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The Main Difference Between Twitter and Plurk (to me)

Over the last week I’ve been experimenting with a social messaging/micro blogging service called Plurk. Over the last week I’ve seen many comparisons between it and Twitter – but wanted to show one of the main differences that I’ve observed:

To illustrate let me show you a ‘tweet’ and a ‘plurk’ message that I posted an hour ago:

I shot this question out to my ‘followers/friends’ on both services – “What is the #1 reason that you blog?”

The response was instantaneous on both services. I got great replies on both. There were many more Twitter answers than Plurk ones – but that is because I have around 10 times as many ‘friends’ on Twitter as I do on Plurk.

However there is one main difference….

The responses that emerged on Twitter were a whole lot of individuals responding to me in isolation. Your followers on Twitter don’t know what other people have answered.

On Twitter I saw this page a few minutes after I asked the question:

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There’s some great responses there – (and there were another 60 or so) but the problem is I was the only person who saw them ALL.

On Plurk the responses are all grouped together – not only for you to see but for your followers to see also.

Here’s the beginning of the responses on Plurk a few minutes after I plurked:

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If you scrolled down further you see that I added a followup question – something that people responded to in the thread:

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You can actually view the full Plurk conversation on this page.

This style of conversation means that everyone benefits from the whole conversation – not just me. It means that it’s not unusual for conversations to emerge between your friends as well as between you and your individual friends.

The other thing that I like about Plurk is that conversations are contained and don’t get as mixed up as they do on Twitter.

10 minutes after asking the question on Twitter my ‘replies’ page contained all kinds of messages. Some were still responding to the first question I asked, some to the followup, others were responding to earlier tweets, some had moved on to new topics with me….

Which is Best?

This is the question I’m being asked more and more. Is Plurk ‘better’ than Twitter? My answer is generally that I think both are great. You see there are times where the more communal, multidirectional conversation that Plurk offers is brilliant – but there are other times where you don’t necessarily need it and where the more one on one conversation is more effective.

I also get the feeling that while there is a definite overlap between Twitter and Plurk in terms of who is using them – that there’s a different kind of person using each one. Plurk seems to have emerged out of a younger crowd than Twitter – perhaps this is more useful in some circumstances also.

Top 10 Plurk Users Statistics – What’s the Karma Algorithm

As a quick followup to my last post on my experimentation with Plurk I thought I’d do a quick analysis of the top 10 Plurk Users (as currently rated on the Interesting page). They are rated there on a basis of their ‘Karma’. There’s no explicit definition of the way that they calculate Karma except:

“Your karma score is directly influenced by you and your friends Plurk activity. The more active you are, the more points you’ll get. Using various features of Plurk such as instant messaging or uploading a profile image will also help. Invite your real friends to boost your karma!”

So lets look at some of the average statistics of the top Plurkers and see what seems to count towards a high Karma:

  • # of Plurks – 838
  • # of Plur Responses – 3477
  • # of Friend Invites – 10.2
  • # of Profile Views – 689
  • # of Friends – 82
  • # of Fans – 56
  • Length of time on Plurk – 3 months
  • Also worth noting – all of the top 10 had logged in and been active within the last 24 hours. They are all active in the short term as the long term

I was a little surprised by a couple of the numbers. The description of Karma seems to indicate that inviting friends would count for a fair bit – but the average of the top 10 is 10. The most any of them had invited successfully was 20. Having said that – the 9th ranked Plurker was well under average with # of plurks, responses, profile views, fans and length of time but had the most friend invites so perhaps they do count for something.

Add a ProBlogger Tab to Your FriendFeed

If you are a FriendFeed user AND you like ProBlogger – you might want to check out a greasemonkey script for Firefox users that Duncan created that puts a ProBlogger tab to the top right hand corner of your FriendFeed page.

It means you can view ProBlogger from within FriendFeed – like this (click to enlarge):

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He’s also made some others for other blogs and also Gmail and Google Reader (among others) which means you can use FriendFeed as a start page for lots of sites. Grab the ProBlogger Script here.

Playing with Plurk

PlurkJust a very quick post to let readers know that I’m playing with Plurk (another micro blogging/life streaming tool that is a little like Twitter).

