PATH AND LIMITATIONS

PATH

I heard about Path back in late 2010 and was immediately intrigued at the idea of it’s strict limits. Initially, Path only allowed members to have up to 50 contacts, then raised to 150. The contact limit is inspired by the research done by Oxford University Professor Robin Dunbar. The goal is to create a more personal and intimate experience for its members and I tend to agree with the cognitive limit proposed by Professor Dunbar.

The question is can this strategy ultimately work with other social networks establishing themselves with much higher limits or no limits at all? Path is entering it’s 5th year and a quick google search reveals that it has about 5 million daily active users, so it definitely has an audience. Is it enough to be considered a success? I would say that the answer to that is an unequivocal yes, but there is more to a social network than the amount of members. I do not know much about the company outside of that as information other than that is not easily available online.

So what do I think about Path? I think the friends limit is an interesting idea to work with, but I am not sure it works with the way Path operates. Path is trying to not be Facebook, but the interface and the way people communicate is very similar to it. The interface is a bit cluttered for my taste and has a top and bottom section which are dominated at all times by buttons/background image. There is a chat bubble button which redirects you to install their “Talk” messaging app which is similar to what the Facebook app does and it is a trend which I don’t like.

The Path UI is a little cluttered.

Path Talk is a nice messaging app which lets you send messages directly to businesses who are using the service. I sent a message to the local Trader Joe’s for Habanero Sauce and Path Agent got me connected with the store, which then responded to me 8 minutes after I sent my message. So there are a couple of things happening here. Apparently, this is an agent which pings the store and then you receive a response shortly after. I will play with this a little more in the coming weeks as the messaging app is my favorite thing that the team at path has done so far.IMG_0020

My app will not force people to download a separate application just to chat, IMO it doesn’t make sense for a communications app to not allow direct messages between members. Having 2 separate apps feels more like a cash grab rather than truly effective communicating. My app will not arrived split like some popular apps are today.

LIMITATIONS

I remember back when Facebook recently launched and some saying that they preferred MySpace due to the fact that you were able to customize their profile page much more with different background images, music, and a whole lot of other things. The end result was a complete mess with cluttered pages, browsers crashing, and malware being installed on computers. Some people hear the word limitation or restriction and automatically perceive it as a negative, but this is not always the case when building out a web service or an app. The MySpace/Facebook contrast is a perfect example of how a completely open platform can cause harm. Facebook has a pretty good balance in where most things can be edited, but not to a point in where you can edit HTML/CSS to alter the appearance completely. A consistent experience is something that I think most would appreciate and proven to be a successful method in providing services by companies such as Apple.

MOTIVATION

My motivation this week comes from this controversial video titled “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman” which was posted in October 2014 on YouTube. It is showing an attractive woman named Shoshana Roberts walking alone in NYC. I wouldn’t go as far as calling most of these examples “harassment”, but more of an acknowledgement by those who wanted to engage in conversation. There are a couple of instances in where some of the interactions can be viewed as harassment, most notable is the guy who walked besides her for 5 minutes and the other who wanted to give her his number. The rest of the video is a bit of a stretch on the definition of the word.

Listen, in this country it is generally accepted that men usually take the role of being the initiator in the opening conversation between a man and a woman. Can it be viewed as aggressive? Sure, but I am in the camp that believes that the men taking this approach have had some success with the strategy. No sane individual will continue to take these actions if it did not work in the past. We can go down a pretty deep rabbit hole here, but I am trying to keep my opinions out of this piece.

A few things are clear here:
1 – Many who are single actively seek for a connection whether it be in the streets of NYC, POF, or a farm.
2 – In the United States, men are generally the initiators in the first conversation.
3 – New York City has a population of over 8 million people, which means competition to find a mate is higher in the area.
4 – Many women have expressed that they would feel uncomfortable with that kind of attention on a daily basis.

The video above is a perfect blend of irregularities. Ms Shoshana Roberts is a very attractive female in her physical prime in a city in where competition is at its highest. New York City is a special and unique place in this country and there are only a handful of other cities in the United States in which such video can be produced. This is not a typical experience women have in the United States, just an example of how extreme it can get in a perfect blend. I am not giving the guys a pass here, but once all these factors are considered it is no surprise as to why Ms Roberts received that kind of attention in a relatively short amount of time. Is it wrong? I am not the one to judge, but I will acknowledge that it is a bit of a problem on both ends. Men are expected to initiate, but the sheer number of people on the streets of NYC can intimidate many women walking alone. I will also like to point out that most on the street did NOT try to get Shoshana’s attention, it’s just the sheer number of potential matches are overwhelming for a single woman. Last week, I highlighted the fact that a female friend of mine received 68 messages in a 3 hour window on POF. The interaction is different from the video above, but has a similar consequence – a great amount of attention in a small amount of time. For the men your message can be lost in the mix and for women it can feel overwhelming.

We all tend to have opinions on these issues, but few solutions are ever brought forward. I think I have found a nice way to balance this out via this app I am working on and can’t wait to reveal it all after it is done baking in the oven. More nuggets next week.