The Echo Chamber of Secrets

New private network Path launched last Monday with much public acclaim and even more whitespace.

(I'm sharing an image of my Path profile with you so as not to broadcast any personal 'moment' of my Path contacts—I mean, closest friends.)

Despite what you may have read, Path isn't based on reciprocal relationships. After all, Path Founder Dave Morin knows "that if you are sharing with a single person you do not trust, you will not feel comfortable sharing." So relationships are asymmetrical, at least for now, and the service nails the friend etiquette with a mute button option ("pausing" in Path parlance) for those oversharing close friends who still need to feel part of your circle of trust.

Explicitly an implementation of Dunbar's number, this is an acknowledgment of filter failure from the former Facebooker, even as those sprawling sites remain the best proprietary identity providers (Path users have asked for and will soon be able to find friends through Facebook and Twitter).

Whereas Instagram may work because your boring photos are filtered through forgiving lenses into handsome snapshots and painlessly broadcast through branded urls, Path wants us to reconnect with fifty people who actually care about our boring photos.

More than that, Path records attention in an alarming notation beneath each image next to a small blue eye reminiscent of the CBS logo (the red Path logo also leans heavily on the Phillies logo, but that's a discussion for another time).

Which of your friends 'saw this,' is the way Path hopes "you will see which of your friends have seen the moment in real-time." Like iPhone 4's FaceTime, which recalls David Foster Wallace's "videophonic stress" from Infinite Jest, induced by listeners having to pay rapt, undivided attention to the caller, the omniscient Blue Eye, let's call it, introduces an even lower barrier than a 'like' click on a post.

My views are being tracked (without my knowledge the first time) in the 'saw this' metric, ensnaring even the lurkers—a simultaneously frightening and brilliant feature in terms of measuring adoption of a product all about trust.

Now I do know if you "saw" my update or not on this new, additional network that we are told will "augment" my other social networks. Will Path make my other social networks greater—as in, more delightful? Or does it just increase the quantity of social networks I must now attend to as a good digital caretaker does? (Prediction: We will likely see celebrities increasingly employ a digital assistant as the privilege of online popularity consumes ever-taller piles of time.)

In the Path launch video, our hero updates his profile; "Nervous at Home," then scrolls through images of moments with his love. As he scrolls through the Path updates, images open into the moment itself—we meet Sarah Young running down the beach, adjusting her shawl at the opera, walking the dog while a city bus rolls by.

Path offers a white canvas, but reveals that only you have the context of that actual moment (and can remember what happened before or after the image), so it's unclear how the service advances or "enables...storytelling." Our hero's reverie ends with a text from Mom ("Well?") that appears on top of the Path app; quickly pulled back to the present moment, he moves from the couch to grab the ring.

The real question: what's a girl gotta do to get into our hero's top fifty? Really, she wouldn't see your update, Romeo? Trust.

Kristen Taylor is the founder and CEO of Galvanize. Follow her on Twitter.

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2 Comments

  • Tim Letscher

    OK, Path looks kinda lame at the moment and the storytelling video only seems to reinforce a feeling that this guy's way too hooked into his phone and capturing moments instead of living them. Maybe the best thing about this post is I now know about Galvanize! Looks like a winner, Kristen - good luck with it.

  • kthread

    Thanks, Tim (and sorry to just catch this comment now). We're still in early stages with Galvanize and bootstrapping, but it's fun and all about making the world full of magic.

    I'm with you on waiting the protagonist in the video to live more and agree with you that the interesting part is when our devices don't just help us "capture" moments, they help us act.