Pinterest keeps popping up in the news, and I’m constantly getting notifications that “Jane Schmo pinned something!”  As someone who bills herself as a social media goddess, I clearly needed to check this Pinterest thing out.  Some background:

“Pinterest is a pinboard-style social photo sharing website. The service allows users to create and manage theme-based image collections….In January 2012, Pinterest drove more referral traffic to retailers than LinkedIn, YouTube, and Google+ combined (source)….Pinterest is definitely worth taking a look at, particularly if your audience is female, likes pretty things and likes buying online.”

Wel, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad. *cough*

screen shot of pinterest

Essentially, it’s online shopping in a million stores.  The Pinterest mission is to “connect everyone through the things they find interesting.” And it is, certainly, about THINGS.

Pinterest is basically Delicious with pretty pictures. Delicious is/was a useful bookmarking site to help you re-find cool stuff that you saw on the web.  The need to save links somewhere other than your browser tool bar is a common one; Pinterest has figured out how to turn that into traffic-driving merch.

A couple of features Pinterest has that might be interesting to scientists:

  • You can allow friends to share and pin onto your boards–so I could crowdsource my insect music collection, for example, for a more comprehensive list of resources.
  • The board discovery feature allows people who might not traditionally be connected to the science community (i.e, women that like pretty things and shopping) to see that there are scientists that share their interests, or that have interesting things to offer
  • You can create unexpected resources–a board of insect recipes, for example, might be a good way to expose people to the concept of entomophagy; a collection of plans for building native bee boxes might help people find them more easily.

There are also a lot of things that don’t work at all on Pinterest, or that are poorly designed. If you want to re-arrange your pins on a board so that your favorites are at the top, or related things are together–you can’t do that.  Things are stuck in the order you pinned them in.   Which, if your purpose for using the site is to save and organize your bookmarks, destroys some of its usefulness.

I have tried several times to pin things (like insect recipes!) that I wasn’t able to pin because there were no images on the web page.  That makes the bookmark utility of the site moot.

The toggles for privacy levels are confusing, and I constantly have to stop and do a search (on an external site, since Pinterest Help documentation is minimal) to figure out how to make it STOP subscribing me to people, or to unsubscribe from the automatic connections Pinterest creates.

This screen is a good example of some of the strange interface choices.  If I want to unsubscribe to the person, the Unfollow button is faded out.  But…that is actually the active button.  And red usually means stop.  Eh?

I freely admit to being a curmudgeon, so you may find Pinterest more interesting than I did.  I don’t feel a need for something like Pinterest.  I don’t shop a lot, and I find the way that it’s difficult to see the original source of the image a bit problematic (as, apparently, do a lot of other people).

I’m pretty much with Abraham Lincoln on this one:  “People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.”

On the other hand, I really, really want these tights with ants on them.

UPDATE 3/19/12: Symbiartic has an alarming look at the terms of service for Pinterest, from the standpoint of an artist. Rather disturbing!

Posted by Gwen Pearson

Writer. Nerd. Insect Evangelist. Have you heard the good news? BUGS!


  1. I tried it for similar reasons, and I’ll use it for similar reasons, and I found the same limitations. You can’t pin from G+ or from Facebook. You also can’t pin from your gmail page.

    You can pin YouTube videos, so that’s cool.

    Mostly, I’m using Pinterest to get links to my blog out there on this stream of stuff that everyone is looking at.

    Things I’ve pinned: Book reviews (where I have a picture of the book or something); YouTube videos of Huxley; Bioanthropologh stories, subject categories I have on my blog, some political stuff. I’ve started a Darwin page but there is only one thing on it.

    Maybe I’ll start a stamp collection!

    The best thing one can say about it so far is that it is easy . I’ve not yet tried to figure out how much traffic it has driving towards my blog. SO far, I’ve only got 124 people following me so probably not much.

    It is a little like facebook but with only the pictures.

  2. We set up an “entomological style board”

    I like it for pinning recipes, pretty pictures, etc. But you’re right, it doesn’t work well for sites without photographs. It’s also taken me a while to figure out that you can unsubscribe from individual boards (like all the wedding ideas).

  3. oh, holy CRAP I love those tights and the goodies w/bug on ’em. =) I’m REALLY not a shopper, but am v. visual, so I like the cool pics, esp. of nature kindsa stuff (instantly followed both you and the entomological style board–fun).

    I also find the interface clunky–still not really sure, since I don’t spend much time on it, how to easily just see your favorite folks among those you follow, or reduce the load of one theme or another (like fashion/cooking) and increase another (science/nature nerdery).

    However, there are some SUPER cool images out there that just make me happy. And a good place to store virtual posters or images that inspire. I like it for a brief, colorful break, and another place to share and see cool stuff.

  4. Cori Schauffler March 13, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    The concept of Pinterest is great. What I CANNOT stand about it is that the entire site reminds me how superficial this country is. I want, I want, I need, I need is all over the site. The recipes, crafts, and household tips are great, but the constant stream of people posting high dollar engagement rings and stiletto heels with a dozen different posters all screaming “I WANT!!!” is a bit much. Definitely candy for the eyes when you can get over the comments that induce the “keeping up with the Jones’s mentaility”!

  5. WHAT is the point if I can’t organise and re-catalogue things?! I have my own insect & plant pix in folders and subfolders and sub-subfolders so I can FIND things!

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