Interview with Alvin Woon, UI designer of Plurk

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tenz & alvin (by tenz1225)

Plurk Plurk has gained popularity in Taiwan since its launch in June 2008.. How did the oringinal idea of Plurk come out? Why people love Plurk so much? And what are the coming plan for Plurk in the future? Yesterday I met Alvin Woon, the UI designer of Plurk, and he talked a lot of interesting things about Plurk, now sharing with all Plurk lovers.

This interview is for PC home Magazine, and translated from chinese by me. My English is not so good. Please tell me how to modify if you found something wrong below.

Q: Why you guys want to launch a website like Plurk?

A: We think we need a better commnication tool. It has to be real time, and no pressure to reply. Email is not so real time, and you have pressure to reply as soon as possible when you talk on IM.

On Plurk you can murmur to yourself, and you of course can talk to friends, without obigation and pressure to reply. And we think privacy is very important, so you can send private plurk to anyone you want to talk to, and others won’t know.


Q: The user interface of Plurk is very special, and how the idea came out?

A: The original idea of Plurk was developed by aKan, the founder of Plurk. And I designed the UI. We have done some research on some popular microblogging services such as Twitter and Friendster, and we felt that linear structure of messages like Twitter has some difficulties. For example, when you browsing messages on Twitter, you have to scroll down a lot of messages. It is difficult to read. So the idea of “river-like” timeline structure just came out. This interface makes it possible to let messages line up by time, and you still could dig in to see the contents under each thread.

In fact, there are pros and cons with this kind of user interface. Not all people could understand the interface as they see it, especially those users familiar with linear message structure like Twitter. But those who don’t use Twitter understand how to use Plurk much more quickly. Very interesting.

Q: What’s the programming language used by Plurk?

A: Python + Javascript.

Q: Accoring to unofficial source, Plurk is much more welcome in southeastern Asian countries. The Philipines, Indonesia, Taiwan, China, Singapore and your home country Malaysia. Why?

A: Honestly we also don’t know why Plurk gets so much popularity in southeastern Asian countries.  You know, the way how people use our web service can be so different than what we think before it is launched. And this is why I am here in Taiwan right now. We are going to hear opinion from local Plurk users.

User responses are very important to us. For example, we’ve just set the font size a little bit larger for traditional chinese plurk pages this morning, because last weekend some local users told me the font size suitable for western characters is usually too small for Chinese characters. So we made that change at once. There were many other additional functions suggested by our users in Plurk.


Q: Many plurkers care about Karma score. I’ve heard some users do everything to keep their karma score. What is Karma for in your original idea?

A: We hope people love to visit Plurk, so we have to give out some incentive. The karma score will rise when you send plurks, add people as friends, and invite people to be Plurkers. It is very effective.

On the other hand, we don’t want abuses of Plurk. Your karma will drop if you send spam plurks (more than 30 plurks a day), or too many people reject your friend invitation, etc. We hope karma score will help people use Plurk in a good and healthy way, not to abuse it.

Personally I think Karma score is not so important. The most important thing on Plurk is to enjoy chatting, love and friendship with people, not karma score at all. You know, even my karma is not that high. (LOL)


Q: It seems that the business model of Plurk is still not clear.

A: I have to say, yes. But we think first we need to have enough users, and we will think about revenue. I can tell you we have very healthy and strong financial support. Don’t worry. (laugh)


Q: Some users complain about slow speed of Plurk.

A: We have bought some new servers these days, and we plan to move database to Amazon. You know Amazon has data centers all over the world, and it will be faster when servers are not that far away from you.

Q: Plurk get more and more popular since it has been launched, and what’s the next step? Any plan in the future?

A: As you mentioned, we got really fast expotential growth last year, but still far from grownup. We have to do much more to let more people join Plurk, enjoy plurk.

There 2 important things to do in this year: search and moble. It is very difficult to do real time message indexing, and we are researching how to indexing plurks for searching.

No doubt how important mobile phone is in 2009. Many websites have done good UI design on mobile devices, and we are working on interface re-design, to provide nearly the same plurking experience with browsers on PC, and let users plurk anywhere, at any time.

Q: Finally, please describe Plurk in one word.

A: Plurk is conversation.



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