How to Plurk

I’ll keep updating this as I find new things!

All that's fit to plurk! -
Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

Peat has already mentioned his newfound love of Plurk, a quirky new social networking site that I’ve been playing with. Now that Leo Laporte has endorsed it, they’ve experienced their first Twitter-style growth!

What I like most about Plurk is that it takes the great feeling of chatter you get in a lively IRC channel, and combines it with awesome threading – something that Twitter users have complained about for a long time. Hash-tagging has solved some of the problem, but I have to say that I enjoy a return to real threading.

So far, using plurk is immersive, silly and very fun. The service is still young (periodic 500 errors!), and there are a couple UI issues (too much clicking!). But, using it last night was fast and easy. There’s a definite difference between Plurk and Twitter in terms of attention-demand. I liked @brampitoyo’s plurk about it being “high-maintenance.” I totally agree, but it encourages for short bursts of creative conversation. There’s an intense, good intimacy created with the threads that I don’t see as often with Twitter.

In the first 24-hours, here are a few tips I’ve gleaned for getting the most out of plurk:

  • Check out the Mobile edition:
  • Use Plurk with IM: Go to My Account, and then Instant Messaging to set up Plurk with your favorite IM client
  • Follow ‘amix‘ for updates on changes to Plurk’s interface
  • Create ‘cliques’ to only share your plurks with certain people. Then choose that clique when posting your plurk. Create a clique by going to ‘My Friends’, and then the Cliques tab. If you want me to add you to my #postgresql clique, let me know!
  • Find people by their Twitter handle, by just typing it in at[handle]
  • Respond to other’s plurks in the thread! You can do this on your main timeline page by clicking on the plurk, or you can go to the webpage for each plurk and submit a comment there — example:
  • Check out the Plurk karma trends:
  • Read the Plurk FAQ:
  • Check out ryanlim’s FAQ: (includes a comprehensive emoticon dictionary :D)
  • Got a suggestion for Plurk? Contact them!
  • Of course, there’s already a Plurktionary!
  • A Share On Plurk bookmarklet

A few features I wish Plurk had:

  • A way to ‘favorite’ plurks I enjoy
  • A way to ‘pin’ plurks on higher my timeline to give them more visual priority when they are updated
  • A way to give feedback directly to through the plurk interface — why can’t I just plurk @plurk or @feedback to let them know what I think?
  • More ways to post between services – although @shiny already has a drupal-powered twitter/plurk gateway!

Have fun, and feel free to Plurk me!

Coders for software engineers

I read this article about computer science education this morning –

Software Engineering and the Cause of the CS Enrollment Crisis

I propose that our current undergraduate computer science programs are designed to produce coders for software engineers.

Yeah. This is so true! I immediately thought of Shelley Powers’ comments about what we should do with computer science curriculum:

Break up the computer science programs, split the participants into specialized fields within other disciplines, and stop spending all our time on talking about Ruby and how cool it is.

(btw, I don’t mind talking about how cool Ruby is.)

So much of programming for a business is finding solutions for real-world problems. And you need to do that cost effectively. There’s a lot of “value engineering” in there, rather than perfection. And for me, I think there’s often way too much emphasis on correctness for correctness sake, in education and in the user group circles.

Here’s another choice quote:

It seems to me that the cause of the student’s disdain for “programming” and for the decline in CS enrollment lies there. As civil engineers need armies of construction workers to build their designs, and as mechanical engineers use armies of factory workers to produce their designs, so do software engineers use armies of programmers or coders, people who are explicitly not software engineers, to produce their designs. Few students go to college to become construction or factory workers. Why should it be surprising, then, that few Western students want to go to college to be the Information Age equivalent workers?

and a final point about creativity:

Computer scientists do not need to write good, clean code. Science is about critical and creative thinking. Have you ever read the actual source code for great programs like Sketchpad, or Eliza, or Smalltalk, or APL 360? The code that I have seen produced by computational scientists and engineers tends to be short, without comments, and is hard to read. In general, code that is about great ideas is not typically neat and clean. Instead, the code for the great programs and for solving scientific problems is brilliant. Coders for software engineers need to write factory-quality software. Brilliant code can be factory-quality. It does not have to be though. Those are independent factors.

Hell yes! I feel like so much of my computer science classes sucked the fun out of computers. The most fun I ever had in class was showing people how to use makefiles in the lab. By which I mean, not fun.

Fun was tracking down the exploits and then the crackers who broke into our servers, getting all the evidence together and talking to the FBI. And after that, learning about ways to monitor the system that wouldn’t be detected by intruders, but would immediately tell us someone just managed to get elevated system privs. That was engaging. I did that work as a junior in college, but a first year CS student. And I learned something I’ll never forget about operating system privileges and system administration (thanks, Steve).

What about the third term of my Intro to CS class? Or my software development class? I was bored. I did the homework as fast as I could to get back to my real job.