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Plurk You

I’ve been wanting to write about Plurk for a while. Everyone seemed to be so enamored with it when it first launched, but maybe that was because Twitter was experiencing serious downtime and people were pissed off — not because it was anything actually worth being excited about.

The first time I logged on, I had an immediate visceral reaction against it. The UI is so chaotic that I don’t know where to look first and can’t concentrate on anything. Worse, I don’t understand the need it’s trying to fill: what is the use case in which I need to see a color-coded visual timeline of my friend’s messages? What does the backwards-chronological list not accomplish?

I’m very task-oriented when I’m on the computer — I don’t play online games and I don’t watch a lot of web shows (with the exception of Two Guys on Beer, of course). My point is that I tend not to stare at any single page for very long before clicking to go somewhere else or closing the window. Plurk requires a certain amount of sit-and-stare that just doesn’t fit my style.

However, there was something about my initial use of Plurk that I really did like — their onboarding process. It reminds me a lot of the first-time user experience of Shine from Yahoo!, which I wrote about when it was released in March.

Like on Shine, Plurk greets new users with a welcome message that offers a guided tour to orient the user to the page. The visual design aside (it’s atrocious), I think the walkthrough is successful because it is lightweight, fluid and only five steps.

Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Step 4

Step 5

What Plurk actually does more successfully than Shine is provide a link right in the footer to access the “Get started guide” for subsequent use. I couldn’t find it anywhere on the Shine site when I first reviewed it, though who knows, they may have added it since.

So no, I’m not going to be using Plurk, and it’s far from being a replacement for Twitter, even in the worst of downtimes. But I gotta give credit where credit is due — they did this one thing right. Now completely rethink your branding and color palette and timeline design, and maybe you’ll have a product worth talking about.

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  • http://design.yahoo.com/ xian

    At Yahoo we call these “feature cues” (y! mail uses them too). I’ve got a pattern in the queue (no pun intended).

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gaurav-Wasan/620008511 Gaurav Wasan

      I want to bring to your attention http://www.emote.in

      Emote is a concept of sharing emotions, built over microblogging with full functionality of a social-networking site and a beautiful scrolling TIMELINE ( http://www.emote.in/misc/images/timeline.JPG )

      emote is a microblogging service; which is a platform to –
      1. broadcast and share your emotions with your family, friends and with the entire world.
      2. Make yourself heard, comment on news, stories and current affair.
      3. Share your experiences, memories and events with your friends and family.
      4. Connect with different people with similar emotional attributes as yours.
      (ex: if atrocities on animals make you sad, connect with others who share the same feeling)
      5. Jot-down your experiences. You usually have so many things to say – a constant stream of thoughts, comments and observations running through your head continuously.

      6. A wonderful TIMELINE that arranges your messages in a chronological order date by date.
      (A prominent micro-blog reviewer thinks so!)
      http://emote.in/notice/2595

      Sometimes, the important connections we make are the ones we make with ourselves.

  • http://www.plurk.com/user/disneyr Richard Disney

    I fully admit that Plurk is not for everyone. Plurk takes more time and is conducive to conversation which with the “mute” control is very manageable.

    I still use Twitter but to me Twitter is like shouting in a crowded room where everyone is wearing earplugs; ie don’t expect a reply.

    In Plurk it is like being at a cool party with good people (not necessarily there to get something from you) with sometimes conversations and sometimes not. Plurk may not be as effective a marketing tool as Twitter (when Twitter is working) but it is much more fun.

    Of course each to his own.

  • http://paul-blunden.com/ Paul Blunden

    Thanks for going through the process and also highlighting plurk, I had never come across it. Like you I use twitter and don’t need another in my life, which kind of made me wonder whether twitter will become the ebay of ‘stream of consciousness’ web authoring? Time for another glass of vino I think.

  • http://www.plurk.com/user/TheDudeDean The Dude Dean

    You are very wrong about Plurk, its better than both Pownce and Twitter. You just suffer from Internet ADD.

  • http://synapticburn.com/ David Malouf

    Hi Whitney,
    I think plurk like all the micro-blogs is a personal choice. I feel some people get it and some don’t and like those that choose a Camry over an Accord … Why I have no idea? ;-) … There are different flavors for different folks.

    Why I stick w/ Plurk (AND live on Twitter as well).

    1. Its a conversation centric UI that still affords a visual time-based layout.

    2. It has controls so that you are not overwhelmed.

    3. There are a notifications for both the threads & new threads (BTW, Twinkle for iPhone seems to have an interesting notification of replies and direct messages in their app, but the app is unstable on my iPhone.)

    What is missing?
    1. My peeps!!! – They just don’t have the critical mass there, except for my Aussie UX friends who seemed to love Plurk like Brazilians on Orkut. They keep saying G-day, I don’t understand. ;-)

    2. No API, so I can’t pick and choose my favorite way of working.

    3. Related to #2 is a lack of a truly solidly designed mobile experience.

    4. Limited aggregater support. I’m less concerned about the friend feed type aggregation than I am about the Ping.fm thing (which it is on). But other apps like Loopt and TwitXR that I use a lot do not support Plurk (yet, I hope).

    Now back to the UI. I think the thing that has thrown most people is the timeline. I do think it is a red herring of sorts, but people have their reactions to it and so be it. I can see the system working as well vertically as it does horizontally, but the novelty factor wouldn’t be there which I still find interesting. Again, this could easily be taken care of with a good API like Twitter that allows for anyone to interpret their own thing. I mean look at Twittelator, Twitterific and Twinkly on iPhone (and that is a pretty small platform); Twhirl, TweetDeck and Spaz are also pretty different.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts on Plurk. BAsically, I think if drew out the conversation more and the timeline less, they improved mobile, and added an API it would be GREAT! as a true microblogging site b/c like a real blog (like this one) the comments would be completely contextualized with the original blog. Oh! I think they should remove the 140 character limit. It just ain’t necessary.

  • Jenn Claire

    I find Plurk really usable, actually and having loads of fun with it. :)

    anyway, since we are all fellow UX practitioners here, you might be interested in reading about the backward timeline design from Plurk's design lead himself: http://alvinwoon.com/blog/2008/08/11/the-case-o

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gaurav-Wasan/620008511 Gaurav Wasan

    I want to bring to your attention http://www.emote.in

    Emote is a concept of sharing emotions, built over microblogging with full functionality of a social-networking site and a beautiful scrolling TIMELINE ( http://www.emote.in/misc/images/timeline.JPG )

    emote is a microblogging service; which is a platform to –
    1. broadcast and share your emotions with your family, friends and with the entire world.
    2. Make yourself heard, comment on news, stories and current affair.
    3. Share your experiences, memories and events with your friends and family.
    4. Connect with different people with similar emotional attributes as yours.
    (ex: if atrocities on animals make you sad, connect with others who share the same feeling)
    5. Jot-down your experiences. You usually have so many things to say – a constant stream of thoughts, comments and observations running through your head continuously.

    6. A wonderful TIMELINE that arranges your messages in a chronological order date by date.
    (A prominent micro-blog reviewer thinks so!)
    http://emote.in/notice/2595

    Sometimes, the important connections we make are the ones we make with ourselves.

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