orkut scraps seem to be new way for otherwise disconnected people to communicate, publicly.
Judging by the way that tools are springing up for people to use orkut beyond orkut’s primitive user interface features it looks like the orkut team is going to quickly have to look beyond it’s immediate roadmap to figure out a whole new era of unforeseen activity load.
Although I’m somewhat of a non user of orkut (I checked out the beta early, and moved out early too), I went out on a mission – to figure out and see how it’s huge populace actually uses orkut, and what tools are available for power orkut users.
The orkut social community, while plagued by constant problems (everybody say “Bad, bad server. No donut for you.”), has continued to thrive. A whopping 69 percent of all orkut users are Brazilian. Indians come in a third, at nearly 5% of the orkut populace, just after America’s 12 percent. The huge population and the activity of the members is most visible in the amount and the frequency of scrapbook entries that any popular orkut member has.
Lacking any popular publishing, personal activity centers (other than forum participation on it’s communities) the fact that orkut continues to gain the interest of new users and sustain activity of existing users suprises me. Comparison with any current social network leaves orkut far behind when it comes to features and functionality.
One of the key activity centers is each member’s scrapbook. This originates from one of the most popular pastimes on orkut; the act of surfing user profiles. One of the most popular navigation mechanisms of orkut is by clicking member picture thumbnails and then clicking on the thumbnails of their friends, and so on. Upon arriving at an interesting profile a member may leave an entry in the user’s guestbook. This has become all the more prevalent after the names of members visiting a user’s profile are displayed to the user right on his/her orkut homepage.
orkut Scrap Tools
Necessity is the mother of all invention, a wise man once said, and orkut proves to be no exception. Upon some searching, I found these two tools:
Scrapboy! (the scrapboy website)
This free tool made by the dubious “Scrapboy media corporation” is the one that’s more interesting. It tries to solve the problem of scrapbooks in orkut by allowing you to “Scrap instantly”. My jibe on the name aside, the desktop application is quite promising. Scrapboy has it’s own community on orkut, but doesn’t seem to have attained it’s popularity potential. Yet. It also seems, like the rest of orkut, to have it’s own problems – it’s owner / maintainer tries to help new users use it, where else, but on his own scrapbook!
Scrapboy is a biggish download – 20 mb plus, but then, that’s prety much the standard size of an installer if you pack the entire Microsoft dot net runtime inside.
Note: I mean “dubious” in the most wholesome, Internetish sort of way. The intent is to jest, and play on a pun, rather than harm.
Orkut scrap helper (link to addon’s page)
The other tool I found happens to be a Firefox addon by Ajay Martin. There’s very little detail on what it does, again a common falling of the more obscure Firefox extensions. Ajay maintains (or used to, at least) a LiveJournal weblog here.
I don’t have much more to say about the extension, will update here when I use it a little more.
Update: Orkut ScrapEasy (addon download page)
Just found another tool made by Karthik Veeramani. I’ve not tested it but it does seem to work, at least from the comments on the Firefox addons site. Karthik’s also made a ScrapEasy Greasemonkey script, you’ll need to install Greasemonkey first, for that.
I’ve been somewhat of an avid follower of the evolution of social networks and online social intellectual property based communities and I’ve never really been able let go of the feeling that orkut is probably quite confusing a place for new users. People join up when invited by friends and then spend enough time to satisfy their need for vanity (or their need to tell others what they think about themselves) by filling in the comprehensive profiling area in orkut. Then it’s pretty much a submitting of scraps routine. There really is not much more to do, on orkut. Apart from playing inane games (comment-on-previous-poster’s-avatar and other combinations) that is. I would think that over all this time, a lot more possible activities would have sprung up on orkut. In comparison with other social networks, which allow users to maintain their own “spaces” among other gimmickery, orkut is quite restrictive and at times, unpredictable.
I’ve observed that social networks that have some sort of API and openness tend to flourish more – Flickr is a shining example of this. The amount of applications, and the places and methods people use Flickr is really surprising. Heck, even I wrote a flickr desktop gadget myself, along with Apurva.
orkut, though, steadfastly refuses to open it’s doors to general public – it remains member-invite only. The lack of any sort of API (at least on cursory examination) and infrequent updates to functionality are another problem in my opinion.
If any of these tools succeed in their mission to enable people to both read and post to scrapbooks and forums in communities quickly and easily, and attain sufficient popularity, orkut will have quite a few problems if it maintains it’s stance. Load, for one. Usability, for another. Imagine what it’d be like to use the basic orkut interface if the scrapbook view became similar to a chatlog, that too a one-sided one, for a really large number of users. The casual or new orkut user would be even more confused than he currently gets when he uses the site.
I would view that failure to be systemic in impact. Failure to evolve and adapt spells sure doom in the current online social world.
I’d be quite a lot more inclined to use these tools if I thought that orkut had anything to offer for me apart from the casual old acquaintaince dropping by to say “Hi!”. You might derive more benefit than me, of course. Do try out these tools if you do.