IT: Technology, Language, and Culture

Pinterest

I always check out new blogging and CMS platforms, so when I started hearing about Pinterest.com, I took a look, and then tried Pinterest. Pinterest describes itself as “Pinterest is an online pinboard. Organize and share things you love.”

Pinterest isn’t really directly comparable to any of the extant blogging or CMS systems; it’s most similar to Tumbler. Pinterest is image-driven. An image is scraped or uploaded, re-sized, and the original URL is retained as a link. There’s a field for a brief comment, and other people can comment on posted images or “pins.” Each Pinterest “board” is presented as an image collage; you can click-through via any individual image and see the associated comments, a larger view and the original link.

Each Pinterest account can have several boards. Boards can be associated with a number of pre-defined categories, as well as shared between several posters. You call also “follow” individual boards, or all of a Pinterest account’s pins and boards. The top page of the site features recent “pins” and comments.

The idea behind Pinterest is that you:

Pinterest is not suited for building a presence online by itself; it is however an interesting ancillary to an established presence. It looks to me like Pinterest has more utility as a research tool and memory aid. Pinterest thus far (it’s still an invitation-only beta) is most enthusiastically being used by recipe collectors, and dedicated shoppers with specialized wish-lists. You’ll see people planning weddings or designing rooms, and using Pinterest to collect images and ideas. It’s an extremely useful research tool for writers. As I mentioned, there are a lot of people using it to track recipes, items to buy as a sort of visual wish list, but also people collecting images for buildings, locations, furnishings and clothing to use in writing, especially in terms of historic style and location. My friend and graphic designer Michael Rowley has a board featuring typography, off to the right.

I’ve created a few boards here. I’m using it for recipes, but also as a research tool for the garden and for a couple of scholarly articles I’m working on. I can see some potential issues with respect to image copyrights—I suspect that Pinterest is relying a bit forcefully on safe harbor clauses, and the fact that what users are doing with scraped images is pretty much what search engines do with scraped images. I notice that as of today, Pinterest allows rights-holders to opt out of having their content used.