Saturday, June 07, 2008

Twitter vs Plurk, who wins?

The last week or so has seen a flurry of talk on Twitter about a new micro-messaging site called Plurk. Plurk lets you leave 140-ish character messages to friends, so it immediately garnered comparisions to Twitter. It's quirky timeline UI and odd graphics (headless animals?!?) makes it a clear contrast to Twitter, whose animals all have their appropriate body parts.

Two things I have noticed after using Plurk for the last week:

1 - Almost everyone HATES it when they first use it.

2 - The people that keep using it anyway usually find that they like Plurk once they get a hang of the UI and functionality.

So which site is better? Which one wins? Will Plurk be the competitor that finally 'kills' Twitter?

All of these questions are the wrong ones to ask. Plurk offers a different experience than Twitter. And whereas Twitter is aimed at adults, Plurk's graphics and UI is more aimed at teens. But its environment encourages adults to act like teens. This creates a very open and fun experience.

What Plurk has done is keep the 140/160 character limit that's the backbone of micro-messaging competitors such as Twitter and Pownce, but has created a completely unique interface and branding. If you are a fan of micro-messaging/blogging, you should welcome this because Plurk is pushing the boundaries of the space. Now the next competitor in this space is more likely to keep the 140-ish character format, but offer an even different experience aimed at a different market.

But what does all this mean to you? Is Plurk worth your time?

The thing I love about Twitter is that it's a place where you have fun, but that you can also network and see professional gains as well. Plurk is a place where we can all 'let our hair down' (hit-tip @BethHarte), and is sorta the Happy Hour version of Twitter.

But that also means it has the potential to become a huge time sink with little to show for those hours other than a lot of fun. Which is fine, but it definitely means you might have to balance the time you spend there.

As with everything else concerning Plurk, your mileage may vary. I think it's a great little micro-messaging site and a load of fun. Give it a few days and see what you think. But again, don't just visit it once and never come back, because you likely WILL hate the layout the first time you see it, especially if you are a fan of Twitter.

Here's some additional tips to help you navigate Plurkville:

1 - The timeline shows the most recent plurks (messages left on Plurk) at the left. As new ones show up, the older ones are pushed further to the right.

2 - Read a plurk by mousing over it. If you want to reply to it, simply click on it and a drop-down menu pops up where you can leave your reply. Here is the beauty of Plurk, as conversations are organized beneath each plurk! And if you want to keep up with just one conversation (as the plurk you are replying to will continue to move to the right of the timeline, making it harder to keep up with), on the drop-down menu for the plurk, click 'Plurk page'. This gives the conversation its own page in a format that's very similar to Twitter. Hat-tip to Connie Reece for discovering this!

3 - You can set which plurks are seen on your timeline. You can watch only those you have left, private ones left for you, and those left by you and your friends. Do this by clicking the drop-down menu on the right side of the bottom of the screen. You can also select the day you want to watch.

4 - If you mouse over a person's name, an arrow pops up, leading to a drop-down menu that lets you leave the user a private plurk, view their profile, or view their friends.

5 - If you absolutely hate the plurk interface and are ready to run screaming back to Twitter, try out the mobile version of Plurk, it's closer to what you are familiar with from Twitter.

But give Plurk a shot before you dismiss it. And how can you not love the error page that Plurk showed a few lucky users? Hat-tip to Sonny Gill.

UPDATE: As an interesting aside, as soon as this post went live, I posted a link to it on both Plurk and Twitter. In the next 30 mins, I got 9 traffic referrals from Plurk, 8 from Twitter. But I only have 137 people following me on Plurk, and almost 10 times that (1,366) following me on Twitter. Not sure what that proves, but I think it's interesting.


Hire Mack!


Noise River said...

I think that I will keep Twitter and Plurk too... They're not so similar, but I like them both ! =)

Mack Collier said...

Joris I am thinking that it could get to the point where my business/industry oriented discussions stay on Twitter, but Plurk is where I go to have fun. I do both on Twitter now, but I could see that changing. Right now they both offer different and complimentary, experiences.

Unknown said...

Very fair posting.

Unknown said...

Maybe I'm showing my age, but Plurk.... is just yuck.

I've tried it and even though I've at ADD, its a bit too much on the interface for me.

