The most stationary of all stationery items, scissors hate to be hurried. I learned this as a child. You did too, probably. Don't run with scissors. A clear and simple instruction. Pencils, glue, staples... no problem. For them, like us, it's a finite existence. Time is short so don't dilly dally. But don't run with scissors.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

why i like pinterest and why you should too

New terms of service from the many and varied sites and feeds we’re all subscribed to are a regular occurrence. Apple, for example, routinely updates its Ts & Cs. You haven’t read them, nor have I. Pages and pages of jargon-heavy legal terminology that, let’s face it, aren’t going to stand between you and your iTunes account for any longer than it takes to blithely scroll down and tick the “accept” box.

Of all the online too-ings and fro-ings I’m signed up to, the latest to update its terms is Pinterest.

Ah… Pinterest. Admitting to using Pinterest is a tricky business. Some people enjoy it. Some are still valiantly looking for the crock of doo-dah at the end of the “how brands can maximise their oopmpah using Pinterest” rainbow. And others will just sneer at you.

But I like Pinterest.

There, I’ve said it.

Unlike blogging, tweeting and jibbing about on Facebook, Pinterest is a wholly-visual medium where you get to interact (in a very limited way) with a bunch of strangers. A bit like Chat Roulette but without the promise of having video-phone sex with someone else’s bored wife.

One of the best things about social media is the exchange of ideas, opinions and information from sources and individuals you might not otherwise have encountered.

But one of the worst things is the exchange of ideas, opinions and information from sources and individuals you might not otherwise have encountered, and in many cases wish you never had.

When asked a few months ago why I liked Pinterest I said I liked the lack of discourse with other users. I also like the visual aspect of it. Not just because I can’t get enough of looking at pics of cupcakes. But because the written form isn’t for everyone. Being able to share images of things you like with an online community is – and here I risk sounding like a colossal smunt* – a great example of the democratising nature of social media.

I find someone’s half-baked opinion, or massively dull world view far less irritating when it manifests as a image than as a tweet infected with bad grammar and insufficient thinking.

I regularly get emails, tweets and DMs from people who read stuff on this blog and then say to me “oh, I could never do that. I can’t write.”

True, most people can’t express their thoughts and opinions as clearly and, dare I say entertainingly, in writing as they might be able to when speaking. I’m not sure that means they shouldn’t have any form of outlet, though.

A lot of what I see on Pinterest is not very different from retweeting or sharing links to articles other people have written. Neither of which are creative exercises, yet they rarely come in for much criticism.

It’s not all kittens, cupcakes and wedding dresses on Pinterest either. In fact, I see more pics of cats and cakes shared via twitter. And don’t be fooled by the whole “it’s a mummy-blogger thing with a prevailing female wind” schtick.

Two things… 1) so what if that’s the case; 2) that’s not the case.

Within two weeks of being on Pinterest I was carefully unfollowing users who were pinning porno. Not the soft kind. There’s a time and a place for most things but I don’t really ever want to see some fat German bloke’s favourite stills of people having sex.

Like all things social, if you pick the right people to follow Pinterest can be interesting and funny. Sad how many people I’ve seen on twitter writing Pinterest off because they aren’t enjoying the experience. It’s as though they’ve forgotten what it is to put time and effort in to developing your networks.

But let’s not forget the copyright stick that many people have sought to beat Pinterest with. I can only imagine these people have only started using the internet very very recently. Either that or they have very very selective memories.

Stealing other people’s content is bad. Illegal even. But it didn’t start with Pinterest and it won’t end with criticism of Pinterest either.

OK, so some lawyer or other closed their Pinterest account because it all looked wrong to them.

Massive so what alert…

Get a grip people. There’s no Father Christmas, there’s no Tooth Fairy and lawyers get things wrong sometimes. Maybe those people placing so much importance in this lawyer’s actions have never actually had to deal with lawyers in a professional capacity.

As an interesting comparison, I haven’t seen Soundcloud, for example, come in for the same kind of criticism. Maybe that’s because music, like writing, is deemed a worthy and creative exercise. Whereas sharing images of the things you like is something it’s ok for the twitterati to look down on.

Funny thing, looking down on people. I’ve almost always found myself looking down more on those who do the looking down.

But the thing I really like about Pinterest is the approach they took a few days ago to updating their terms of service. They issued an email written in very accessible, non-legal language, explaining there had been a change. There was a summary of some of the changes and a link to the terms in full, which the recipient of the email is encouraged to read.

I think this compares very favourably with the likes of Google, Facebook and Apple who could do a lot worse than start talking to their users and customers like human beings again, rather than treating us like assets.

Pinterest, like every other shop in the social media mall, is far from perfect. But it is clear to me that unlike many others they are listening to naysayers and at least attempting to correct the course they’re on. There’s a lack of arrogance in that approach that I wouldn’t mind seeing go viral.

* - yes, I invented a word... smunt.

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