward to the browser is a bit of the pain with Plurk and really goes discourage it’s use during business hours. So in this way it makes it at present a more social “after hours” toy than a gathering of a social network of peers. It’s the drunken social bar of the web.
The surprising thing with Plurk is the level and rate of uptake. It has taken some traction, more than Pownce did. Still I can’t help wondering if this is just because of the flaky service that the overloaded Twitter is offering.
Overall Plurk reminds me of a IRC channel with a Twitter twist. Having an API and desktop applications is the only way I can see that it’s going to last.