As many of you have pointed out to me, the mobile social network, Path, has launched a new version of their App that features many of the photographs you know and love from here on 50ft. I am excited for the opportunity and flattered that they have chosen my photographs to be part of the feel of the amazing new GUI within the App.
For those of you who may not be familiar, Path is a social network built around the idea that you don’t need to have hundreds of “friends” to enjoy its services. It takes a more humble approach and allows a maximum of 150 friends within your personal network. It’s a fascinating approach that I find I really love. Its nice to know that there is a service that does not encourage the endless thirst to achieve the greatest number of followers. With Path, you have more of a personal Journal showing where you are, what friends you are with, and what you are up to, as a way to share rather than impress. You do this by posting photos, videos, location check ins, written thoughts, music, and even when you sleep and wake. The information is then folded into your main timeline and shared with others in your network in a beautiful way that encourages interaction. It’s the perfect place to share with closer friends and family in a more intimate way than other social networks. I will share some of my thoughts and feelings on thisin just a bit.
Before I get too far away from my reason for writing today, I would like to discuss what everyone out there seems to be chattering about above all else when it comes to Path 2.0, the UI. It’s an old saying, and common knowledge at this point in our technology driven lives, that the best kind of interface is one that does not get in the way of you accomplishing your goals and this is an area where Path excels.
It is highly refined, beautiful, incredibly fluid and nearly effortless in that most needs are only a couple of taps away from your fingertips. It’s not every day a group of designers manage to create something truly forward thinking but that is exactly what they have done. Clearly a lot of time went into this update and it shows.
As I mentioned above, the guys over at Path have included many of my photographs as the default imagery within the app’s updated timeline. The space at the top of your home page, which they have brilliantly decided to call the cover image, is where you will discover one of my images when first using the app. This of course can be customised to your own personal photo but as of now you are not able to go back to any of the built in images. After a mail or two with the founders of the company, I have discovered that a future update will include the ability to specify which of my images you would like to use for your cover rather than its current automatic decision. (see note on this in the Path FAQ here) This choice would of course be in addition to the existing choice to pick one of your own images. Many of you have asked me about this ability so I am happy to be able to say that it is on their list of future features.
I find it hard to express how greatful I am to be part of this great new UI design, even in such a subtle way. I am not a part of the team at Path nor am I affiliated with the company in any way, just so you know. My thoughts in this article are strictly my own feelings and have not been written to sell the idea of the app. To be honest, I discovered my images inclusion at the same time everyone else did. While they did write to ask for permission to use them within a future update it was a surprise to me when I saw them used in such a natural way within the apps layout. It’s exciting to know my work is able to reach a wider audience and hopefully be at least a tiny factor in that, ‘wow’, moment upon toying around with the interface for the first time. A big part of why I share my photos the way I do is because of the happiness I hope they can bring others so this is a natural extension of that desire.
For me, personally, I feel Path will be a great tool to fill the hole Gowalla left behind when they completely uprooted and changed direction. I only ever used it for personal use or to share with friends anyhow so Path is going to become a natural evolution of that habit for me. Having a private network with such information is a nice thing to have among family and friends in my life. The addition to version 2.0 of being able to add entries as private notes which are not shared with others is also nice because it elevates its potential as a journal for moments in life I don’t want to forget but also may not want to share. All that said, please don’t be offended if I don’t add you as a friend within the network as I plan to stick with people I have at least a casual friendship with that I feel comfortable letting see closer into my day to day life.
Many seem to be a bit confused by what benefits Path offers over existing ones. The main reason for this seems to be because you are able to take photos using filters in a way similar to Instagram. Well let me tell you now, this is not at all Instagram. Instagram has an abysmal social side and sort of halfway encourages you to share or interact with others. Just look at the “Popular” page, in my opinion, its embarrassing for the service in general and I can only hope they have plans to clean up that side of what they do.Their last update was nice and all but felt like they are just plugging holes rather than polishing things more overall. Of course it does do one thing well and has given many a chance to share and enjoy photography with a simple approach that anyone can enjoy and I have had a lot of fun with it and will continue to do so.
Instagram became the default place to snap photos and share them in so many minds because of its hype, much in the same way Twitter grew so suddenly. These types of social networks (including Facebook and countless others) have one thing in common, they are all designed for you to have a place to not only share but to show off. To fudge the truth just enough to feel like you can be anyone. While it’s true that not everyone has the end goal of accumulating as many followers as possible, the semi anonymous nature in most social networks is something that Path has done a brilliant job in avoiding and it would seem this confuses a lot of journalists and those trying to figure out what to make of it. This is not to say that networks like Twitter or Instagram don’t have their place, it’s just that Path has managed to build something really wonderful in the social network space. Something more personal, a space where you can feel safe in sharing where you are, or who you are with.
