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Six things I learned from six days on Pinterest

Since so many smart people I know (almost all of them women) are talking about Pinterest, it's time to see what the hype is all about.

My Pinterest page
Screenshot by Sree Sreenivasan/CNET

Just what the world needs--another social network! If that, accompanied by an exasperated sigh, is your reaction to hearing all the buzz about Pinterest, then you're like me.

But because so many smart people I know (almost all of them women) are talking about Pinterest, I decided to give it a whirl. In addition to all the general buzz, three other things caught my eye:

You can see my baby steps on Pinterest here. And you can watch me discuss Pinterest 101 on WCBS-TV in NYC here, with anchors Rob Morrison (@RobMorrison1) and Mary Calvi (@MaryCalvi).

Here are six things I learned from six days on the service and from asking for comments on my Facebook page (see more than 50 public comments there, many of them far more thoughtful than what I can squeeze into a single post):

  1. It's a public online bulletin board or refrigerator door. Jay Bakshi wrote on my Facebook wall: "Pinterest reminds me of my mom's fridge door, gone online, with her kitchen open for all to see." I think he's got that exactly right.
  2. It's addictive. Because it's so easy to post items and to "re-pin" them (equivalent to sharing on Facebook or RTing on Twitter), it's easy to keep posting and re-pinning material. The addictive nature of it was captured vividly by Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak (@petulad), who called it "digital crack for women."
  3. It really is different from Facebook. Rubina Madan Fillion (@rubinafillion), who runs the Pinterest and Twitter pages for the WSJ graphics department wrote on my FB wall: "I would say Pinterest is more of an "evergreen" social network than some of the others. Once you pin something, it's there for a long time. I find that, as a journalist, I pin things there that will still be interesting days or weeks later. This isn't necessarily true of Twitter or Facebook, that are more in the moment." Here's the WSJ Graphics Pinterest board. She told me she shares far more graphics on their Twitter account. Robert Anthony (@NewYorkBob) wrote on my wall: "I've found it useful for bringing new viewers to old blog posts. If the products I wrote about a few months ago are still current, posting a photo or video link on Pinterest brings in a fresh wave of viewers--sometimes more than when the post first went up. Just like how it pays not to over-Tweet, it pays not to over-Pin. I quickly stop following those who flood their boards with pins daily." Thanks, Bob - glad to see I'm not the only guy on Pinterest; here's his page.
  4. It's gorgeous looking. No wonder style-savvy women (and men) who might otherwise have no interest in social networking tools have flocked to Pinterest. The look-n-feel, the colors, the user interface have all come together to make the site site pop visually.
  5. It's easy to get an invite. You can click around the service without being a member, but to use it in any serious way, you need to become a member. Just go to the site and request an invite. If that takes too long, just ask for a request on your Facebook wall; chances are someone (or many someones) will send you an invite. If all else fails, write me and I will send you an invite - email address is below (let me know which city you live in; just curious. [UPDATE, March 16: Some of you reported delays in getting invites from Pinterest in the past and have written to me, seeking invites. Happy to keep sending you an invite.
  6. It's not for everyone. Just because you hear a lot of buzz or because it's right for some people, there's no need for everyone to rush into using Pinterest. If you find a specific use or set of uses for it, then by all means go ahead and use it. But otherwise, like my rule for all technology, I'd suggest being an early tester and late adopter.

UPDATE (March 16, 2012): Several people have pointed out that I didn't mention the copyright issue that many Pinterest watchers are concerned about (many mentioned the issue on my Facebook wall). So here are two more things I've learned.

  • Copyright issues are a major concern on Pinterest. One friend, who works at a major magazine, wrote: "After reviewing their terms of service we've determined that they don't sufficiently protect copyright, so we have disabled the ability to pin our content. We hope that the Pinterest team will take copyright more seriously." A good explanation of the issues is available on this post in HubPages. EXCERPT: "Thousands of Pinterest members are breaking copyright and causing headaches for artists, photographers, and bloggers. Many image owners don't mind at all, and are happy for the publicity! But for many photographers and artists, the problems caused by these copyright violations outweigh the benefits."
    You should also read these two posts that compare Pinterest to Napster, the now-defunct music-sharing service: How Long Until Pinterest Is Sued Into Oblivion Like Napster? on A Photo Editor; and Is Pinterest the "Napster" of Photography? Let's Hope So by Nathan Lee Bush.
  • Pinterest is more collaborative than Facebook and Twitter. Pinterest has a collaborate function which allows you to invite other users you trust to submit items on a board of your choosing. This is a real innovation for a major network. I am using the feature to invite my social-media adjunct professors, Linda Bernstein (LindaBernstein on Pinterest; and @WordWhacker on Twitter) and Liz Borod Wright (Travelogged on Pinterest and @Travelogged on Twitter) to help me curate my LearnSocMedia board. Anandi Premlall (see her page) wrote on my wall: I use Pinterest to gather colleagues to build community (through the collaborate option), collect and share ideas in a space that I can refer back to or point to, as a vision board for my dream home, ideas of health and wellness, art and culture, as well as hot topics and infographics.Being able to pin with hashtags that translate beautifully onto Twitter has helped to increase awareness of topics (#ecopin) and new follows. Motivational quotes, recipes and DIY projects are often re-pinned and make up most of the streams I follow. It's a fun way to find out what interests you have in common with your social web crew and what their tastes are; we're not so different.

Here are some terrific pointers to improving your use of Pinterest by my colleagues at CNET News: Five Pinterest tips to heighten your pinning addiction (by Sharon Vaknin @SharonVak); Pinterest to get 'beautiful' profile redesigns (by Dara Kerr @DaraKerr); Must-have Pinterest tips and tricks. Keep track of all CNET items about Pinterest here.

Meanwhile, a suggestion from Olivia Waxman (@OBWax): "I would also recommend, for fun, checking out Manteresting, the male version of Pinterest, where men 'nail' things instead of 'pinning' them. Manteresting's motto: with 3.4 billion men on earth. It's about time."

I'll stick to testing Pinterest and report back in the weeks and months ahead.

READERS: Are you a Pinterest user? Pinterest fan? Pinterest hater or quitter? Post your thoughts in the comments below, tweet me at Sree, or e-mail me at sreetips at sree.net.