I’ve known about micro-blogging for 1-2 years now – ever since I first started hearing about Twitter. Up until now I’ve been vehemently against the whole micro-blogging trend. To begin with, it requires anyone who wants to keep up with my writing to check yet another website! On top of that, I just can’t see a point to it. I even told my brother last weekend, why can’t I just have nice, short posts on my blog? But recently I’ve been hearing more and more about these micro-blogging services. It keeps being mentioned over and over on the net, in podcasts, pretty soon I’m sure CNN will be doing a piece on it. I know I’m late to the party when, according to Wikipedia, Barak Obama and Hilary Clinton have Twitter accounts. But, still, I hear all these complaints micro-blogging overload and people talking about ridiculously inane things such as what they just ate for lunch.
But a few little factors have led me to check out this whole micro-blogging thing.
1) I’ve recently been getting my blog syndicated in digg and LinuxToday and figured perhaps I should save my blog for longer posts so that people don’t have an uneven experience with the blog. In short, small posts look bad.
2) I resisted podcasts for a long time and regret it. I’ve been very entertained and learned a lot from the podcasts I’ve been listening to. I wish I started a long time ago.
3) I’ll try anything legal at least once.
4) I have this sense that perhaps I’m missing out on a form of communication that I may end up loving.
5) I’ve already been doing it with Facebook via the status updates. Ever since they changed my profile page so that it logs all of the past status updates, it’s basically become a micro-blog of sorts.
So I’ve decided to do a review of the main micro-blogging services: Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce, and Plurk. I’ll sign up for all of them (if possible) and see which one works for me. In the end I’ll keep accounts on one or two of them and delete the others (or let them languish to be deleted when the service does its periodic purges). Here’s what I know and the preconceptions I come to to table with.
Twitter – All I know about Twitter is that it’s the most famous and the one that “everyone” is on. Also, it’s “always” down. At least, every single thing I read about Twitter on the net references how it’s always down. When I checked Wikipedia, it says that in 2007 it had a 97% uptime or 3 days offline. Of course, that could have been written in Wikipedia by a Twitter employee or Twitter enthusiast. It certainly doesn’t seem like a lot of downtime in a year consisting of 365 days. Either people on the Internet are engaging in hyperbole by saying that Twitter is “always” down (that would NEVER happen on the nets!) or the Wikipedia article is wrong. I guess I’ll find out during my review.
Jaiku – All I know about Jaiku is that it was created by some Finnish dudes and Google recently bought it.
Pownce – What I know about Pownce is that it was created by Kevin Rose of digg fame. Other than that all I know is that no one ever talks about Pownce. Is it under a Fight Club-like silence? Does this mean that no one uses it? Or are they just too new to the party? Everyone’s always talking about Twitter.
Plurk – I know absolutely nothing about Plurk. Well, I read an article about how “everyone” is deserting Twitter for Plurk. I think micro-blogging is still in an early phase and people are just afraid of being on the service that all their friends aren’t one.
I think I’ll go through the sign-up process and what the websites say about the services. Then I’ll blog my first experience making a post. After that I’ll probably do either another post that will focus on how I feel about them or I will do one post per service. Ok, so first up is the “original” – Twitter!
Twitter has the most bubbly, Web 2.0 vogue site of them all. See for yourself!
Let’s see what they say for the why:
Why? Because even basic updates are meaningful to family members, friends, or colleagues—especially when they’re timely.
- Eating soup? Research shows that moms want to know.
- Running late to a meeting? Your co–workers might find that useful.
Partying? Your friends may want to join you.
So, it looks like they’re encouraging that inane babble that everyone complains about with their twitter accounts. Still, they have a sense of humor and that’s always a good thing in a company. What about the how…Nothing of substance there. Ok…. The following quote appears randomly on the home page:
If you aren’t familiar with Twitter, it is one of those things, like MySpace, that sounds totally ridiculous and stupid when you first hear about it. But once you start using it, you realize how much fun it is.
Eric Nuzum, Author of The Dead Travel Fast
That’s pretty much exactly how I feel about micro-blogging. But let’s see if I really do find it fun once I start. They have a video and I decide to watch it. Definitely watch the video. It really explains where they expect to fit in your online life. They want to fill in the space between blogs and emails. Good point. This is something I’m looking to do. Perhaps it’s a good match for me? At least the case for micro-blogging has been made, although I’m not sure if I want to do it on Twitter. Of course, I even if I like Twitter, if the Internets are to be believed and everyone had started the exodus, then the value goes way down. In fact, I’m a bit worried after I watched the video. My enjoyment of the site seems to be predicated on the fact that my friends are on. I don’t have that many technologically minded friends. Those that do follow technology, like my brother Dan, tend to eschew sites like Twitter. Oh well. I’ll sign up.
Well, djotaku, my preferred online nom de guerre, was available. In an interesting move, it asks for permission to search your email contacts to find out if your friends are already using it. Interestingly, my brother was listed as using it. When I mentioned to him that I didn’t get Twitter, he didn’t mention having an account. It then asked if I wanted to send invites to others. I picked few friends.