Perhaps its my programming background influencing me here, Twitter's much cleaner... and I can easily find things. Plurk... is just... uggg, a hassle is probably putting it nicely.

Good write up though Mack.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mack, thanks for the mention. True, I was very frustrated by getting started with Plurk but now I really like it and as I get to know it more, I like the UI. Other than being less 'stiff' than Twitter for conversations, I like that you can actually *see* multiple responses to a plurk. To me, that's more of a normal conversation and how a conversation is processed. With Twitter, seeing a one-sided response and responding to it can lead to some confusing tweets at times.

Ken Stewart said...

Great post. I enjoyed the read. I have been interested in others opinions of Plurk, and even wrote my own post a few days back:

I really think you nailed it when you said you can let your hair down. The conversations are much more relaxed - and at times a little innane.

I'm seeing a 2nd phase begin as those scrambling for friends and Karma in the beginning are now understanding that the concept of following hundreds or thousands of people in Plurk is not possible nor advisable (per FAQ's).

As such, it will be interesting to see what happens, and you are correct also in the fact that you can throw an hour in and not realize where it went ;-)

Ken Stewart

Anonymous said...

This is one of the best articles that I've read about the differences between plurk and twitter.

I can't wait until we get some desktop apps for plurk and have IM is more stable. Twitter could learn from Plurks implementation of cliques and responses.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Mack, and a clear and fair discussion of the differences.

In my mind, if social media were a carnival, Plurk is a little more like the funhouse. That's consistent with its interface, which leaves newbies a little queasy and unsteady at first. Twitter is a like a ferris wheel. It moves more predictably, and while it does, it can give you some pretty awesome, high-level views.

Mack Collier said...

Guys thanks for the comments. Vaughn I am really excited to see what happens when search sites and desktop clients start popping up for Plurk like we have for Twitter. Truth be told, Twhirl is the main reason why I use Twitter so much. I cannot stand the web ver, the automatically updating that Twhirl does is what makes it. And Plurk has that built-in from the start.

Ann love your funhouse/ferris wheel analogy! I'm torn on Plurk, in one way I want to be able to use it as more of a networking/business tool to justify spending more time there, but then again it's so much fun right now that I don't want it to change!

Funny cause last night I put on plurk that I was going to write this post, and a couple of people responded with 'great, now everyone will know about Plurk' LOL And that's kinda the thing, Plurk's like our treehouse club that we don't want the parents to find out about.

Anonymous said...

Nice post, Mack. Totally agree in testing it out for a few days and get a better understanding of the actual system. It took me several days to realize how I need to utilize it to have a decent user experience.

Zac Martin said...

I quite like the quirkiness of Plurk but it might put a few people out of place. I believe it functions much better than Twitter with the time line and the ability to have mini conversations.

On the Plurk Bot's page, the description reads "Like MySpace's Tom but cooler."

Anonymous said...

Never used Twitter or Plurk. Does this make me old:)?

Is it possible to ignore these types of social media? Are they fads? Think of certain platforms that used to exist 5 years ago but do no longer. Will Twitter be here to stay?

Unknown said...

Mack, like everyone I hated Plurk initially. I still find it a bit confusing but I have not given up on it. Plurk certainly makes it easier to follow conversation threads and has a more intimate feel to it. In some ways it reminds me of the early days of Twitter when there was a smaller group of people and it felt like a little discussion group. I can't see following as many on Plurk as I do Twitter but definitely will keep it in the toolbox for now. :-)

Mack Collier said...

In my mind, the emergence of Plurk is a validation of the micro-blogging format, and esp Twitter. Plurk has a completely unique UI, and that opens the door for the next competitor in this space to adopt their own 'look' and target market.

That was the whole point of the post, it's not an either/or thing with Twitter and Plurk.

Tim Jackson said...

Mack- great post, as usual, and a really fair analysis- just like Handley said.

Here's the thing though, for me, I still believe that Plurk (outside of the cartoonish look) could become a great professional resource. The locked, private conversations can be really great tools. I am having an easier time and more fun using Plurk vs Twitter. Plus, as a professional resource, Twitter is just too damned unreliable and is showing no signs of really getting better. I hope that they do rebuild and get their act together... but signs so far are not at all good.

