The Middle Path

I gave a brief review of Path when it first arrived on the scene back in 2010. At the time I just started to use it and was pleasantly surprised by it’s approach. They not only seemed generally interested in a well designed social experience but also a well restricted one. They positioned themselves around the idea that this was a digital journal of sorts that was shared with only your closest family and friends. And, to further reinforce this idea, they actually limited the number of people one could count as a “friend” on the network to 150. This number was not arbitrarily made up. It was based on Dunbar’s Number, the suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships proposed by British anthropologist Robin Dunbar.

Now, Path has had it’s growing pains. They made a stupid choice at one point to access and upload people’s contacts to their service. Unfortunately, this caused many users to write them off completely (and even for Apple to make some changes to an apps ability to do such a thing in the first place). The CEO apologized for it but for some it was either not enough or came off to them as not sincere. But, as one who stuck with the service, I really believe they have been actively working to change this perception. The iPhone and iPad apps (the only way to use the service, mind you) are some of the most beautifully designed and thought through ones I use. The company puts it’s values and story front and center on it’s website. In short, they have worked very hard to win back and deserve the trust of those that use it.

I still use Path pretty actively. I post something there at least once a day. Given it’s purpose and what I use it for, I’m pretty picky about who I connect with there. I really have to consider you a friend or someone I’m at least comfortable sharing more personal details with than I would otherwise share on the more open social networks. I share plenty of pics of my little girl, my day-to-day activities, my runs (it connects with Nike+), my current location, and the occasional selfie. It is the primary way I interact with some other social networks including Foursquare.

Here is how Path fits in for me. I keep the stuff I just want for my eyes only in Day One, the stuff I wish to share with a wide and indiscriminate audience I do on App.net or Twitter. Path sits in the middle of this sharing graph. It is for the stuff I wish to share but only with a selected few. I like to think of it as the “friendship” chair of Thoreau’s home.

The thing is though that I fear for Path’s health and future. Today, they had to lay off 20% of the staff. And though they recently rolled out a premium subscription model, I still am not sure if there are enough people using it and willing to pay for that to sustain them. I hope it sticks around.

But, most importantly, I would like to see and interact more of my friends there. I like it and I think most of them will too. So, if you are so inclined, I think you should give it a shot. And, feel free to look me up and reach out to me if you do.

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