Friday 18 July 2008

Microblogging for EFL with Plurk

Well I never thought I'd say this, but I've become a fan of microblogging! I have to say that it's mainly because of Plurk. When I first saw Twitter some time back I couldn't really understand what all the fuss was about. I had a look at a few 'twitterers' sharing such information as what they had for lunch or that they were washing their hair and decided there are levels of detail at which information stops being informative - if you know what I mean.

Anyway, as the Twitter phenomenon continued to grow and other players joined the market I decided to give it another try. At the beginning of June I started a Twitter vs Plurk comparison. Now almost 6 weeks later, I have to say that for me Plurk has come out as a clear winner. Watch this demo to see why.

Here's a quick demo of Plurk and some of the features.

What I like about microblogging
  • One problem that I constantly have is the amount of information and new things I find that I'd like to share but just don't have time to research and write about. What I have found over the last few weeks is that mircoblogging allows me to share this information, admittedly with less depth, but I've been able to share links to resources that people might find useful, but which I don't have the time to explore in depth.
  • See my Plurk line here if you'd like to check out the sites I don't have time to write about:
What I like about Plurk
  • For me the best Plurk feature is the ability to embed video from YouTube and images into the Plurk. This enable users to watch the clip or image without leaving the Plurk interface.
  • I also really like the horizontal time line and the way you can scroll back through time lines and thread in comments. Threaded discussion can often become very disjointed and hard to follow on Twitter, but Plurk makes it much clearer which comments are related.
  • I like the distinction between friends and fans (friends Plurks can also appear on your line, whereas fans just subscribe to your feed)
  • I like the sense of accumulating 'karma' as you develop your plurk presence.
  • I love the Plurk widget (you can see it embedded towards the bottom of the right hand column on this page).
  • I really like that Plurk gives a choice of verbs for the message
So how about using microblogging with EFL studnts
As a teacher you could use microblogging to:
  • Share resources and links to useful websites or videos (they open in the interface so students don't have to search around YouTube for them.
  • Send out prompts and reminders to students about assignments and due dates.
  • You could just use the social aspect to share a bit of what you do each day with them
  • Send students images to comment on / describe
  • Send out words and ask students to respond with a definition.
  • Create single sentence assignments that students respond to wit single sentences.
  • Create sentences for the students to correct.
  • Create a collaborative story. You start the story with one line and each student has to add another using the response feature.
Your students could use microblogging to:
  • Create a learner diary, recording briefly their language learning activities and insights through the day.
  • Ask questions to the groups and get support with new words they find or things they don't understand.
  • Post a short sentence each day using a different one of the verbs in the Plurk line
  • Share good websites etc.
  • Share a little of their world and what they do when they aren't in class.
What I'm not so sure about
  • It's really hard for a competitor like Plurk to break into a market that Twitter almost invented, so despite the fact that I use Plurk more often and it seems to me a much better product, I've got far more followers on Twitter than I have on Plurk, so the audience potential is much greater with Twitter.
  • As ever privacy is something you need to be careful of, and I've found that a few people who have requested friendship only do so to 'spam' my time line. Though that's easy to sort out and stop.
Well which ever you use, whether it's Twitter, Plurk or something else I hope you enjoy your microblogging experience.

Drop me a line if you know of other alternatives, or if you have used these microblogging applications in other ways. As always you comments are welcome (though moderated!).


Nik Peachey

Related links:
See Wikipedia's definition of microblogging
See My Plurk microblog
See My Twitter microblog
See My Plurk demo video on YouTube and grab an embed code.


John said...

Thanks for the information about plurk, which I've not managed to really get into, i'll give it another go. An advantage twitter seem to have is its API enabling a whole raft of other apps to feed off. I prefer to tweet and read from a desktop client which auto updates and is separate from my browser (currently I use tweetdeck, but there are a bunch. The API also lets you play about with the data a bit and enables a lot of interesting mashups. I found this post via Jess McCulloch's tweet!

Nik Peachey said...

Hi John,

Yes, I think that for Plurk to break into what was almost uniquely Twitter's market is going to be challenging, mainly as you say because of the raft of different services that will mesh with Twitter and because Twitter already has huge user base, so you're going to get lots more action on Twitter and lots more followers.

Having said that though if Plurk hang in there and develop, then I think they could actually have a better product. As we've seen though it isn't always the best product that dominates the market.

Anyway, for now I'm running both and hoping that Plurk keeps developing.


Nik Peachey

ALICIA REY said...

Hi Nik - You've mentioned one of the good points for Plurk : The distinktion between fans and friends... interesting- I never read all the posts I'm following on Twitter (have just noticed you're not following so many people on Twitter- wise....)The point for some "Twitterers" is to follow as many people as possible apparently (that applied to me!! I confess), but that's turned out useless.

