Episode 11: There's Booping

Marko lost his voice. So we typed out a little podcast.

Link to this text.


🍑 🍑 🍑


Marko: Hi Joe.

Joe: Hi Marko.

Marko: So there’s a new social network on the block. It’s emoji. It’s like path. It’s a little bit of awesome and kind-of a mess. It’s 🍑.

Joe: “It’s emoji”? Ugh. 🙄 Anyway, yes, it’s new, and it’s a mess. Hopefully it will be around long enough for us not to regret talking about it. Even in spite of its messiness, there are some things it has going on that really appeal to me, and I’m sure to you as well.

Marko: I think it’s worth talking (writing?) about for a few reasons, whether it sticks around or not. It’s a good example of some of the new ideas Slack started, like /giphy, that we’ve come to love and rely on and miss in things like iMessage and Twitter. And it really builds on that concept of “How can we do awesome stuff really easily.” But I don’t know how much staying power it has – we have too many social networks as it is. The UI is really nice, but the structure is really messy.

Joe: I agree that provides quick, natural language commands that expose complex functions - like searching for a gif, adding the location of a business or restaurant, or even polling for the weather where you are. It’s very whimsical, which is something that’s appealing about Slack, like you said. Another thing that struck me when I first tried this out wasn’t just the ease of certain functions, but also how the application chose to style and present itself to the user. It’s a very pleasant change from blue-and-white ideas of gender-neutral interface design we’ve seen from social networks over the last 10+ years.

Marko: Totally agree. We were texting about this earlier – it has this lighthearted, Japanese-schoolgirl inspired aesthetic. I think I called it “The Hello Kitty of UI design”, but done in a really tasteful way. It’s exuberant. What I like most about the app is how much fun it is. It doesn’t feel like a serious place which is a nice change of pace. Even some of the cues for how to use it – like when you comment the placeholder says “Say something nice…” That kind of detail is really refreshing.

Plus, there’s booping.

Joe: Yeah, and when you say “Japanese-schoolgirl” that doesn’t mean that we’re slighting it, or saying it is inherently feminine as much as it leans slightly off center for what most people might expect. It’s peach, for crying out loud. Rounded corners. Pastels. It’s really very comfortable in what it is and doesn’t put on any pretension of being what cultural norms might expect. After seeing some “toxic-masculinity” in products recently, I think it’s great, and sends a clear message that this product is not Xtreme Nacho Cheese Dew designed by Red Bull. That might be the single best thing about it, from my perspective. And the placeholder text for actions even enforces that.

Like you said, booping. Those actions that you can perform are not designed to be buttoned-down expressions of yourself. You have to be playful when you use them. Even when you use “Quarantine” (which doesn’t actually do anything to the quarantined party) or “Hiss” it can communicate mild disapproval, or sarcasm in a way that still manages to be light. There’s no dis-like, or downvoting. There’s no reputation system. Things you find in the internet’s man caves (Reddit, Hackernews).

Marko: Exactly. There’s this emotional honesty to it. It’s not about getting the most engagement or metrics, it’s more casual and ephemeral. There was this great episode of This American Life where they look into how middle-school girls are using Instagram to establish their social hierarchy and what each of the interactions mean. For me that was a really interesting way to see how social networks are used in really different ways from how I perceive them. Based on what people have been posting on 🍑 so far, I think something like that’s their goal. That might be why it’s “Friend” based instead of “Follow” based.

Going back to the aesthetics for a minute… it’s really pleasing to use. When you go from Peach to iMessage or Twitter, they feel very harsh and cold by comparison. I really want to see more stuff like this, especially from Apple. Last night when everyone discovered Peach was hilarious because we kept flipping between Peach and Twitter to have conversations. It has this great drawing feature, like the Apple Watch, that I used to draw you shaking your fist at the cloud. Ry [Amidon] screen shotted it to share on Twitter and we Peach-pressured you in. That was really fun and eventually we all stayed in Peach for a bit.

Joe: Yeah, Peach kind of came out of left field. At least, that’s the expression, I don’t know baseball. Who’s on first?

I was immediately skeptical of it, not because I thought it was bound to fail, but because these things often don’t work out for a long enough for it to be worth signing up for. If you open up the App Store you’ll see a whole litany of social networking apps with the lifespan of a mayfly. Fortunately for Peach, their onboarding was simple, and “other people were doing it” so it happened. It’s stickiness is still going to hinge on how often we talk about Peach on Peach, and how often we talk about Peach on Twitter.

Marko: I think how sticky Peach is (sigh) is going to depend on whether or not they let the platform morph from what they thought it would be, which I’m guessing is a Path-style semi-private social network, and what people want it to be – which is going to be hugely varied. For me, I would love a Twitter-style follow relationship and a Twitter-style stream.

I love the idea of “Here’s the latest update from each of your friends” when you have five friends, but as it grows beyond that it’s really… unwieldy and a lot of work to go between updates. There’s this huge contrast between how easy it is to write a post, add in gifs or stats from HealthKit or draw a picture, and how hard it is to consume content. I have to tap into a person’s feed, scroll to see what they’ve been up to, and tap into each post to see comments. And finding replies to comments later is even more painful. To me that’s going to be the biggest gap in using it over the long term.

Honestly, I hope Twitter or Apple would buy them for the talent and let them go wild on their clients. We already have enough social networks. We might even have too many – look at how many Slack channels everyone is in. but the UI and content-creation of Peach is so nice and so fast. I wish everything worked that way.