At first I only intended to grab my names (problogger and darrenrowse) and use them as placeholders but I’m now starting to find it a really interesting medium. It takes the Twitter experience to the next level with threaded comments, cliques/groups (yet to explore these) and all kinds of other features.

It’s a little quirky and it takes a while to get used to the way updates are displayed (it’s all on a sideways scrolling timeline) but it’s definitely got some potential. Anyway – if you have time in your life for another social media site – check out Plurk. At the least it could be worth reserving your name/s in case it does get popular and you want to use it at some point in the future.

PS – if you’re a ‘Plurker’ tell us what you think about it in comments below. What do you like about it, what don’t you like about it and how would you describe it?

Twitter is a Complete Waste of Time!

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Every time I’ve written about Twitter (or FriendFeed or most other social media) I see comments left saying ‘Twitter is a waste of time’.

My response is simple – yes it is.

Twitter is a waste of time…. unless you use it in a way that isn’t.

  • Twitter can be a waste of time just like blogging can be a waste of time.
  • Twitter can be a waste of time just like going to conferences and talking to people face to face can be a waste of time.
  • Twitter can be a waste of time just like other micro-blogging/life streaming/social messaging tools like Plurk and FriendFeed.
  • Twitter can be a waste of time just like talking on the phone can be a waste of time.

I would argue that there’s never been a type of communication invented that can’t be used in a way that is a waste of time.

The key is the way you use it.

Twitter can be beneficial to bloggers in many ways (I’ve written 9 ways that Twitter benefits me here) but the key is to work out how you want it to benefit you and to go about using the tool (and it’s nothing more than a tool) in a way that takes you a step closer to it paying off in those ways.

If you’re just on Twitter because everyone else is and you’re using it in an unfocused way then you’re unlikely to see it as anything more than a waste of time.

I would also add that I don’t think Twitter is ever going to be something that everyone should use.

The way people talk about Twitter (or any other type of social media tool) sometimes reminds me of how people used to talk about Blogging.

Four or Five years ago I heard people speaking about blogging as though it’s the answer to every problem that a company or individual might have with their online presence. It was claimed that blogging could do almost everything and fix any issue you faced. The truth is that blogging can be great but it’s not right for every situation. The same is true for Twitter.

It takes a certain type of personality to click with Twitter and it will only ever meet some of your needs and even then, only if you’re smart about it.

If not, it could well be a waste of time!

A Question to Ask about Your Use of Any Medium

When looking at Twitter, or any medium for that matter, the question to ponder early on is ‘what are my goals?’ Once you have them nailed down you then have a framework to begin to think about how you’ll use it and how you measure whether it’s a worthwhile medium to use.

So what are your goals for Twitter?

MU vs NING for Community Building

This is a guest post by Roni of GreenLiteBites. Roni has developed a successful online community, BlogToLose, to support her weight loss blog WeightWatchen.

In 2005, I started a blog to track my weight loss progress after joining Weight Watchers. Initially, the site was a very egocentric attempt to be accountable on my weight loss journey. However, as I started to get some regular visitors my blog began to change. In addition to reaching my own goals, my focus turned to helping others reach theirs. I polled my readers, asking if they’d be interesting in connecting with one another if I gave them a space to blog. The response I received was and astounding “YES!”.

My initial solution was WordPress MU. If you don’t know, MU is the multi-user version of the famous WordPress blogging platform. Installing it was a cinch, but customizing it and managing it was a bit of a different story. Despite the problems and time commitment, my idea worked! I built a community of about 1600 people (600 blogs) interesting in communicating, sharing experiences, changing their eating habits and losing weight. Consequently, the traffic and popularity of my blog grew as I now had a community of people supporting it.,

However, after a year of managing the users, the site and the SPAM, I sought out another solution. MU was great and some of my users loved the control they had on their blogs, but overall my novice users felt intimidated and overwhelmed and I was getting burnt out supporting it all on my own.

Then, a few months ago, a friend asked if I heard of NING. NING allows you to easily develop a robust network (community) with minimal or no programming. Unlike MU there is no installation involved. There is absolutely no upfront development to get off the ground. A few clicks of the mouse and you have an online community shell with forums, user blogs, templates, etc.