I wrote this on your plurk, (sorry to repeat it here)- Pownce is good for me- not so many "powncers" though- as you say "it isn't always the best product that dominates the market"- and Pownce has proved so practical for my teaching practice!!

I have a pownce account I use exclusively for my students and this is the one I use with colleagues and online mates with whom I exchange data

Nik Peachey said...

Hi Alicia,

Wanted to pick up on your comment about the number of people I follow (or the low number). I feel a bit guilty that I don't follow more people. I started following a few on Twitter, but it just became unmanagable even with 5 or 6, partially I think because of the Twitter format.

I've also noticed that with both Twitter and Plurk there is a tendency by some people to follow as many people as possible (certainly more than they can possibly read) and I think a lot of this is really more to do with social spamming (getting your message on other people's line)and increasing social presence, often for commercial reasons! I think that Twitter is more prone to this and it could actually be its downfall (I've noticed a LOT of down time on Twitter recently). I think you have to think very carefully about how you use these tools and probably like you have, create different profiles for different purposes.

My Plurk line, for me, is a broadcast medium - I want to put a message out there and share some information and to do that I need to keep the line clear for people to read and respond to. I'm not looking to gather information from other people there (have so many other places where I already do that).

In the case of Twitter, I was more interested in trying to gather information, so I did start followingg people, but even with only a very few, it soon started to edge towards overload! It also made it more difficult for me to share stuff on my Twitter line.

Anyway, for me there is still the look and feel thing, with i really prefer on Plurk, and the ability to embed media for me is a killer! For now though I'll hang in with both and see what develops.

Thanks for your comment. It really fired up some interesting thinking for me, and I'll be checking out the links you mention.


Nik Peachey

Vance Stevens said...

Nice basic Plurk tutorial. I've addressed some of these issues in an article I wrote recently here: Stevens, Vance. (2008). Trial by Twitter: The rise and slide of the year's most viral microblogging platform. TESL-EJ, Volume 12, Number 1: (at a time when Twitter was really playing up).

I'm careful about who I follow on Twitter. I try and avoid people who post a lot about nothing much so when I check Twitter (once or twice a day) I can get a few gems from a not too bloated haystack.

I haven't played with Plurk much since going on holiday, but I found it could really consume time if you let it. I also find a LOT of hay there and not so many gems. It is much more social, and I'd like to see more people using it with media in the way you've discovered.

Keep up the good work, Vance

Nik Peachey said...

Hi Vance,

I'll be sure to read your TESL-EJ article when I get back from a desperately needed holiday.

I've been trying to post exactly the same stuff to both platforms over the last couple of months, but what I'm finding is that as an author that is a much more satisfactory process on Plurk. Whether the same can be said for readers is another matter. Could also b the nature of what i want to put out there too.

I can't help feeling though that twitter may well have peeked its potential, whereas I can see that Plurk could well have some room to go yet. I think really though with both platforms, the decisive factor will be the abilities they offer readers and authors to block spam and sift out the hay.

Anyway, must go pack!



Drew of said...

Hi! I'm a plurker and an IELTS/English Instructor so I really appreciate this post especially the part where you suggested how EFL students could learn English from plurking. That's a good idea!:) By the way, since I'm into plurking, I decided to make free plurk themes. You can get them here - I also made some articles about plurk such as the introduction of its parts and functions. I hope it could help fellow plurkers understand PLURK better.^^

Unknown said...

I'm new to micro-blogging so really appreciate the well done tutorial. I'm also a school librarian and former language teacher (German and ESL) - and loved the suggestions for getting students involved. Not always easy at the K-12 level as many students either don't have phones or they are not allowed to have them at school (I'm currently in the US).. Not sure if British schools have different rules. I think as a librarian, it might be a great way of letting students/parents/teachers know about new books - with a very quick synopsis or mention of where the book might be useful in the curriculum... lure everyone to the library.

Thanks for taking the time to share how to do this.

Betty Carlson said...

I have no idea how I ran into this 2-year-old post, but it convinced me to try Plurk...for a few days at least. I kind of like the timeline effect but otherwise I'm sure not hooked, and a lot of the "suggested profiles" look a little dicey to me. I then noticed that you seem to have stopped plurking, but still tweet.

So what exactly was your final analysis?

Nik Peachey said...

Hi Betty

As with most tings, it's not that one tool is better than the other, it's more a case of using the tool that best does the job you want done. Personally, I now use Twitter much more because it has a much larger user base and my main aim is to share information with teachers and they are more commonly found on Twitter. having said that Plurk does have some great strengths and if I were to choose one to use with students then I would choose Plurk, just because I prefer the way the time line works and it's easier to include media create interaction around each posting.
As for dicey people, plenty of those around on both platforms, so ...

You can actually use both and automate Plurk so that anything posted there also goes to Twitter too. It's really just a matter of what you want to achieve.



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