I'm a total slut when it comes to social media. I'll sign up for anything and use it at least once. As quickly as I am to sign on though I'm quick to never log on after the first experience. There're tons of new social media things and something has to wow to last more than a couple weeks.
Two such services really got to me, Subjot and Path, but one is the clear victor—and the reasons surprised me because they approach the same task from dramatically different philosophies and technologies.
It's been crazy.
What they are
They're both in the "like Twitter except" genre of social media. You post things to friends, and that's the ur of it.
Subjot is like Twitter except you have to assign a subject to your post, or "jot." Then, when someone follows you, they can elect to follow that subject or not. The idea is if you like someone's antics, but they also talk a lot about sports, you can choose to never see sports postings from that person and just focus on the things you're interested in. Clever, eh?
Subjot allows posting to itself, Twitter, and Facebook simultaneously. This is a critical feature I need because I'll be damned if I'm going to copy/paste redundantly post to more than one service if I can help it (though I seem willing to make an exception for Instagram for some reason).
Path is like Twitter except you're limited in the number of people you can "share" with. Also, it has a number of other features like built-in photo and video sharing, music sharing and sampling, and a surprisingly important and very clever sleep/wake feature I'll discuss later.
Also, critically, Path has the best UI of any social media I've yet encountered. It's brilliant. Also, it's only available on mobile devices, not via website. Subjot, on the other hand, is only on the web and has no mobile app.
Path also allows posting to itself, Twitter, and Facebook simultaneously, but also posts to Tumblr and Foursquare.
Like all these social things, I forget where I first heard about Subjot. I joined and was instantly in love with it. The people running it were very nice, it's a small operation, and responses to bugs were quick and it felt very "family" over there. I was enamored of the subject idea and being able to post to Twitter and Facebook was not only compelling but critical. It became my favorite.
In addition to merely using it as a convenience to transmit to both Twitter and Facebook, I enjoyed Subjot-specific conversations and ratio of signal to noise was very high. Remarkably good, strong, relevant information and entertainment. Strong discussions.
Joining the Path
I heard about Path via a podcast, I think. Anyway, I downloaded the app and right away I was struck by how smooth, elegant, and awesome the UI was. I love virtually everything about it, and it's a model for how such social posting UIs should be.
When I joined, the maximum number of people one could "share" with was 50. That increased to 150 then again to some number greater than 150 that I'm not quite able to ascertain (because communication from Path is so poor).
Path allows you to share more than words in a post. Unlike Subjot, you can share pictures, video, and uniquely what song you're listening to on the Music app (and the equivalent on Android phones, I guess). When you share that, people sharing your path see what the song is—and are provided a link to a sample from the iTunes store. If you want to buy that song, it's easy peasy to do so (and I've discovered—and bought—new music through this feature).
You can post pictures to your Subjot, but only by providing a link to where it's stored somewhere else, like Instagram. Subjot then generates a thumbnail and presents that in your jot, and you can click it to enlarge.
I thought the limited amount of people available to share with on Path would be a mistake, but the UI was so good I pressed on, using it for its simultaneous transmission feature. Instead, Path has turned out to be the most frequented site for interaction that I've ever been a part of. By focusing on a smaller group of people, I believe the group becomes more active.
Since the number is limited, one is encouraged to unshare with people who are inactive in favor of people who are more active. As a result, your path quickly becomes filled with people who are very active. As a result of that, Path seems vibrantly alive and vital—but remains easy to follow because the grand total of people on your Path with you is "low," thus manageable.
Subjot had a sense of family, like I said, but that sense of community, belonging, and familiarity is significantly more profound on Path. I love my fellow Pathicans, we all know each other, and we're all the time talking about a wide variety of topics.
Also, Path allows you to "tag" people you're "with." Basically if you make a post, you can tag someone who's already on your Path. For example, you could say "I'm enjoying a burger — with Sally" and then Sally would get a notice on Path that you've included her in something. People on Path use this feature to call special attention to their posts hoping to elicit a response from a particular member. For example, yesterday, someone on my Path posted a video of her rolling her tongue, then asked some of her fellow Pathicans (my term) whether they could do the same, and to provide video evidence of it, if so. She tagged a bunch of us, which brought that particular post to our direct attention. (It also resulted in my posting my first-ever video for I can, indeed, roll my tongue.)
On Subjot, you can reply to any post and it forms a conversation underneath the first post. Anyone can follow any conversation, even if you're not friends with anyone in the discussion. So far as I recall, all posts are public.
On Path, you can reply with text but not with a picture, video, or music of your own. Also, Path features an icon feedback system where to each post you can attach a smiley face, laugh, sad face, gasp, or heart. This feature is used liberally and is very keen when you want to quickly express an emotion with more breadth than a simple "Like."
Subjot is open in that anyone can read any thing, like on Twitter. You just need to know to look for it, if you're not following someone. You can post a link to a specific post to share it with anyone, if you want.
Path is private-ish. Say you and Sally are sharing. Sally also has a friend, Tina, who you don't know. If Sally posts something and both you and Tina reply to it, you, Sally, and Tina can read the conversation and all see what each other is saying. But! You and Tina can not see each others' paths. You can only see replies to someone you both have in common. This is a great way to meet new people on the service.
Neither service offers private messaging to individuals.
However, and this is oddly quirky, Path allows you to post messages visible only to yourself.
The Killer Feature
Path has an innocuous secret weapon. In addition to making posts, videos, &c., the last option on the UI for posting is a crescent moon icon. Tap it and you're presented with two buttons: "Go to Sleep" and "I'm Awake."
Press Go to Sleep and the screen fills with a graphical representation of the current phase of the Moon, the currrent time, and starts a timer. Meanwhile, on your Path feed, there's a note saying that you're now asleep.
In the morning, when you tap "I'm Awake," Path lowers the full-screen moon and auto-generates an entry for your feed saying you're awake, what time it is, the current weather and temperature, how many hours you've been asleep—and a pithy saying based on the number of hours slept.
Why this is a killer feature is that it promotes thinking about Path as the last thing you do before you set your phone on the nightstand, and the first thing you do when you pick it up in the morning. This trick works, that's exactly what I do, every night and every morning.
Also, it's quite fun to see people in Australia and England go to sleep and wake up during the course of the day. It's like watching the Earth turn as my Path fills with "I'm asleep" and "I'm awake" icons...
Whenever I tap "I'm Awake," I go to that post in my path and then quickly write down what I dreamt the night before. Path has become a dream journal for me, and that's something I've never ever done before. And as a result of that, a friend on Path has taken to giving each of my dreams a title based on the description, which is just the most darling and awesome thing ever.
Path won my heart. I feel closer to the people on Path than on any other service. The level of discussion tends to be more fluffy and less technical or political or serious on Path, but topics are more intimate and the level of sharing more profound. The tone is more casual, more friendly, and closer.
As well, many people are also quick to share contact information for other services they're on and invite participation in them. Instagram is very popular there, as are instant messaging services like Kik and Voxer. Voxer, in particular, is leading me to connect more closely with my fellow Pathicans.
I use Path and not Subjot. What happened? Path distinguished itself through features and a brilliant UI. Subjot failed to distinguish itself enough from Twitter, and as one of the co-creators mentioned, it was tough to tell someone why they needed to be on Subjot.
Why do I need to be on Path? Because my friends are there. Brand new friends. I only know two people IRL who're on there, and only one of them is active. The people I'm closest to on Path I met just through Path. It's like this whole new circle of friends, a great, fun group I'm happy to be a part of.
And that's how Path won: More and better features that enabled a strong, close community and sense of sharing.
Exactly what social media is for.