Plurking Great

Plurkcolor I am always surprised that the makers of Web 2.0 tools don’t fully understand the dynamic and challenging nature of the communities who populate, use, build and evangelise their systems. For example, why would a hugely successful Web 2.0 property like Facebook carelessly launch Beacon? Why would Twitter NOT respond more unequivocally to claims of harrassment? Given that the business model around Web 2.0 platforms is about leveraging the mass of aggregated user data to generate insight/targeted advertising etc, how is that these platforms seem unable to gauge the temperament of their communities? Could it be that they are ape-ing big brands and are simply not listening to the abundant digital voices?

Clearly these leading Web 2.0 platforms have built what we could easily consider unassailable user bases. Facebook carries millions of users each day and has the backing of Microsoft. Twitter appears to be hovering around the 2 million user mark and has attracted a great deal of goodwill. However, what happens when shifts occur? What about extended downtime?

Twitter has successfully modified the behaviour of its user base in such a way that we have all come to rely upon it to fulfil a range of communication needs. But ongoing reliability issues has seen a number of defections to other services that have followed quickly on Twitter’s heels. One such service is Plurk.

However, when people who are used to using Twitter arrive at the Plurk interface, they encounter problems. They don’t get it. They find it confusing and unintuitive, maybe even over-engineered. I also experienced this … but felt that there was something different about Plurk. And anyway, I realised that I was looking at Plurk through my "Twitter Goggles" — and I was finding it lacking (as were others). — but I knew that I needed to allow Plurk the benefit of the doubt.

Over the last couple of months, the Plurk team have been slowly but surely improving their system. New features, improvements and so on have been appearing regularly. And earlier this week we were given a new series of selectable key words. One of my favourites is "wonders" … I found that I was using it quick consistently to communicate with my small community of followers — "Servantofchaos wonders what is going on today". "Servantofchaos wonders why he is still up late writing a blog post". It seems that the Plurkers have been  surveying the most popular "freestyle" words and have added them to the drop-down list. Great!

But while I was impressed with the simple addition of the word "wonders", I was a little surprised to see that it was coloured a dull grey. That seemed like an uninformed decision. So I wrote a message wondering why this was the case … and in the space of a couple of hours, the word "wonders" was transformed into a beautiful, vibrant colour. Were the Plurkers listening? Was it just coincidence? With my Twitter Goggles on, I would claim it was coincidence … that there was no-one listening. But I have a secret hope … that they certainly were listening to the conversation, and they went a step beyond and used this intelligence to change (ever so slightly), a system that is going from strength to strength. If they were listening, it’s plurking great!

3 thoughts on “Plurking Great

  1. The way I see it is that bloggers should respond to requests for change (after all they own the one-to-many channel) and social network hosts should, except with careful forethought, NOT.
    Nothing wrong with Beacon, it’s still running and probably will surge again soon. Facebook members were much more irate about the News Feed – 1/3 of members signed a petition (within 48 hours!) to turn off the newsfeed. Thank god Zuckerberg had the cajones to say “take a chill pill” and left it in. The Facebook Newsfeed is the most viral of marketing touch points we’ve seen, right? Anyone else would’ve “listened” to the social network and turned the newsfeed off. Big mistake.
    I often used the example that if you listen to the social network and allow it to influence your vision of how the service could be, you’ll be forever in arguments about the colour of the logos and the placement of widgets. Your plurk story proves the point. Heh.
    I think you were right to point out that grey sucks and rainbows are betterer. I think that Plurk is hard to use (with my Twitter goggles on) and can probably get a few hundred people to sign a petition to have it changed. But that doesn’t mean we’d be right.
    Social network hosts must retain a vision, strong vision, in the face of adversity of their own members.
    How many businesses or organisations (banks, supermarkets, government departments) do you know that have a strong enough belief in their brand that they would ignore a request to turn off NewsFeed – which eventually proved to be a storm in a teacup, typical of a SN getting used to something new?
    that’s my 2 cents worth and now I’ve spent it. *glum*

  2. Somehow I lost the line which says have someone listen, summarise the main network points while everyone else just keeps working – there is a balance between the members and the hosts requirements. Let the members communicate each other and let the host worry about the business side. At the end of the day, the responsibility has to be taken by someone, and blaming the network for making you make changes that didn’t work is a hiding to nowhere.

  3. You know, whether it was just you, or a number of people who asked about the color of wonder, it still shows that Plurk is exceptionally responsive- especially given the short turnaround time. Maybe they should change their name to
    Pl-customer service is out middle name -urk

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