I successfully launched the NING community 3 weeks ago and with 485 users it’s growing faster then I ever imagined. As suspected, my novice users are ecstatic about the easy to use interface. However, my advanced users are a bit discontent about the loss of control on the new site.

Currently, I’m running and managing both the orignal MU community and the new NING social network. Both have thier pros and cons…

  WordPress MU NING
Installation & Set up Need your own server space, php, mySQL Complete hosted solution with no cost for the basics
User Tools Nothing beyond the base WordPress admin, unless you install or program them yourself Comes with base tool set, RSS feeds, forums, ability to create groups, user profile page with comment wall, etc.
Customization Full access to open source code but must know how to program Drag and drop customization for basics but can request access to code for more advanced control
Message boards Not integrated but can install BBpress and share user database for integration. Included but can not customize unless you request access to code
Chat Not integrated Not integrated without 3rd party widget
User Pages Users have control over blog and can add posts as well as pages Users have no ability to add their own pages
Friends Feature Not integrated Included in basic solution
Community Messaging Not Integrated Included in basic solution
Ad integration Easily include ads in community pages and user templates Must pay monthly fee for ability to include ads
SPAM control Hard to mange without installing plugins for captcha and comment spam control Integrated captcha for new user sign up
Privacy Options Nothing beyond basic flag for "I would like my blog to be visible" Community control over access level for non-members and individual user control for thier own blogs.
Support Large user base and therefore a lot of online support and user generated plug ins. Not as many users but online support is growing.

Overall, both solutions offer a great start for building an online community to support your blog. MU is a great solution for those who have programming knowledge or access to programmers while NING offers a nice base of community features for those with minimal programming experience.

Come Join us in the ProBlogger Room on FriendFeed

Most regular readers of ProBlogger will know that I’ve been playing quite heavily with Twitter over the last few months. I’ve found it to be a very fruitful exercise.

Over the last month or two FriendFeed has been another tool that many bloggers are also playing with. I’ve dabbled with it (my FriendFeed Account is here) bot to this point am still trying to get my head around it (would love to see some good tutorials on how others are using it).

In the last 24 hours FriendFeed have added a new feature – Rooms. Most people that I see are still trying to work out what to do with rooms but from what I can see they could be useful – so I’ve started a ProBlogger Room to see what we can do with it. If you’re on FriendFeed and want to ‘play’ in our room – come join us.

If all we discover together is that rooms don’t work – we’ll learn something – but hopefully in the process we’ll get to know each other a little more and learn more about FriendFeed.

What Are The Unspoken Rules of Social Networks?

Bruce Simmons asks:

Social Network sites like Digg and StumbleUpon and what not seem to have unspoken rules about who can promote a blog. What I mean to say or ask is: OK, with Digg, one cannot submit their own blog. But Twitter, you can chest thump all day long.

Do have a list of what sites you can ‘chest thump’ on and other sites that you are reader dependent on?

What are social networking sites?

This is an interesting topic, and I feel that we should start with some very basic information. Contrary to what some people might think, social networks were not born online with Friendster and MySpace. Social network, in fact, is a very old term used to describe any social group where individuals and/or organizations form a specific structure with nodes and connections. Here is the Wikipedia definition:

A social network is a social structure made of nodes (which are generally individuals or organizations) that are tied by one or more specific types of interdependency, such as values, visions, idea, financial exchange, friends, kinship, dislike, conflict, trade, web links, sexual relations, disease transmission (epidemiology), or airline routes. The resulting structures are often very complex.

The Internet completely changed the way people used to communicate and interact, so it was a natural step to create virtual social networks, or social networking websites. Back in 1979 Usenet, a global Internet discussion system, was already attempting to accomplish this.

Then in 1995 you had perhaps the first online social network as we known them today, ClassMates.com, which the purpose was to allow school mates to connect.

What about social bookmarking sites?

While websites like Digg and StumbleUpon do have a social factor, I don’t think we can classify them on the same level as MySpace or Friendster. Mainly because they have different scopes: the first two aim to let people share and discover new websites and online stories; the second two aim to let people with similar interests connect online.

You could consider Digg and StumbleUpon a sub-category of social networking sites, for example. Social bookmarking sites is what I would call them, but you have many other definitions floating around, including community bookmarking sites and social news aggregators.

