Ever since it blew up on Twitter back in June of this year I have been an avid user of the microblogging site Plurk. At the beginning I had my qualms with Plurk, but in the end I wound up using Plurk probably just as much, if not more than Twitter.
Following the first month of using the service I did a post about Plurk’s karma rewards and how I felt that many of their perks were useless. One in particular was the ability to change your display name once you reach 40 karma points. At that time I mentioned how absurd it would be to establish yourself with a specific name just to turn around and become someone else. I mentioned at the time how much doing something like that could hurt you. More specifically I said,
“…anyone who friends you after you’ve changed your display name probably only knows you by that name. Because of this they are probably unaware that you were once JoePlurk, since your current display name is MightyJoePlurk. In turn they may use @MightyJoePlurk when they reference you, which sadly does not link back to your profile. Which brings us to another problem. Let’s say that someone wants to visit your profile, and they only remember you by the name MightyJoePlurk. If they use that in the profile URL they will be sent to a friendly screen featuring our friends in the A-Team. Sure it’s amusing, but not when you are trying to find someone.”
For those of you new to Plurk or who did not use Plurk in the beginning; the A-Team reference was in regards to an error page you were directed to when a profile didn’t exist or the site was experiencing difficulties.
Plurk partially fixed this problem after the fact by making it so that if you did use @newdisplayname it would redirect to the proper profile. The catch? It only works if the person has already commented on the Plurk you are referring to them in. If you start out a new plurk to someone using @newdisplayname it will either take you to a page telling you the user can’t be found, or worse yet, someone else’s profile who used your alternative display name as their primary display name.
Let me clarify in case you just missed that. Plurk allows new users to use other users alternate display names as their primary display name. I’ll give you a personal example of this. My friend Audrey signed up with the display name ShirleyTipsy. When she reached 40 karma points she changed her display name to PrettyInInk. Then in November a new user signed up with the primary display name prettyinink. Now if I or any of Audrey’s friends type @PrettyInInk in a plurk that she hasn’t commented in or started it links to 15 year old Chelsea Gogola instead.
The biggest problem I see with this is that if you didn’t sign up with your brand name or known username and switched to the proper name later, your competition could easily sign up using the correct brand or username as their primary display name in hopes of capturing plurk traffic and users that you might be targeting. While I understand Plurk hasn’t been doing a whole lot for business conversions it is still a social site that could potentially pull in clients and new site visitors.
My advice to Plurk is to do away with this system for good and simply stick everyone with their original display names. Some people may get upset, but if you explain to them how flawed the system was to begin with I’m sure they’ll understand.