There are two tabs when you open the app: Explore and Friends. The Explore tab is where posts are shared with everyone, and where you find all sorts of unexpected personal confessions and gossip from around the world. If you see an interesting post you can like it and subscribe to see more posts from the same user. You can also look for posts from near your own location instead of from everywhere.
The Friends tab takes you to a smaller sharing circle. Here the app uses some personal info (like your phone number) to show you content that has been shared by people in your phones contact list. The promise is that you and your friends remain anonymous and your personal details will not be shared. This part of the app has a totally different feel because the content can be more relevant and intriguing.
Sharing your own secrets takes just a few taps, and you can decorate them with a background image or colour, and even tag them so people have a general sense of where you are writing from. Secrets interface is slick and easy to use. But it can be a little unsettling to read some of the things posted there, especially in the Friends tab, knowing that it was written by someone you know. That frisson is also what makes Secret exciting, and why it is so popular.
If Secret is too scandalous for your taste, you might try Whisper, another offering on iOS and Android. People seem to share more personal musings or simple facts on Whisper, covering everything from Im lonely to I stole the last piece of pie from my office fridge.
You can filter to see popular posts, recent posts or those from near your location. You can also search for words that interest you, and, if youre feeling adventurous, chat anonymously with someone. Like Secret, Whisper is mainly about sharing text. But when youre sharing a whisper of your own, it cleverly suggests an image for you to use as an interesting background. (Im working too hard! gave me a photo of a tug of war, for example.)
You can also use a photo on your phone, change the font of your message and add tags to help other users find it. Approximate location data is added automatically, but you can turn this off.
Whisper is easy and pleasant to use, and you never know, a random strangers musings may help you put a different perspective on your own day. I always find a new thought or surprising idea, and sometimes when Im writing I turn to it for inspiration.
For a different experience in finding unexpected content online, the news discovery app Random is worth experimenting with. News apps typically work like an interactive newspaper, where you choose what you read based on a headline, but Random chooses a news article for you based on a keyword.
The app begins by showing you a colourful page of keywords. Clicking technology may take you to a news article about Microsoft from one news source, for example. When youre finished reading it, the app shows you new keywords loosely related to the article, then you choose a new news topic and so on.
Reading the news in Random feels like leafing through the pages of a dozen magazines and newspapers at once, and I find it makes me read pieces I would not normally choose. The interface can get a little tiresome, though, and sometimes Im confused by the category keywords it chooses. Its a free iOS app.
Last, check out Randid, a photo sharing app (free on iOS). You share a single image with Randid, and the app delivers a random image back to you in return. You can see how popular your images are by counting likes, but you dont know who has viewed them. The app sounds confusing, but its fun to use. (And the company says inappropriate images should be automatically filtered out.)
A word to the wise: Be careful with what you share through these apps. The Internet can be a surprising place, and you never know when something you think is sent anonymously will turn out to have your fingerprints all over it.
- Kit Eaton