Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Now this caught my Pinterest

Remember the Bruce Springsteen song, "57 Channels (and nothing on)"? Sometimes the internet seems like that--a billion websites and none of them worth visiting. However, Pinterest, a visually-oriented, web-based pinboard, has caught my interest.

The relatively new website takes on the challenge of providing a new and creative way to explore and discover online content based on your interests. More specifically, Pinterest focuses on the visual images and videos rather than articles, blogs, music, or podcasts.

The premise of Pinterest is you create "pinboards," which are simply categories, to which you can then "pin" images that you find online or via other Pinterest users. Your virtual pasteboards become collections of images, with notes and links back to the original source of the images. Pinterest also serves as a site for social networking, since you can follow and interact with other users and the pinboards they create.

Pinterest, which also has a Pinterest iPhone app, differs from other sites for finding online content because it's so visually focused. The iPad app Flipboard, which bills itself as "your pocket sized social magazine," is visual, too, and makes use of the iPad's supported gestures very well. Flipboard concentrates on magazine-like content from the Web, folding text into its layout liberally. StumbleUpon is quite similar to Pinterest, giving you a "roulette wheel" Stumble button, designed to take you in new and unexpected directions whenever you feel internet boredom setting in. But Pinterest excels at the amount of information, choices, and connections it can put in front of you at one time.

Springpad, is a service that lets you organize things by being your "memory" on the internet. Springpad lets you save images and Web clips to a virtual pasteboard, which is pretty close to Pinterest in theory, but Pinterest is actually fun to use and pretty to look at, and Springpad isn't.

Pinterest is better and more gripping than Google+ because it is more modern. Pinterest is essentially non-linear and presents the user with a smorgasbord that employs the innate human ability recognize patterns and make choices from hundreds of items, while Google+ is linear and boring.

Looking at Pinterest, you will quickly see that, while it has 10 million users, subscribers up 'til now have been mostly female. That means you are more likely to find recipes than football scores or car reviews. This will change as Pinterest's user base grows, though it will be interesting to see how masculine and feminine interests co-exist on the same site. I predict that the ability of each user to pin items of individual interest will not only allow male and female users to coexist, but the site to thrive as a truly interactive and highly customizable forum for social interaction.

Right now, you'll need an invitation if you want to join Pinterest quickly. There is an open sign up that puts you on a waiting list for an invitation. But you can use the site and browse what is there even before you subscribe and create your own pinboards.

Once you are subscribed, Pinterest will help you install a bookmark button that you can use to "pin" interesting things you see online.

Next, you can choose your areas of interests from a reasonably diverse list that includes architecture, design, education, gardening, history, clothing, pets, and more. The interests that you select will determine what kind of content you'll see when you first hit the homepage.

Third, you can create boards where you'll pin things you find as you browse the web or look at things other users have pinned.

Everything you pin becomes searchable, which means you can search items others have pinned, leading to an inexhaustible web of links to ever-greater worlds of content.

So, give it a whirl. I am sure Pinterest will catch your interest, too.