Centralized vs. Decentralized Social Networks

Now that we have a clear understanding of social networks and social bookmarking sites, let’s get back to the central question. What are the unspoken rules of these websites? When someone can promote his own content directly, and when one should refrain from doing so?

In order to draw the line that divides the accepted and unaccepted behaviors, I think that we need to classify those social networking sites under two different groups: centralized social networks and decentralized social networks.

Note: That is a classification that I came up with, so I am not sure if it has being used in the past or not, and if with the same meaning. Feel free to suggest other interpretations or to disagree with my theory in the comments below.

Centralized social networks are those where the actions of the single elements will inevitably affect the whole community. That is, all the actions flow to the center.

Digg is an example of a centralized social network. Every time you submit a story, digg or bury a story submitted from another user, ask for votes or try to manipulate the system in your favor, your actions are inevitably affecting the whole community.

Centralizednetwork

That is because all members of Digg use the front page of the different sections to stay updated with the hot stories around the website.

The same principle applies to StumbleUpon. The central part of their system is the “Stumble!” button on the toolbar. Virtually all the members use that button to discover new and interesting websites. As a consequence, whenever you give a thumbs up or a thumbs down to a particular story, and whenever you share the stories you liked with friends, you are affecting the experience of all the other members of the community.

Twitter, on the other, is a decentralized social network. There is no central or core location where the actions of the single elements flow to. The system allows you to create you own micro communities, and your actions inside those communities will not affect people outside of them.

Decentralizednetwork

That is, you can decide who you follow, and other people in turn will decide if they want to follow you back or not. Suppose someone starts using Twitter solely to promote his own website. Users that are not following that person will not even notice what he is doing, and the ones that are following him can simply remove the follow to stop receiving his messages if they find them annoying. Finally, if someone likes to receive the promotional messages about the website of this person, he can keep following him.

Now you might ask me: so are all social bookmarking sites like Digg or Reddit centralized, and all standard social networks like MySpace and Facebook decentralized?

That is a good rule of thumb, but it is not always the case. Most social bookmarking sites are centralized, including Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Mixx and Propeller. Some, however, are not. Del.icio.us is an example of a decentralized social bookmarking site. Provided you use the service to save your own bookmarks or to share them with friends, the actions of other users will not affect your experience.

As for standard social networking sites, I would say that most of them are indeed decentralized. Of course you have people trying to spam and manipulate those websites nonetheless, so the action of abusive users can end up affecting the whole community. But that is the exception and not the rule.

Conclusion

By now you should already know the answer to the original question. Whenever we talk about decentralized social networks, you can use them in whatever way you desire (well, excerpt for spamming). You can promote your website, yourself, express your opinions and what not. You will create your own micro community on those sites, and your actions there should not affect the other members, so they will hardly care.

Consider Twitter again. There are people who use it as a micro blogging tool. Others use it as an instant messaging utility. Others yet use the tool to promote their websites, and some people are even trying to sell their Twitter accounts on eBay! It is all good though, because each user has the autonomy to decide who he will follow, who will be able to follow him, and what micro communities he will join.

As for centralized networks like Digg or StumbleUpon, you will need to play under the rules of the community. Usually these rules will encourage you to be active in the community and to actually help it grow. Self promotion and system manipulation are frowned upon.

Practically speaking, can you get away with the occasional submission of your own stories? Yes. Can you use it over and over again solely to promote your own stuff? No.

Over to you

Do you agree that some social networks are centralized, while others are not? Do you think people should avoid completely promoting their own content, or there are exceptions?

Daniel Scocco is the author of Daily Blog Tips. You can stay updated with his blog tips by subscribing to his RSS Feed.

Which Social Bookmarking Site Would You Prefer to Hit the Front Page Of?

Here’s a question that might provoke some interesting discussion over the weekend:

Which Social Bookmarking Site Would You Prefer to Hit the Front Page Of?

Would you prefer to hit the popular page on Digg, hit StumbleUpon’s buzz page, make it big on Delicious, Mixx or Reddit or is there some other social bookmarking page that you’d rather do well on?

Also – WHY did you choose the one you’ve chosen? Is it just about the raw numbers of readers, that it leads to secondary links, that it’s more focused and brings a higher quality of reader?

Now it’s over to you for your say….