I am always surprised that the makers of Web 2.0 tools don’t fully understand the dynamic and challenging nature of the communities who populate, use, build and evangelise their systems. For example, why would a hugely successful Web 2.0 property like Facebook carelessly launch Beacon? Why would Twitter NOT respond more unequivocally to claims of harrassment? Given that the business model around Web 2.0 platforms is about leveraging the mass of aggregated user data to generate insight/targeted advertising etc, how is that these platforms seem unable to gauge the temperament of their communities? Could it be that they are ape-ing big brands and are simply not listening to the abundant digital voices?
Clearly these leading Web 2.0 platforms have built what we could easily consider unassailable user bases. Facebook carries millions of users each day and has the backing of Microsoft. Twitter appears to be hovering around the 2 million user mark and has attracted a great deal of goodwill. However, what happens when shifts occur? What about extended downtime?
Twitter has successfully modified the behaviour of its user base in such a way that we have all come to rely upon it to fulfil a range of communication needs. But ongoing reliability issues has seen a number of defections to other services that have followed quickly on Twitter’s heels. One such service is Plurk.
However, when people who are used to using Twitter arrive at the Plurk interface, they encounter problems. They don’t get it. They find it confusing and unintuitive, maybe even over-engineered. I also experienced this … but felt that there was something different about Plurk. And anyway, I realised that I was looking at Plurk through my "Twitter Goggles" — and I was finding it lacking (as were others). — but I knew that I needed to allow Plurk the benefit of the doubt.
Over the last couple of months, the Plurk team have been slowly but surely improving their system. New features, improvements and so on have been appearing regularly. And earlier this week we were given a new series of selectable key words. One of my favourites is "wonders" … I found that I was using it quick consistently to communicate with my small community of followers — "Servantofchaos wonders what is going on today". "Servantofchaos wonders why he is still up late writing a blog post". It seems that the Plurkers have been surveying the most popular "freestyle" words and have added them to the drop-down list. Great!
But while I was impressed with the simple addition of the word "wonders", I was a little surprised to see that it was coloured a dull grey. That seemed like an uninformed decision. So I wrote a message wondering why this was the case … and in the space of a couple of hours, the word "wonders" was transformed into a beautiful, vibrant colour. Were the Plurkers listening? Was it just coincidence? With my Twitter Goggles on, I would claim it was coincidence … that there was no-one listening. But I have a secret hope … that they certainly were listening to the conversation, and they went a step beyond and used this intelligence to change (ever so slightly), a system that is going from strength to strength. If they were listening, it’s plurking great!