Weighing In On Path


My friend Julio Ojeda-Zapata, tech reporter for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, asked for my thoughts on Path, a new social network. He describes Path thusly:

The social service is a bit like Facebook, but with greater privacy and exclusivity — it allows a maximum of 150 friends — and an emphasis on mobility since it works only via smartphone apps for Apple iOS and Google Android.

I’ve been using Path for just a few months. Here’s what I shared with him:

I, in theory, like the idea of Path being more private. But what I’ve found is that my sense of self-censorship is so well honed that I can’t find anything to say on Path that I wouldn’t say on Twitter (or perhaps Google+, depending on whether I feel like editing characters down).

The result of two months of using Path has been simply that I tweet less, and also that I’m missing my closest peeps whom I usually keep up with on Twitter because I just haven’t been in Twitter.

I do really enjoy seeing the photos and following the whereabouts of my friends with kids. That is stuff they definitely don’t say much about in other channels (that I also bother to follow them in).

I’ve made a point to only friend people I’d really, really want to share my personal life with and know about their personal lives, and as such I don’t have a critical mass of fellow users. It’s just quiet. I imagine this is what a lot of people feel like in Google+.

Path doesn’t seem to do much that other services don’t already do for me. If the whole point of Path is to share with only your closest 150 real life friends, why would I then want to push Path posts to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and/or Foursquare?

It sure is pretty-looking, though. I love the presentation of the timeline, although if I were following more people I imagine I’d have a problem scrolling through all of their stuff. Seems like that would play better on a tablet than on a phone. The sleep/awake feature is nifty and unique, even if it’s entirely useless.

I want to like Path a lot more than I actually do. It’s lived in my home row for a couple months and I’m reluctant to move it. But I don’t feel like the small benefits of a few kid pictures and more personal glimpses from a very small group of people outweighs the bandwidth it takes to use it in the first place.

That self-censorship concept was a bit of an aha moment for me. I already share quite a bit, I think. Many times I would start to post something to Path, and then I’d ask myself “Why don’t I just tweet this? It would go farther and be more likely to get a response.” Then I’d delete it and not post anything anywhere.

I think Path has viability, just not for me. I also think some of Path’s user interface concepts will live on somewhere.