Plinky: The Cure for Blank Slate Syndrome
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religious about getting to Plinky every day and starting their day with it and writing hundreds of words.
The other thing is that I was interested to see how the lightweight social model [the ability to follow other users and see their answers to daily prompts] would work, and it turns out that people have taken really well to that. Even during the private preview with about 150 friends and testers back in November, we had users saying they were learning things about their friends they didn’t know. We had one prompt that asked “What was your first job?” and one team member said “Wow, I didn’t know that was my wife’s first job.” That, for me, hit the nail on the head—it was exactly what we wanted to see happening, people learning things about other users and finding it compelling. That’s where we differ from a service like Twitter.
WR: I wonder whether, for some people, the idea of responding to a different prompt every single day that might be fatiguing. It could be like getting too many invitations on Facebook to join this or that group or fill out this or that chain letter, to the point where you just tune it out.
JS: Actually, one of the things that has surprised me is that there are a number of people every day saying “give me the next prompt.” We seeded the system with something like six prompts on the first day we went public, and there were people who were immediately asking for more. So there are lots of completists who really like this daily inspiration and want to do it even more. But I’d say to those people who might find it numbing that they don’t need to do it every day. Wait for one you like and then contribute. As Plinky becomes more prevalent, it will be more fun to contribute when you see your friends contributing. Maybe you’ll get groups of poeple arguing about whose road trip was better.
WR: What do you expect Plinky to look like a year from now?
JS: There is a real hope that as we drive a lot of engagement with users, the answer pages will become a valuable tool—something where, even if someone was not in the mood to answer a prompt, they would find compelling. Things like “58 percent of Plinky users recommend this jazz album for a rainy day.” Mining the data, in other words. The other thing is that as we evolve as a service, there’s no reason that we’re limited to the current set of prompts. We could classify them differently, or we could send out multiple prompts every day. You might be more likely to answer a sports prompt, or an “esoteric questions” prompt. We should be addressing our users’ needs. The other thing we hope to do fairly soon is start playing around even more with the interface. We’re planning to try some fairly radical things.
WR: Where does the name “Plinky” come from? Does it mean something, or is it one of those catchy but meaningless Web 2.0 names like Django or Joomla or Squidoo?
JS: When you turn on a fluourescent light, it makes a “plink” sound. We talk about it as a way to describe the moment of inspiration. But it also just has a nice sound. We’re going to win some horrible award for it, I’m sure. But I think it works pretty well to describe what we’re doing.