I spent maybe a few hours, total, playing with Plurk. I mentioned that I’d be taking it for a test drive, recently.
I didn’t really got to try the “clique” feature as I only found or enticed a few online friends to join me in testing the service. However, once I figured out where this feature lived in the UI, it seems pretty straightforward. It is very close to LJ’s filters in that you, the poster, get to define the group and add members.
The deal breaker, for me, is the horrible, horrible interface. The timeline is just a nightmare for a world adapted to reading blogs and aggregated feeds. What was wrong with a top to bottom, simple listing? I guess I can understand the reasoning behind a graphical timeline but it is like the design decision was made in the complete absence of any common sense around readability.
There are other UI quirks that just end up driving me crazy. You are alerted about all replies on all plurks you can see, whether you wrote them or not. This is non-sensical and is much like the sort of really bad imitation Windows does of Mac. The “at” message convention in Twitter, developer by users and 3rd party clients then adopted into the service itself, follows directed message conventions that go back to IRC. It is far from the random thrashing Plurk has implemented and is surprisingly readable for lightweight conversational threads. I do like that if I expand a plurk, I can see all the replies, but that’s about all I like about Plurk’s reply functionality.
The target to click to expand replies is a character or two in size, it is the reply count. And the fact that they clip and expand longer plurks means that it is very, very difficult to mouse onto the count. That is just plain wrong. It is such a horrible violation of Fitt’s law that I almost physically moved to vomit. How many applications do we have to invent and re-invent before this simple heuristic is deep muscle memory? Is it any wonder why I tend to prefer command line interfaces? If you are going to require us to use a mouse, at least take a moment to understand how to keep that the least irritating experience possible.
Otherwise, I stand by some of the other initial observations. A 3rd party API could eliminate all my UI complaints but it seems unlikely this will come to pass. I did, at least, figure out how to change the default color scheme to something that did not make my eyes bleed.
If Plurk is the cure for Twitter’s scaling woes, of which I am very far from being convinced, then I think it is far worse than the disease. Even Pownce is better. My only complaint was the horrible, horrible AIR based client and the fact that it just never achieved any critical mass. Really, even if Plurk was beyond criticism in its execution, I think that would still be the sticky wicket. Twitter would have to be down fifty-nine minutes out of sixty for several days in a row before I think anywhere near enough of its adherents flee to a competitor to make a difference.