This weekend one of my friends asked me: “So what do we think about Path?”. What DO we think about Path?
I installed it about 8 weeks ago. In fact Path tells me two months and 285 moments ago. I can’t remember who originally suggested it to me. It was at the beginning of a month’s travel around Europe and I had intermittent internet access. This meant I was mainly in capture & broadcast mode (journaling my travels) rather than access & curate mode (monitoring and sharing from information streams). And Path is great for capture & broadcast.
I fell in love with it, even though I did have to move it to the front page of my iPhone first, so I wouldn’t forget to use it, and go to one of my other services instead. Here’s 5 reasons I do so like Path.
I think the key reason I like Path is that it is intensely personal. Path only lets you post your personal updates. It has various artifacts you can create: a check-in, an update, a picture, a music-update, but all of those are originally created by you, based on an experience you are having. You can’t “re-Path” someone else artifacts either, so only your artifacts live in your Path.
Friends can take several different actions in response to your artifacts, they can Smile, Laugh, Gasp, Be Unhappy, or Love it, and also leave a comment, giving Path a little more finesse than just the Facebook Like or Twitter Favourite or Retweet.
You can include your friends in any update by using the “I’m With” function. This works for anyone on Path, but if your friends are not on Path, you can still include Facebook, Twitter or friends in your Contacts. Only their first name will be used.
The lack of external content, no links, no lolcats, no game updates, no witty videos, makes Path a very different and very human experience.
Path got its interface right and is much more attractive to look at and to use than some of the big social media giants’ apps, like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. I think this may be because Path is not trying to mimic a website. Particularly not a website that had design flaws in the first place (yes, that’s you Facebook) or a website that is contorted in adding superfluous functionalities beyond its initial function which it did exquisitely (and that’s you Twitter). Path had the freedom to design its app for a single purpose (personal broadcasting) and with mobile and gesture in mind, and that shows.
It has a cover/profile pic combination that most will recognise from the new Facebook Timeline layout, but I had Path before I switched my Wall to Timeline, and I can’t help thinking that Path is what Facebook was trying to achieve (and certainly in its mobile app, fails).
The Chooser where you go to perform an action, is just lovely, and much nicer than a row of links, blocks or buttons.
Path packages several types of social media actions I regularly perform, into one platform, all started from the pretty Chooser. It also adds one update I didn’t perform but would find great if it was cross-platform.
Location update: I usually use Foursquare for this. With Path I can post a location check-in to Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare and believe me, its location finder is much more robust than Foursquare. You know the “Foursquare Servers are busy” message? Hasn’t happened on Path… However the link with Foursquare is good, and so your check-ins do count.
Photography update: Path photos are very nice indeed and it comes with a good selection of remarkably effective filters (although you have to pay for others). I was using Instagram for this, and find it a pity that Path doesn’t link to Instagram, as I miss out on my Instagram community interactions. However it does allow posting to Twitter and Facebook, and when posting to Facebook, they all go into a Path album on Facebook, making the photos taggable. This is something Instragram has only recently managed and was a big bugbear for me.
Unfortunately when you send a pic to Twitter with Path it doesn’t end up in your Twitter stream of pics (via TwitPic) but just becomes a link to Path, as you can see below. A bit of a fail, that one…
Very Monty Python [pic] — path.com/p/1XdSwX
— Joyce Seitzinger (@catspyjamasnz) January 28, 2012
Music update: I like to share what I’m listening to and follow my friends’ music tips too. It’s how I’m introduced to new bands or genres these days, rather than radio or tv. I used to use Blip.fm but then my use was browser-based. I gave it up when it became buggy and my browser kept crashing. I then switched to Soundtracking on my iPad and iPhone, but my use was intermittent, I never built up a huge community and with my last update, it also became buggy, crashing out frequently. With the Path app I can share songs in Path, which is just with a small group, but I can widen that by choosing to share with Facebook and/or Twitter as well.
The Sleep or Awake update: This one is new for me. Basically you can set a notification in Path that your are asleep. Path posts this in your timeline, usually accompanied by the time, and sometimes an automated status update or comment, eg “Must have been a busy day” if you go to sleep early. While you are asleep you don’t get notifications from Path. How nice would it be to have a universal Sleep function that was cross-platform? You say “I’m asleep” in one platform, and all the others Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Path, WordPress and other notifications are off. I know people will say: “Why don’t you just turn off your smartphone?” but the fact is sometimes I want peace and quiet, but I do want to be reachable by txt, phone call and for my alarm clock.
The “I’m Awake” function held a bit of a surprise, as it makes for a nice communal morning experience, as you and your friends in the same city or region all wake up, particularly on work days.
Path can propagate my updates/artifacts to one of four main services. To expand on what I wrote above. You can write a status and per status, choose to share only in Path, or to also post to one of the four linked services, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare or Tumblr. This works not just for Status updates, but also for pictures, music and location updates.
I’m not a Tumblr user. I do use the other three avidly and for overlapping but different purposes, and with overlapping but different networks. So being able to select per status which network is appropriate is great. I know there are other services that allow this, but Path makes it very easy with four tickboxes at the bottom of any update or artifact creation page, whether that’s a regular status update, a picture, location or music update.
When I say private, I don’t mean it’s closed. It is that too. Path itself states: “Path should be private by default. Forever. You should always be in control of your information and experience.” I’m not sure how they relate this to pictures being public on the Path website as my picture is here. But this may be a setting I haven’t found yet.
But by private, I mean intimate. That is mainly due to the relatively small uptake and who is using it in my circles. The 20 or so people I’ve connected with are all avid experienced social media users, like @haikugirloz, @playnice_nz and @daveymelb. They realise intuitively that Path is a medium and interface that can easily get flooded by too many posts. They also seem to understand that its interface calls for aesthetic, personal updates. So the photos my friends post are artful and intimate, the music they share is one song, just to indicate their current mood, the statuses they post are entertaining and personal.
And I think this last may also be Path’s downfall. It works best when used in a small network by personal friends who are all social media savvy. With no grouping (circles, lists, etc) option, you can’t structure your network into manageable streams. So if I had 450 Path friends (as I do on Facebook), the Path would be flooded and unnavigable.
It’s sad, as I love the app, but I wonder whether it will survive, or at least survive in its current pretty, personal form.