Joe: I agree that the most frustrating part is how the feed is presented and drilled down in to. People that are constantly updating are floated to the top of the list, and it becomes very noisy. People who update less often are floated down the list but still have a green dot next to anything that you haven’t seen yet. Unfortunately, you don’t know the importance of any of those posts. It could be battery updates, gifs, a comment, it’s not like other aggregated feeds that display previews.

Speaking of aggregation, the way Peach stuffs all your notifications into that tiny button in the corner of your profile page is the pits. I would prefer that was part of the main feed since that’s related to how I am interacting with people. Also, it’s presented in pure chronological order, with little previews and actions, which is easier for me to catch up with than the way the other feed is handled.

Speaking of those updates, how do you feel about not being able to comment on things with gifs, or magic words? Seems like a really frustrating limitation to me.

Marko: Yeah, the whole mental model needs to be rethought. It’s clunky.

The rest I chalk that up to 1.0 problem. There’s a lot in here for a first release, it’s pretty ambitious. They’re getting a lot of flack from people for stability, bugs, and whatnot.Twitter was unstable for 5 years, so they can get a bit of pass on that. But your frustration of “I wish I could use magic words here!” is a good one for them, I think it means they built something people really like using and with time they can add those features everywhere. Maybe in March 😁.

I don’t know that I have a whole lot more to add. I think it’s a beautiful, fun, weird little social network with a lot of promise it can’t possibly live up to. We have too many social networks, I don’t know if can take off in any meaningful way without displacing another one. Look at what happened to App.net and Google Plus. At the same time it’s one of those hugely impactful app releases, like Letterpress, which changed the way everybody thought about interface aesthetics and interface workflow.

They’ve made touch-based messaging super easy, powerful, and extendable – which is amazing

Joe: I agree. The bugs don’t bother me that much. I did get hit by the one about logging in over and over, and the service has been unreachable a few times, but that’s never killed anything before. I’m more concerned about how they’ll get revenue out of this, but the same concern can be applied to many other social networks, even the ones we currently see as successes.

If anything, I hope that it gets people to think a little bit about fun. I don’t think Twitter (the company) has any idea what fun is at this point. Tumblr feels like fun used to be there, but the fun has just turned into cynicism and brand engagement. Slack and Peach do very clearly want to put an emphasis on fun.

I’ll wrap it up by saying: Boop.

Marko: I liked it so I’ll put a 💍 on it.

P.S. does the booping mean #mykewasright?

Joe: No, that’s ⌚️👃

Marko: Okay, so we were going to wrap this up but I started complaining to you about iMessage (on iMessage). Quickly, let’s try to get through what Apple can learn from Peach. For me, iMessage is a wasted opportunity by Apple. Everybody uses it. And like we’ve talked about here a lot, everyone is so used to /giphy and link previews from Slack it feels like an obvious thing for Apple to have not introduced. I would love it so much if someone sent me a YouTube link to just have the video show-up inline. I think that’s what “Peek” and “Pop” are supposed to do but I don’t have a 6S.

What about you – what bugs you about iMessage?

Joe: I completely agree about link previews. That’s probably the biggest irritation for me. iOS and the Mac both fling you from the app you’re doing your messaging in to another app to see something, then you have to go back to the messaging app and reply. Most of the time you’re sharing short things, like images, or tweets, which can usually be previewed very well inline in a messaging or chat application like Slack (Peach does not offer any link previews, and I wish they did). Even Twitter offers cards, and will be expanding out to embed more things into tweets. Apple just shows you a URL.

Speaking of URLs… It’s been how many years, and copying and pasting links still makes hyperlinked text on the Mac and a non-link on iOS? How many years, Marko?! How many Marches have we been through and sharing a link doesn’t work the same?

Marko: At least one Imperial March. (Wohn wohn.) Twitter card previews for URLs only came out this spring, I think. If only podcasts weren’t real-time and I could Google it. Looks like it was July. They were playing with them for a while but I remember this big change when everyone had to stop adding images into their posts to get people to notice them – it would break the link preview.

Joe: I like how you’re really trying to make the conceit of this being a podcast stick. 😉 The way the logic works is that if there’s an image, then the card doesn’t load. It’s not that it breaks it, it’s just that you can’t have both. Could you imagine the consequences if you could load up every message with visual noise?

It would also be nice if iMessage handled syncing the background better than it does now. If there’s been a long stretch of time when you’ve been using iMessage on one device while another was powered off, then you’re in for a real treat when that device tries to pull down all the messages it missed and determine which ones it would like to flash notifications to you about. Slack is even worse about this than iMessage, often marking read messages as unread, and showing stale notifications.

Peach cleverly avoids many of these syncing issues by being iPhone only. (This is also another negative if you’re sitting at your computer and don’t have your phone in hand, or would like to share a post with someone on an unsupported platform.)

Marko: Yeah – clever is one way to put it. The iMessage notifications bug seems like something they really need to address. I don’t know how without them knowing the context of every message which goes against their privacy policy. Like how Viticci always says Apple’s privacy stance is holding them back from better features… but that’s a story for another time.

Joe: I was being generous. Anyway, I’m glad we cobblered together our thoughts on Peach.

Marko: Well, we can’t have our podcast crumble.

Episode 6: Shaved Down My Package

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