I think we do have to cut Twitter some slack and allow them to go through this growing phase, but they really need to get their act together if they plan to remain an asset and not a distraction plagued with problems.

Plurk was down the other night, but they announced it and acted WAY more proactive/ responsive. So far, in my view, Plurk is winning the PR battle very handily.

I think that Plurk still has some growing and refining to do, but look at how fast it has been changing and how well it is so far handling the huge increases in traffic.

The conversations on Plurk have been a lot of fun and certainly very silly, but there have also been many worthwhile convos going on too. As more folks give it a try and we all settle in to using the platform, I sincerely believe it could prove to serve both functions of fun and work. Could it be the Twitter Killer? Um, maybe I guess. For me, it has already- just because the constant outages with Twitter finally chased me away. I'll keep checking on Twitter for important news I might miss on Plurk, but Plurk has taken over as my online timesink.

I'll see you and your danged dancing banana later on Plurk.

Mack Collier said...

Tim I think I would like to see Plurk become a professional resource as well. Course that might all but kill my Twitter use if it does.

But here's the thing; I think it is going to be hard for us to convince people that are new to micro-blogging, to get their feet wet with Plurk. I mean many of these people get nervous just looking at Twitter, so you can imagine the panic that would ensue over Plurk. It's NOT for newbies. Even those that are seasoned Twitterers are wrinkling their noses at Plurk when they arrive.

We'll have to see what happens. Plenty of forks in the road for Plurk right now it seems.

Unknown said...

Despite your uber helpful tips in this post - plurk is certainly NO TWitter killer - plurk plurk!

I'll take my TWitter ANY day & twice on Sundays - even when it goes down - b/c Plurk has had more tech errors since its inception - and it's only just the beginning.

I'll stay loyal to Twitter - thank you very much.

now quit plurkin! And get your arshe back to Twitter! u know u wanna!


Mack Collier said...

Why does everyone want to keep making this a fight between Plurk and Twitter? LOL! Both can be used in different ways and for diff purposes. Doesn't have to be an either/or choice.

Gavin Heaton said...

I think we keep looking at this through our Twitter Goggles (ie that we look at Plurk with a deep understanding and heavy investment in Twitter). My take is that they are fundamentally different ... and the resistance we see to Plurk (my own included) is because of this. (Will write a post on this later.)

But I do think Plurk has legs and I expect a business use to appear. After all, Twitter started out the same way. It was only that the community unearthed a business value through its use -- that did not come from Twitter. It's all about the people ;)

Geoff_Livingston said...

Twitter has become more professional for me, and I find myself spending less time on it these days. On the otherhand, Plurk is where I go to have fun. Not sure if any of that makes sense. And I have only been using Plurk for a few days, but they do have distinct differences.

Mack Collier said...

Geoff that's exactly how I see Twitter/Plurk going for me. But I can use Twitter for fun/business, but may have to def cut back on either it or Plurk. Have enough time sinks as it is ;)

Anonymous said...

"Whoever Wins... We Lose." -AVP

Anonymous said...

Funny no one has mentioned Mack's big return on the click thrus from Plurk. I think that's very telling.

Perhaps, a more intimate community means higher click through rates. Like this great article on niche networks from LongTail.

Anonymous said...

I just posted about Twitter and all the things I like about it over in my blog today - I'm a big Twitter fan. Now it looks like I'll have to at least give Plurk a try. Thanks for the comparison and piquing my interest a little bit about Plurk!

Mack Collier said...

Ms Single Mama, the people I follow on Plurk are definitely more connected, at least for now ;)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info. Found your link via copyblogger. I appreciate all you smart people figuring this out for us rookies!

Anonymous said...

"But I only have 137 people following me on Plurk, and almost 10 times that (1,366) following me on Twitter. Not sure what that proves, but I think it's interesting."

Maybe because when we join a new social site, it's always the closer friends you invite and become connected first. So the average of those followers' "closeness" to you could be much higher among the 137 people on Plurk than the 1366 ones on Twitter. Thus, the former will be much more inclined to pay attention to everything you post.

Kim Haynes Hollenshead said...

Thanks for such a great primer!

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who liked Plurk from the start and who found it easy to use? I'm not a teen, I'm a 61 year old grandmother.

Putra said...

I really love using twitter because this is a very simple social network to be able to easily update the status whenever and wherever
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