As you might have heard, I've been spending a lot of time with Plurk lately. One think that differentiates Plurk from other microblogging sites is that each user has a 'karma' number. Most of us didn't really know much about this number, other than it seemed to be tied to which emoticons you get, as you hit 25 you get about a dozen new ones to use in plurks, at 50 you get about another dozen.
But there was no shortage of speculation about how this number was calculated. But earlier this week, Plurk better explained how their karma score was calculated on their blog. One of the ways they explain to raise your karma score is by plurking each day, and getting responses to your plurks.
Unfortunately, over the last couple of days, I have noticed a big increase in plurks that basically repeat themselves. Here's an example:
12:36am 'Wow it's already after midnight, getting sleepy!'
12:39am 'Ok getting close to bed-time!'
12:43am 'I have GOT to close Plurk and go to sleep! Nite guys!'
12:45am 'Ok I am REALLY going now! zzzzzzzzz'
Now that looks like 4 plurks for the price of one to me. I'm also noticing that the people that do this tend to also be the ones that constantly update their karma levels, and mention how it must be going up because of all the plurks they are leaving!
I understand Plurk's thinking here, they believe if they tie karma scores to participation, that an active and lively community-site will be the result. The problem is, unless that community is already in place, then all you have is a buncha individuals looking out for their best interests, not what's best to help create a community. You have individuals looking to do whatever it takes to get their karma scores up, while everyone else is looking at their timelines and seeing the quality of plurks being left going downhill fast.
And it's not just Plurk. Think back to how the Z-List grew and evolved. At first, the Z-List was truly a community-driven project. Everyone on the list at first realized that it was about putting the spotlight on other deserving bloggers. Which caused it to take off like a rocket. Unfortunately, it eventually grew to the point where it reached bloggers that had no sense of the community that was pushing it, and started using the list to promote themselves, not the larger community. That's when it began to fizzle and lose steam.
This is what I'm beginning to see with Plurk. At first it was like we had all found this cool new hangout. Now that everyone is beginning to realize how they can boost their individual karma, the quality of plurks being created as a whole, seems to be falling. Now to their credit, The A-Team has been very receptive to community-feedback so far, so hopefully they'll consider changes to the karma system, or scrapping it altogether.
But the bigger question here is, does any sort of ranking/authority system that puts the focus on the individual on a site such as plurk, hurt the chances that a community will form? Or is the question too broad? Could competition spur individuals to create something that a community can form around? That certainly seems to be working for Threadless, but not as well for Plurk.
As with so much in life, it seems the devil is in the details.
Tags:The Viral Garden, Marketing