Thursday, July 31, 2008

Who gets the lion's share? Does it really matter?

Twitter Versus Plurk: The UI Advantage - ReadWriteWeb: "That said, the problem Plurk faces is the exact same problem that Mixx faces. Though the site has a better service, they can't match the same number of registrations or activity as market leaders simply because of the first mover advantage. People either find it too complicated (it's not) or are too lazy (they definitely are) to transfer their entire network over to a new service. The problem is that no one wants to move to a new site unless their entire network of friends moves too. This means unless there is a mass migration, a majority of the people (though they are definitely testing it) won't stay with the service in the long term.

In fact, even though I really like Plurk, I don't use it as frequently as Twitter simply because all my friends are using Twitter more frequently."

Mmmm - I get where they're coming from with the above quote. I guess with all these things that a service can be as pretty as it wants (Apple)... as reliable as it wants (Linux)... as connected as it wants (Flock)... but it's never going to necessarily be the dominant player simply by virtue of its technical / aesthetic advantages if it didn't get there first or make the most noise when it arrived. Apathy, it turns out, could well be *the* killer app. Literally. If you and those around you just can't be bothered to make the switch, then all these 'next best things' will stay in the future and never really become 'now'. Apathy can kill of adoption... in theory.

I suppose in a way this is a little like the VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) vs. PLE (Personalized Learning Environment) debate. Institution vs. the individual. If everyone around you is using a particular system and it integrates nicely with everything else (or at least, it approximately ticks the right boxes), then there will always be a struggle to give alternative approaches an appropriate level of validity. Isn't this a form of the 'Long Tail' in terms of adoption? Niche upon niche of 'this suits my needs best' isn't a bad thing and it doesn't mean that the smaller players haven't 'won' in some sense of the word. So, while institutions are trying to create a VLE that works and is robust, they're missing a trick. They're ruling out all the other bits of personalized advantage people can find for themselves in creating their own PLEs. So what if an institution can't actively support a student's own PLE? Why not just open the door a wee smidge so that it's at least seen as okay and offer support that helps these things be used to their best advantage? I guess I always have this nagging doubt about things being a bit 'Emporer's New Clothes'. Everyone saying something is marvellous and wonderful when they're just being dragged along by a strange concensus. You can miss a trick and then some if you don't keep an ear to the ground and listen out for bits of educational coolness...

Wonder where this blog posting is going? Not sure really! To bed will be my first move... and an additional think about it all in the morning will be the next one! :o)

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