As you all know, I love twitter. Twitter is the glue that holds all my “social media” sites together. When it’s down, is when I realize how much I use it. I never knew how much I wanted to use a micro-blogging system until I tried twitter. There has been a lot of twitter alternatives that has come around and Plurk is the most recent one. I must say that Plurk definitely punched twitter where it hurts. In the last week since I’ve heard about it, I’ve seen many people not only try out Plurk, but abandoned twitter for it.
So, you may be asking, “What the frick is a Plurk?” In tagline form, it “your life, your line.” Well, the first thing that you will notice with Plurk is that the interface is very pretty. It’s slick, AJAXy, very web 2.0. This is a huge pull for a lot of people. At first glance, Plurk looks like twitter formatted as a horizontal timeline. Like twitter, each post is limited to 140 characters. You also have a friends/followers system that works essentially the same as twitter. That’s really where the similarities end.
Let’s talk about the differences. First, when you plurk (that’s Plurks term for posting like tweet for twitter), a dialog box is created in your timeline. This is viewable to the public or just to your friends depend on your settings. Once your plurk is out there, other plurkers can reply to your specific plurk and it’ll shown inside that dialog box. This makes it more organized. As all twitter people know, it sometimes is confusing when you are replying to someone and you don’t hint at what tweet you were replying to.
One feature that twitter users will notice is missing is a true public timeline. What you have are user specific timelines. The default timeline is your own timeline that shows your friends and the people you follow. You can also click on a user’s name and view their timeline. The thing that is missing or unless I’m just not seeing is a public timeline of everyone’s plurks. The public timeline is one of the features that I love most about twitter. Twitter’s true power is in it’s public timeline. I can’t count how many times I’ve asked a random, yet important, question on twitter and got an answer from a random twitterer. Whether you are looking for a software recommendation, a fix for the error your computer is giving you, a cake recipe, a website to review yogurts, twitter about it and more times than not you’ll get a great and useful reply. Most of my favorite twitter friends are from me replying to someone on public timeline or vice versa. I’ve found a lot of interest, funny and intelligent people that way.
Those are the two fundamental difference between the two system. Plurk, however, offers a lot of features that twitter does not have. One cute feature that Plurk implemented is “emotions”. The textbox that you post your plurks with is prefixed with your username and then a dropbox of verbs (i.e. is, was, feels, loves, hates, thinks, etc.) to start your post with. For example, if I want to tell the plurk world how much coffee means to me, I would choose “loves” from the dropbox and type “coffee so much!!”. In my timeline, it would say “JavaJunky loves coffee so much!!”. The keyword from the dropbox are color coated so it creates a very visual map of what people are “feeling”. It’s kind of cool.
Plurk also has a karma feature that rewards use of the site. The more you use Plurk, the more karma you gain. As you reach different levels of karma, you unlock different features like new emoticons (yes, there are emoticons). This creates a little mini-game that keeps people addicted.
Plurk also supports the sharing media from sites like Flickr and YouTube. This is a feature that I really love. You can easily post the URL to a YouTube video page and in your dialog box will be a thumbnail of the video that when clicked will pop up the video AJAX style and play it for you right there on your Plurk page. It works the same with Flickr page URL’s. The only thing that really bugs me with the Flickr parsing is that the direct link that it creates jumps to the jpg of the image instead of going to the Flickr page of that photo. This really annoys me because when I share one of my Flickr photos, I want my friends to be able to jump to the page so that they can read the description of my photo or comment on it. I’ve been putting in my own link (example) in addition to the Flickr URL in my plurks now. Hopefully, they will fix that in the future.
I’ve been using Plurk for a week now. It’s great and it’s addictive. It’s definitely a time sink. You’ll find yourself waiting for the next response in all the plurks in your timeline. There are definitely things I would change. First, I think all the responses in a plurk dialog box should be timestamped. That can’t be difficult and it would really be good to know when someone wrote something relative to others. Second, the Flickr direct link issue. This is my personal issue with it, but it bugs me enough to mention it. Third, and this one would take Plurk to a new level, is to have an open API. I’m not 100% sure that they don’t, but I can’t find one. Having one will allow sweet applications like Spaz, Twhirl and Twitteriffic for twitter. Thus freeing the user from having to use just the web interface as pretty as it is.
As it stands, I would definitely recommend trying it out. It’s very easy to get into it. Plurk, for me, is like a timeline based system where every plurk is a mini chatroom that is started with the initial plurked statement. For you twitter fans who haven’t tried Plurk and are wondering if you should, I still say try it. It’s a different experience. It definitely is more stable (the Achille’s heal of twitter). For me, I like twitter more. Is it because I think it’s better? No, I don’t think either of them are better. They serve different purposes and I will be using both. Maybe if Plurk in the future provides an open API so that all my social media sites and my websites can read and write to it, I’ll start favoring it.