Thursday, July 24, 2008

Put some "Plurk" in Your Day

Plurk allows friends, family, colleagues and classes (classes? Yes.) to stay in contact through the day
"Are you tired of your existing social networks? Share your life easily with friends, family and fans."

I read the italics above when I visited the home page for Plurk. I was recently invited to join Purk by a fellow blogger who had started to post there. I had heard of this kind of "blogging" and went to explore the site. Plurk allows you to set up a profile, an image, and build "karma" by how many friends join, how often you personally Plurk (post an event in your day) and by how many folks respond to your comments. The screen shows a timeline that you can scroll forward or backward on to see what has been posted there. Your friends that join become part of your "Plurk world" and you can see all of you on the time line through the day and all the various things you all do as you post. If you ignore your Plurking, you can lose points you have earned. The point earning sets a kind of "popularity rating" so if you are one of those folks that was unpopular in high school, here is your chance to share interesting Plurks and build a network of friends (as well as prove all those old classmates wrong). If you are a bohemian that goes against the status quo, you can forget the popularity piece and just share your world from your point of view. The question is, to micro-blog or not micro-blog. What is it really and how does this enhance learning and support assistive technology?

Do you Micro-blog?
Social networking has been a phenomenon that shows no signs of slowing down. New formats and platforms for sharing what we do, what we like and what we recommend to others have been showing up. Twitter was one of the first sites I heard about that offered "micro-blogging". If blogging once a day isn't enough for you, now you can micro-blog throughout your day. This concept has its' pros and cons, but first let me explain the concept a little further to the un-initiated.
Micro-blogging involves using a service like Twitter or Plurk to put periodic text updates about your day online for your friends to follow. These services allow you to use text messaging from your phone so you can post on the go. The idea is to share a quick sentence on what you are thinking about, working on, dealing with, etc. The idea is not to write an article or column on an issue or news item. Because the posts are small and occur through the day, the label micro-blogging has stuck. Micro-blogging can be a blessing and a curse. Here are some of my thoughts on it:

Good micro-blogging might include a comment and link to a new site you just discovered, a question you would like to throw out to your friends that are also connected to your Twitter or Plurk throughout the day, an encouragement, a tip, info on what you are doing and how long you will be doing it if you are networking with others in an office or a network where you communicate often throughout the day.
Bad micro-blogging might include mundane comments like, "I am eating breakfast right now", "I am driving to work", "I am choosing a new pair of shoes at Macys." There are certainly folks that are used to text messaging with friends who might want to share that kind of information, but in general, to make this service be a service, the idea would be to contribute something of value to reward those who choose to check up on what you are doing periodically.
You have a choice to use a service like Plurk or Twitter to make your life a "fishbowl", or you can be selective about what you share so that it is sharing value with others, not posting your daily events (unless they are relevant and within your comfort zone). Some folks will enjoy sharing every detail and others won't want to mess with it at all.

Using it as a professional tool
I would love to be able to have my Plurk or Twitter page up in the background through the day and be able to have collected a group of professionals in my field who are committed to contributing through the day. I can imagine looking at a glance and seeing that one friend is working on a text to speech application, one friend is writing an evaluation on a speech device, another is looking online for a good switch interface, etc. At that point I have the opportunity to ask the friend to let me know what the text to speech app is and send me the information, or if I know of a good switch interface, I could send the link right there to them. I am giving information and getting information throughout my day.
I am signed up for Google text messenger and right now, I have a small network of folks I hear from throughout the day already. We text each other and ask for answers, share information, etc. I guess I look at this as a more visual way to follow that type of interaction.

Sharing as a classroom
Imagine starting Plurk for your class at school and sharing topics, projects, information, etc. As you invited a few other classes to join you across the globe, you could be virtual pen pals through the year. You could ask questions and explore another culture, another state, another country and the students that live there as a class entity. Of course students' names and identities would need to be protected, but as a class entity, a Plurk could be a great opportunity. For educators, a Plurk could be a chance to share advice, information and support.

Okay. I have started my own Plurk, and here is my page . You are welcome to go there and visit. If you would like to try it out, just sign up and create a quick profile. You can help me build "karma" by visiting and if you join, you can begin to share some value within the community. I don't ever want to take this too seriously. "If it aint fun, don't do it"...that should apply here.
I will need to start getting into the practice of sharing periodically as I come up with things of value to share. It will take time because this is pretty new to me. Don't expect to see me share too much on the personal side - although I will probably end up sharing more than I think - we'll have to see.
I hope to see some of you on the Plurk side!
Remember, The AT blog carnival submissions are open through this Friday, July 25. I don't have too many this month so any last minute contributions would be great. Send your blog post link to me at
All the best to you!

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