I see those online acting jaded and apathetic toward the idea of another social network but I’m not exactly sure why. I understand the initial reaction to some degree but to automatically dismiss something without knowing more about it seems rash. Why bother saying anything at all? I for one am sick of so much cynicism online. Anyways, sometimes it feels as though most everyone is on Facebook by default except for a few, such as myself, who choose not to participate in that madness and I think there are a lot of people out there that are growing weary of such outlandish widespread sharing of their personal life. It’s your choice what networks you decide to be a part of and I believe there is room for more than one. Twitter, Instagram, and even Tumblr have proven that. Facebook is the huge bloated monster that it is simply because it tries to do everything and as soon as the non-tech savvy members of the world caught on it reached its tipping point and flooded our every day lives so it was bound to reach a point where many start to pull away from it.
This is why networks like Twitter, Instagram, Path, Stamped, and others have been able to make their place and show that the ‘do one thing well’ space is starting to catch on. Surely most of us understand the benefits of a focused effort being a more enjoyable experience than a swiss army knife service that gives us a multitude of tools which just get in the way of each other when we want to accomplish anything more specific. WIth Path, what we have been given is a simplified place place to be more at ease within than other, wider reaching networks.
With Path I don’t have to feel guilty about posting a note about how my car has been fixed at a lower cost than I thought it would be, or how I thought my dinner was delicious while posting a photo of it, because I know that the people that I am sharing it with are those who I consider to be trusted and closer to me and would be more interested to know such things. There is no one I would follow that I would not be willing or able to invite to my own home or meet with in person. If I started using Twitter in a way that many used to make fun of it for and start tweeting about overly personal bits of my life I would be annoying many of those who choose to follow me. The landscape of social media is quickly changing and I feel Path is a brilliant move in the right direction.
As for Path having overlapping functionality with other networks, I feel many are looking at the service and scratching their heads because they don’t want to post the same moment in two or three different places and that is totally understandable. But remember my point above, think about how we have begun to use the different social networks that are in place. Many, if not most, of us have turned our life online into a business of sorts. Sharing has become less about sharing and more about flexing muscles. It only makes sense things would have evolved in this direction and its great that we are all now capable of having a voice and being heard, but this does not seem to be what Path is for. When you post a photo or a thought to Path you don’t have to let the idea that hundreds of people may be reading burden you. It’s here to share yourself and your life, not to exploit and spread your grand ideas and statements with the world.
Here is one real world example of what I consider to be a good use of the app. There is a person I like to follow on Instagram who is a reader of 50ft and I have enjoyed his photography and spoken with him casually here and there over the past year or so and I chose to follow him on Instagram because I enjoy his photographic work. Trouble is, he LOVES to share moments through his day with photos and ends up sharing a lot of what seem to be more personal moments with friends and little inside jokes and things that would really only interest those in his inner circle of friends who he seems to love and is around often and that is wonderful. Instagram became a quick way for him to share these moments with his friends but at the cost of a casual follower like myself having to sift through dozens of personal snapshots from him rather than just a few more curated moments that could draw more of a broad interest. Sure, the easy solution would be for me to not follow him any longer but I really do enjoy following his photos when they are not just snapshots of his friends or his new wardrobe. I of course mean no disrespect here, but I feel I could suggest to him and his other close friends to give Path a go as a viable alternative for sharing these moments with each other and save Instagram for those moments he would like to share with his extended network of friends and followers. Of course, it is totally up to him how he uses the service but it is exactly this type of user that Path is perfect for.
One last thought that sprang into mind is this. Path could also be highly simplified as far as how many followers you choose to add is concerned. It could be used specifically for your eyes only with no other friends added to it at all. The beautiful interface would work wonderfully as a simple Journal app for your own personal needs while sharing only specific moments through its connection to Twitter, Foursquare, Facebook, and now Tumblr. You certainly can’t argue with a free Journal app that automatically saves all your info for you. Alternatively, you could use it with one other person, it could be a direct connection to your significant other or one or two of your closest of friends. The way you use it is up to you, I’m just thinking out loud.
Speaking of sharing only specific entries on path through another service. While writing this article I posted a quick snapshot of the iPad I am writing this on through Twitter. The shortlink it shared directed others to a web based Path page where you could see the post and photo attached as well as leave a comment on the post. It is a perfect solution that uses the web as a back door to combine the strengths of both services. This makes for a beautifully simple way to branch out thoughts posted within Path with a wider audience via the other shared services they offer to connect to. A brilliant move that I am surprised to see no one has brought up yet among other discussions online and makes it even more functional for me from day to day.
Great thing is that it will only get better with future updates (iPad support anyone?) so what are you waiting for? If you have an iPhone or Android phone head over to your app store and check it out for yourself and tell your smartphone wielding friends. All of the hype it has been getting seems to be very much deserved. I for one am getting more and more excited about having this service available to me and continuing to explore it and I have a feeling that if you give it a chance, you will too.
For anyone interested, I have created a wallpaper of the image above which you can access using the links below. Also, feel free to share your thoughts on Path or social networks in general within the comments. I know opinions run thick with this sort of thing so use your best judgement when sharing if you would.