Welcome to the bloggy home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Percolate and general internet tinkerer. This site is about media, culture, technology, and randomness. It's been around since 2004 (I'm pretty sure). Feel free to get in touch. Get in touch.

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More Desire Paths

I’ve written a few times about my fascination with desire lines: “the unpaved paths that people wear down over time.”

Anyway, Peter Merholz, who wrote the first post that exposed me to the idea, just wrote a new post on the topic:

Designers come from a tradition of figuring out the whole system, and putting it out there. But the success of Twitter has emerged from an approach that’s nearly 180 degrees from that. Twitter began simply as a way to post 140-character messages, and allowed remarkable freedom in following. Almost no structure was placed on the system. It’s through the paths that users have worn in the system (e.g., @ replies, retweets, hashtags, followfridays) that Twitter has grown to realize the value of the service, and they’ve made initial steps to “pave” those most popular paths (most notably replies, though Doug mentioned that they are considering how to more formally support retweeting as well).

October 27, 2009


  • Josh Klein says:

    Okay, this is pretty much a complete aside, but your post randomly triggered this…

    It’s always been weird to me that light takes the shortest path through a prism to reach the other side in a straight line. How does it “know”, prior to reaching the far side of a prism, that during each moment of forward movement it is getting closer to that as yet undiscovered endpoint?

    You seem to enjoy figuring out these brain teasers… any ideas?

    Am I a nerd for bringing this up? :P

  • Kyle says:

    The first time I heard of something like this (relative to the web) was in a whitepaper written by Method, except they called it ‘cowpaths’.

    Thanks to the magic of the wayback machine, you can read the paper here: http://web.archive.org/web/20030711185952/http://www.method.com/methodlab/experiments/cowpaths/ — they even created prototype navigation that learned a visitor’s behavior over time and adapted the navigation to suit their interests.

  • barbara says:

    twitter = great illustration of progressive educational philosophy in action!

  • Desire Path Highlighting | Noah Brier dot Com says:

    […] written about desire paths a bunch of times in the past. They’re those extra trodden lines between two points that, despite not being paved, are […]

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