It makes me smile. It surprises me. It’s a little something that cares about design again, but not for the sake of Design. An
social app experience that for once has a solid sense of self and purpose, over trying to be Disruptive—or, hopping a bandwagon that 4 other platforms serve. A platform that wants me to want to use not just it, but its native application.
Interactions that inspire me to broadcast less and to interact more. Interactions that map to simple human behaviors of mulling, exploring, and discovery that’s less GOTTADONOWOMG! and more akin to moving through the flat cafe with comfy plush sofas. Red velvet sofas. Not the place to go for impulsive geolocation stake tossings into the ether, vacuum-packed engagement with games, reappearances from the familiar basket of kitten videos, or blasting information tidbits from all directions—news articles, deep thoughts quotes, traffic updates, aggro, sad, passive, angry, emphatic, meh—that all happen to be 130-140cc.
It’s fun, it’s quick, it’s over. It’s quietly there for me when I feel like that next quick, random, slow cognitive pause. It’s just one thing, but it’s that one simple thing agnostic of media type, not expecting to be defined by media type.
Twitter was so simple. It immediately reminded me of high school Model UN Sunday afternoon study sessions in the GRADLy: all of us seated at a loooong oak table, immersed in the policy studies of our assigned countries. Randomly someone would share something. Others might respond, or not- but after a very focussed day of dense, un-exciting reading, we would all leave still feeling a sense of social satisfaction. We were all there hanging out, even though our tasks were isolated and mentally we were each thousands of miles away, all across the world.
The interaction model of Twitter is so stupidly simple, too, that it naturally seemed to promote that perfect sense of ambient community that us folks over 16 have the time for in our adult lives, and going forward made more time for. Then the corporate & celebrity-as-brand Twitter accounts came along. Then the tidal wave of platforms, sharing models—all really neat stuff—but stuff that for me at least, seemed to lose the point of “meaning” in the Dodgeball after GoWalla after Foursquare after Highlight, etc., crapshoot-stabs at startup success.
It got to a point for me where it just felt annoying and overwhelming. Initially I blew-off Path for over a year, jaded with annoyance from the proliferation of meaningless BS-y apps that are more appy than human. I finally asked a friend at brunch one day “ok, everyone’s on Path- what IS the point of it?!” and his first answer was simply that it’s an aggregate to broadcast from, so it makes sharing simpler. Then he paused, and added-in that fewer people were on it… just his actual friends, and that it was just kind of- well, friendlier.
He was right. On all points. There’s no point in over-analyzing it. It just works. And, it’s adorable. It’s a complete concept that accounts for how humans WANT and DO behave, more than it is a jazzy idea for ez broadcasting. And, it’s conceptually simple like Twitter used to be and thus maps better to natural human behavior, than today’s microbloggorama does. No “Tweets” or “Check-Ins” or “Shared Links” or “HT” as distinguished from “RT” as distinguished from “OH” stuff. Just the absence of today’s jargon required to summarize its interactions, was a breath of fresh air.
Path’s value is in the simplicity of its value prop: it simply documents moments, and the collection of each person’s moments is their Path. Laura Ingalls Wilder could get her head around that. It’s so easy for young developers & product folks to excitedly embrace jargon/vein-slap-o-rama with “Oh this is the web, so of course mental models are totally different! Everyone ‘gets’ it at some point!”
What Path has finally brought into articulation for me, is that sure- everyone just might get it at some point- but for how many (outside the dorky early adopter crowd) does it remain an integral part of their daily lives, and how many keep it compartmentalized as what they do while waiting in lines, bored in meetings, or as a replacement for TV as mental decompression?
For the first time since 2007, I have many of my friends seated at what had been an empty long oak table, in the GRADLy that will always live in my mind as the idyllic metaphor for online social sharing space that works, and adds value to my daily rituals. And hey, that could wear off and I could be tired of Path in a few months, but for now I’m just really enjoying the breath of fresh air.