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App Smart

Apps that are surprising, scandalous, serious, even inspiring

Should you crave randomness, something unexpected, or even
a little scandalous gossip in your life, some intriguing apps can help.

Secret

Free for iOS and Android

Secret (right) is best known for receiving random information. Users can share content anonymously, which encourages the airing of information or feelings that might not otherwise be shared. Think of it as the anti-Facebook: Where you may see “Ana has shared something” on Facebook, on Secret you get a few lines of text without knowing who published it.

Continue reading below

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 phone’s 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 color, and even tag them so people have a general sense of where you are writing from.

Secret’s 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.

Whisper

For iOS and Android

If Secret is too scandalous for your taste, you might try Whisper. People seem to share more personal musings or simple facts on Whisper, covering everything from “I’m 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 you are feeling adventurous, chat anonymously with someone.

Like Secret, Whisper is mainly about sharing text. But when you’re sharing a “whisper” of your own, it cleverly suggests an image for you to use as an interesting background. (“I’m 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 are added automatically, but you can turn this off.

Whisper (right) is easy and pleasant to use, and you never know, a random stranger’s musings may help you put a different perspective on your own day. I always find a new thought or surprising idea, and sometimes when I’m writing I turn to it for inspiration.

Random

Free for iOS

For a different experience in finding unexpected content online, the news discovery app Random (below) 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 colorful page of keywords. Clicking “technology” may take you to a news article about Microsoft from one news source, for example. When you’re 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 I’m confused by the category keywords it chooses.

Randid

Free for iOS

Last, check out Randid, a photo sharing app. 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 do not know who has viewed them. The app sounds confusing, but it is 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 writes on technology for The New York Times.
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