Well, here’s my Twitter page, or at least the page it dumped me to when the sign-up was over.
Well, Twitter’s up right now despite what the detractors say. It’s pretty easy to use. Flock also has some Twitter integration, but that’s a post for another day. Here’s my page after a few updates and my brother’s page:
Well, this micro-blogging thing is a bit fun! Also, it’s pretty darned easy. If I had a text messaging plan I might even update it more often. Wikipedia mentions a famous case where it saved someone’s life.
Next I decided to give Jaiku a shot.
Here’s the main page:
I decided to “take the tour”. Then I clicked on “explore”:
I can’t sign up for it now. I need to request an invite. You know what Google, this whole “invitation-only” BS is starting to get on my nerves. I think I’ll pass on Jaiku. So next up is Pownce.
While Twitter seems to emphasize nice short messages about what you’re doing, Pownce appears to be attempting to be even more than that. Here’s the main page:
Pownce seems to really emphasize sharing stuff (vs updating people on your life). Twice on the site it has a variation on:
Pownce is a way to keep in touch with and share stuff with your friends. Send people files, links, events, and messages and then have real conversations with the recipients.
I like the idea of being able to send files and events. It takes a lot of the tedium out of having to email attachments and deal with all that. Plus the events part sounds useful. I get a weird vibe from Pownce. I like something about Twitter a lot more. Perhaps it’s the color scheme? I don’t know, but something about Pownce almost has a sinister feel to it. Maybe it’s the name Pownce? I keep thinking of Pownage and dominating people. It sounds really aggressive. Anyway, I’m going to sign-up.
It also has a friend import feature. Unfortunately, the site became incredibly slow and unresponsive at this stage. Pownce is also built into Flock, so if I like it, it will continue to be convenient for me to use. Here’s the main page for me to enter my posts:
Interestingly, they appear to think people will be willing to pay for Pownce. People are always talking about how to monetize the read/write web (Web 2.0) and how there are all these companies providing services that are nice, but people wouldn’t pay for them. I pay for flickr because it gives me value – I can post more pictures, have a higher upload limit, and have access to all my pictures. But paying for a microblogging service? Of all the reasons they list to go pro, only the 250 MB limit appears to be worth it. But it depends, if that’s per file, then who’s sending files that big? If it’s total, then maybe it’s worth the money. Well, let’s try out Pownce.
I tried to make a post and it keeps “freezing” on me. I click post and then it returns me to a completely blank – white – page. I finally get a post, and it expresses my frustration.
I’m also going to test adding a file and and event.
There’s one thing I like so far with Pownce – each post has a reply button. If the replies are kept with the original posts then I think Pownce has a one-up on Twitter. It means you can truly have a conversation with your buddies. So you’re combining micro-blogging with micro-commenting. Being able to share files sounds good, but I don’t know how often I’d use it. Alright, all that’s left is Plurk.
As I said before, all I know about Plurk is that it’s supposedly eating Twitter’s lunch. (Drinking their milkshake, if you will) Here’s the main page:
Honestly, based on the front page, I’m least excited about trying out Plurk. The front page screens out – “I’m trying too hard”. I don’t know. I just don’t think it’s as inviting as Twitter or Pownce. Well, let’s sign up and see if my opinion changes. This also had a friend finding/recruiting phase. I guess they all recognize how these services aren’t any fun without friends on them. Here’s the page it dumped me into.
The page is interesting, but it feels a bit cluttered.
The timeline idea is interesting and different, but also a bit unnecessary. After all, all the post on your page in Pownce and Twitter are listed in reverse chronological order anyway. Also, I’m used to seeing lists in reverse chronological order, but not timelines. It took me a few seconds to realize that my post had appeared on the left and not the right. Before I keep going, let me say they have a weird and disturbing mascot/logo:
It looks like a little puppy with its head cut off!
Anyway, another thing I don’t like about Plurk is that the posting interface is like facebook where it’s in the form of “username” action “something”. I find this to be more limiting than Twitter and Pownce where I can just type freeform. Here’s the items you can pick for your action:
But what do I like about Plurk? I like that it says it’s (time) and blah. I also think the karma points could be an interesting concept. Going back to stuff I don’t like, I don’t like that it’s a line for me to type in. Even though I only get 140 characters like in Twiter, I feel like I can’t say that much because it’s a text line instead of a text box and the font is so huge. I know I can keep typing, but I feel like I need to end by the time I get to the end of the text box.
Ok, so – conclusions? I’m willing to try these suckers out for a few weeks and see how I like them. I’m already semi-addicted to changing my Facebook status and today I couldn’t wait to get out of bed to make a Twitter post (known as a Tweet). So I may end up liking micro-blogging. The only part of the micro-blogging culture that doesn’t call to me is the whole updated from your cell phone. Not only do I not have a text messaging plan, but (to borrow a term from the intel guys) it’s bad OPSEC. In other words, if you’re Twittering how much fun you’re having at a concert, then people know you’re not at home. They can rob you, kidnap your kids, rape your wife, etc. That’s why I never blog about my vacations until I get back.
Anyway, stay tuned and see how this experiment goes and which service I end up favoring.