Social media for the thoughtless and lazy? Eat a Peach.
This article is about Peach, a new social network, and its specific publishing features.
As a product professional, part of my job is to disassociate myself from “users”. This is why we build personas in the product world. Not everyone uses a particular product, and those who do are not always using it in the same way. We hope they are, but we product people very often get that wrong, and it can make for troubles. Personas help us understand who these people are and how they think. That way, we can hopefully keep our own opinions out of features, as informed as they may be. If I did it on my own, a .400 batting average would be amazing, and indeed it is. But we can do better than baseball.
So what is the one thing that all personas have in common? Laziness.
Scroll through the products on Product Hunt. What do you see? Laziness. Make me a cup of coffee with the perfect froth. Teach me piano. Dress me up to look cool (by someone else’s definition). Give me a plant I don’t have to water. Write for me. Cut my hair. And on and on. But don’t make me do it/learn it/have to figure out how to get it. Do we really not have time to do what I thought were satisfying ways to spend time on our own? What are these other things in life that are so important that we must make way for? Hold the thought. Sometimes I’m all over the place. I’ve got too many other things to do. Like make coffee…by hand, yo.
Along with building personas, many product managers also create user stories to guide development. These are declarations, based on research, from the mouths of a real users or perhaps imagined from well-understood personas. To simplify, these take the general form of “As Persona A, give me a way to do/not have to do x so that I can y.” In many cases, the successful features I see end with “so I don’t have to.” Here’s one: As an aspiring thought leader, think for me so I don’t have to. I am not joking. I coaxed that out of someone once. And that’s fine. Great user story, actually, though slightly large in scope. Great product. Auto-magical.
OK. So what? This can go a lot of directions.
It’s good — we can concentrate on “more important stuff”.
It’s bad — there are water shortages and people are starving and we’re worried about how to take a better selfie.
It’s good — walking to the barber to get a haircut sucks. I’ll pay a premium for someone to come to me.
It’s bad — walking and observing the world is a great opportunity to clear the mind and observe my wonderful surroundings that I usually ignore.
I have thoughts on this, of course, probably slightly obvious, but let’s stick to Peach, shall we?
Peach, like others before it, may live or it may die. But like others before it, its appearance causes in me an instant involuntary groan and overwhelming sense of smugness. See? I admit it. But I’m a professional, damnit! So I get over it pretty quickly, and then I get to work. And by “work” I mean that I ponder the question “What laziness does this serve?” Let’s take a look and then reflect on them, shall we?
- Simple UI with many options: Peach offers dozens — and potentially hundreds of “things to do” without cluttering an interface with buttons or hidden dropdowns. It does this through commands. That’s right. Remember computer games that didn’t even have graphics in the eighties? Commands like Move. Draw. Location. Events. Gif. Let me do stuff — or share stuff for me — without having to go find it.
With these commands, instead of providing links to other apps for you to open and share from (pain in the ass), Peach pulls data from your phone (your location, your calendar, your mobile operating system, a database of gifs) so you can readily share them. I can share the percentage charged on my battery, for example. Not that you’d care. But how many times have I wanted to get something from one app and seamlessly get it into another? Too many. Just spoke to a client about it today. Even that one tap really irks me. But commands? Animated gifs? Sheesh. The more things change…
2. Peach offers ideas about what to post. Tell me what to write so I don’t have to think about it.
Just now I really wanted to share that above screenshot with you. That was troublesome. I had to take the screenshot on mobile, edit it, and get it here. That required email. It required a copy and a paste (nice work, Medium — I did not have to save it, find it, and upload it.) At some point our ignorance or laziness gets in the way and we say “Fuck it” when it comes to tasks like these. I don’t even have time to think, damnit! That’s why I’m here!
3. Glorified pokes. Remember Facebook pokes? Back in the day, if you had nothing to say, you poked someone. I think pokes were actually relics from some earlier social networks. Anyway, Peach has a whole vocabulary for that, and they can be pulled up in a tap or two. I have already been “booped” and “caked”. There are some sensible canned pokes: Blow a kiss. Hiss. I guess it just assumes you have nothing to say. Great! I’m too lazy. I can just “cake” you (it comes with an emoticon, of course) and be done with it.
Concerning Peach’s staying power: Are these surface features really going to hold users’ attention? Probably not. But in this kind of business play, that’s not the point, because with enough users, the race is on, and one never knows where that ultimately goes, as long as you can get some advertising in there. The promise, I suppose, is to be able to share enough information on it without leaving it that it grows to accommodate more and more data that can be pulled from within the app with the minimal number of taps. If this means that users start to bump other apps, then there’s something here.
As for advertising, think about the potential here. A brand can sponsor a “magic word” and pay for it on a cost-per-use basis. I can “Pepsi” you, but it doesn’t have to be so blunt. Pepsi can “splash” you and an animate plastic bottle of pepsi can shake and blast at you. Brought to you by Pepsi. Use the magic word “soda” to win free Pepsi. Who knows?
The point is, Peach taps (no pun intended) into
- Our growing inability to pull our apps together into a cohesive and sensible way of communicating across them. Give the user enough canned visuals/means to find and create them in the app without then having to leave. This is a real technical issue.
- Our thoughtlessness. This is a real human issue.
It cares not at all for the written word, just as Instagram and Snapchat do not. It wants us to jab at a screen and generate pseudo-meaningful posts for us. It cares not whether you have something important to say or share. It dissuades you from that. It is quite the opposite of my ideal social network, which would allow nothing but words. Not even links. I’d try to build one of those, but I don’t think anyone would come. Maybe that’s not even the proper definition of a social network. Maybe that’s more like Medium. Is this a social network? What does that even mean any more?
I like to read original thoughts. I like to share original thoughts, even if they are tl;dr. When I get hit with a barrage of animated memes and auto-playing videos and strings of emoticons I become agitated. I liked Facebook just fine before advertisers and users started demanding big images. I worked with advertisers on Facebook then. Always with the big images. Why can’t we post big images? I liked that they couldn’t. I liked that no one could. I don’t like how these apps are forcing us into primitive cave drawings and hieroglyphics. Peach has maybe a couple dozen magic words but the alphabet has an INFINITE number. Are we fucking devolving? “A picture is worth a thousand words” you say? Yeah…well I don’t want to ingest a thousand words. I want to ingest a few of them strung together by someone I know in an original and thoughtful way. But I don’t matter. We’ve established that. It’s not about me.
Instead of asking “What crazy feature-filled magic thing can we build that people will want to constantly use?” we should more often ask “How can we build something that people can use with minimal effort and near thoughtlessness?” If we can do that, we might be on our way to answering the first question.
Peach might not impress me as a user. In fact, quite the opposite. But it reminds me to constantly re-think and re-assess how I approach developing a mobile product.