One of the biggest muses of the social networking site Plurk is karma. Karma is obtained by using various aspects of the service, be it inviting friends, regular plurking, or leaving comments on other people’s plurks. The use of karma, which I assume is a way for the service to keep users active, is both a blessing and a curse. While higher karma graces you with various perks from the service, it also results in a timeline full of karma related plurks from other users.
“…been losing karma”, “…thinks my karma is stalled”, and “…getting close to going over 70 karma points” were all plurks that graced my timeline at various points today, all of which resulted in numerous responses about other people’s karma and their disappointment or excitement about it. But in the end what dose karma actually provide us? Sure you get some perks, but how many of those actually add value to the user experience.
Perhaps the most useful karma reward is achieved at 10 karma points. At 10 points you have the ability to personalize your timeline title. From a personalization aspect I think this is valuable, much like adding your age, location, etc., it gives you the ability to give other users an idea of who you are.
At 25 points you are rewarded additional emoticons, while these can add some fun visualization to the plurk timeline I really don’t think it adds any real value to the service. Furthermore the dancing banana was only funny the first 5 times.
The emoticon perks repeat again at 50 and again if you invite 10 of your friends to join. Again these simply add more flare to your posts and in some cases infect your timeline just as much as karma plurks do.
But perhaps the most useless, and in my opinion the one perk that could negatively affect your Plurk experience is achieved at 40 karma points. At 40 karma points you are given the ability to change your plurk display name. To me this is the most baffling concept to come out of a social site. You establish yourself as a specific individual with a specific display name for the first 40 karma points, and then can suddenly change your identity on a whim.
How might this hurt you? For starters 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.
Clearly there is room for Plurk to rethink their karma rewards and provide something that can potentially enhance the user experience. First and foremost if you are going to allow people to choose a alternate display name, then at least make it so that if someone uses @displayname it links to the persons profile, the same should apply to the user URL.
Some additional ideas that stemmed from a plurk posted by bloggeries asking what people would want to see as added perks after 50 karma points included adding additional qualifiers to choose from, customizable qualifiers, and the ability to share karma with friends.
I think of these perhaps the most valuable from a user standpoint would be the additional, or customizable qualifiers. The qualifiers always make it easier to fit what you have to say in 140 characters by saving you a few characters at the beginning. In addition it allows you to express yourself in more ways. I think the ability to share karma, though a friendly gesture, would add to the karma whoring that already plagues people’s timelines.
I think the current perks provided to Plurk users add to the experience of plurking, but the value in them lacks. Especially when you look at the shortcomings of things like changing your display name.