Twitter‘s been down in the dumps for a long time now. Downed servers, features being disabled (as of this writing, IM still hasn’t been restored). Twitter blog posts are never about new features, but instead about what has gone wrong with their system (and about how they’re “working to fix it”). Nobody knows why our favorite microblogging application’s so buggy—it might be because they use MacBook Airs, it might be because they use Vista—it could be anything!
Enter Plurk. Apparently using the wtf-is-wrong-with-Twitter buzz to generate buzz for their service, Plurk opened up to users only very recently and was (unsurprisingly) met with cheery welcome. Personal observations reveal that Twitter has become quiet of late, while Plurk is always busy.
Which can only mean more people are Plurking than Twittering! Countless people have “converted” to Plurk from Twitter—author included—and for good reason: Plurk. Kicks. Twitter’s. Ass. Why? Here’s why.
Twitter shows you a boring old list of updates—observe my timeline, for example. It’s nothing but a vertical pile of words. My Plurk timeline is a much more enjoyable place—a draggable horizontal list that makes pagination obsolete, and the page more visual instead of textual.
Threaded Plurk replies
Granted, Twitter basically allows you to reply to tweets (updates) made by other people by doing this:
But it doesn’t foster discussion (because of the fact that a reply to a tweet cannot be readily viewed by another user). Plurk encourages discussion because you can reply to a plurk (Plurk version of tweet) by clicking on it and then typing in your reply, like so:
I don’t know about you, but I’d choose the service that encourages replies. This puts the blogging in microblogging. Comments are the life of every blog—the same goes for microblogs, and as you know, people on the Interwebs are a busy bunch who don’t like having to go through a lot of work just to find conversation.
Bolden, italicize, underline, and hyperlinkify your text
Say for example I want people to check out my blog. On Twitter, I do that by typing “Hey fellas! Visit my blog at http://www.deanlozarie.com!” Whereas on Plurk, I just type in “Hey fellas! Visit my http://www.deantastic.com/ (blog)!” and the plurk would come out as “Hey fellas! Visit my blog!”
If you want to italicize the word stinky in “boogers are stinky”, just Plurk in “boogers are *stinky*” (asterisks before and after the word), and Plurk processes it and outputs it as “boogers are *stinky*” (yes, asterisks are retained). Four asterisks—two on each side of the word—make it boldface. Two underscores (“__stinky__”) will underline the word.
To the best of my knowledge, Twitter has no such formatting options. Twitter=Phail.
Karma and Smilies
To encourage user activity, Plurk employs a point system called “Karma”. Basically, the more you plurk, the more Karma you get; the less you plurk, your karma is decreased. More Karma gives you access to more features, like the ability to name your timeline, change the creature on your timeline background, change your display name, and get more smilies.
Onto smilies. Know how when you type “: – )” into your favorite instant messaging client, it turns into a 🙂 ? Twitter, very much like the French, refuses to do that for you, instead choosing to leave the semicolon, hyphen and closing parenthesis alone. Granted, : – ) and 🙂 mean pretty much the same thing, but 🙂 looks a helluva lot cooler, don’t you think?
Plurk has a whole array of animated smilies for you to use. Some of the cooler ones can only be accessed by plurkers above a certain karma threshold. Still, many websites such as this one have lots of smilies available for embedding into your plurks. Which brings me to my next point:
Ability to embed images and video onto plurks
Twitter folks type something like this: “Check out this YouTube vid: [enter URL here]”. Plurkers needn’t go through such tiresome work, thanks to the ability to embed images and video into your post. How, you ask? Simple! Say for example I want to insert this video into my plurk. All I need to do is type in some text (e.g. “check out this video”) and then the clip’s URL. Heck, I could even plurk only the video. So, I type “testing image/video insertion http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uk9QGZUYcEE” and here’s what appears:
Look closely, to the left of the “Plurk v Twitter: A First Look” mini-window, and you’ll see the plurk containing the video.
Now, in fairness to Twitter, saying that Plurk suffers from zero downtime would be preposterous. However, one thing’s fo sho: Twitter not suffering any problems is an uncommon occurence, while the reverse is true for Plurk. Right now, Twitter replies are disabled. Replies have been restored, IM functionality still down. Plurk’s all good and well. Plurk even automatically checks for new plurks and new replies for you without refreshing the page (contrary to Twitter, where if you want to check if there are any new tweets, you have to hit F5).
Overall, it’s Plurk FTW. Don’t get me wrong—Twitter used to be good, until the database crashes and server downtimes came. Plurk took over, and although the great exodus from Twitter (to Plurk) hasn’t quite happened yet, it’s bound to soon. Still, all hope is not lost for Twitter. What they have to do, IMO, is get their act together, fix their database crashes, earn some money (plaster one or two AdSense units on our pages if you have to), and then invest that money on more servers, developing more features, etc. It’s a microblogging-platform-eat-microblogging-platform world out there, and Twitter’s down for the count. Can it get back up in time?