Chinese, happiness

Tech: Pinterest

IMG_3845 by shimmertje
IMG_3845, a photo by shimmertje on Flickr.

So I joined Pinterest a few days ago, and have been captivated ever since. People talk about it being addictive, and it is. Much more so than Facebook or Twitter.

Think of Pinterest as a collection of personal pinboards. You pin pictures from websites on these pinboards, separated by category. Each picture is linked to a bookmark for the site it came from. In this way you can collect a whole lot of visual bookmarks for things you want to remember - recipes, photos, craft ideas, something you want to buy.

You can also check out other people's "pins" and repin them onto your own boards. Don't worry about where to find the best recipe, household tip or craft idea, because someone else already has it bookmarked on Pinterest and you can find it easily by looking at the most popular pins, or searching for it with the friendly search engine.

Pinning is simple - you drag the bookmarklet onto your browser, and that's it. Click on 'Pin It' every time you see something you like, and it goes straight onto a board of your choice. If you haven't got one that's appropriate, you create one on the spot. You can follow your friends or complete strangers and view what they've just pinned. You can follow a subset of their pins if your interests don't overlap completely. And if someone repins your pin, or likes your pin, or comments on your pin, or follows you, Pinterest can send you a quick email to let you know. It is all oriented towards getting you to check out new pins and adding them to your own boards.

Pinterest has been called the hottest new social media kid on the block, and I am helping it get there with my enthusiasm. Pinterest is all about me and my interests and how I can learn more and find people with the same interests, and it's clear everyone else on Pinterest feels the same way.

There is a dark side though. Pinterest is not for everyone. It works for visual things like crafts and cooking, clothes and cars. It might not do so well with items which are not so visual. I'd say that the majority of Pinterest users are ladies who like photography, cooking, art, and crafts. But they also like shopping, and this is something businesses can well exploit.

Second, the pictures on Pinterest are extremely high quality. They are almost always crisp, clear, colourful, and wonderfully composed, because these are the pictures that catch everyone's eye. The moment I saw them, I saw that Flickr's groups are dead. I run a number of colour-coded groups on Flickr, and here is Pinterest doing the same thing, but in a much simpler, me-oriented way. Why send pictures to a group on Flickr when you have Pinterest to show off what you like instead?

Third, and definitely the most disquieting. Pinterest needs fairly large pictures which are typically captured straight off websites. There is a copyright problem here that photographers can do little about. Instead of being able to sell a picture, Pinterest just helps you copy it off Flickr or wherever and pins it onto a Pinterest board, after which it can get repinned and repinned again. The ones I take off my own Flickrstream are 640 x 480 pixels. Good enough to print in a small size.

Unfortunately I don't see this problem going away. Photographs are intellectual property that come with a price. As a photographer it cost me money to buy a camera, maybe lenses, arrange to go somewhere, decide on the subject, exposure, lighting and composition, and then take a picture.

It's my decision as the photographer whether I want this picture to be free to download copy and edit. It may not be my decision alone if there are people in the picture, designer furniture, and so on.

But Pinterest disregards this as it makes it easy to grab any picture I put online to be used for its purposes. It's not the only site doing it, and people don't really think about this very much as they share their pins - and I've repinned my share of them.

While I'm not a commercial photographer, I don't think my pictures should be reused commercially for free. I only pin the pictures I don't think have commercial value. The ones which do.. I don't pin. They're still public though which means that anyone else could pin them if they wanted. If I made them private, nobody would see them. Quite a catch-22.

I don't have an answer for this, except to say that commercial photographers have good reason to worry.

Click on this picture to view it in a larger size or to get to the folder of pictures of life in Singapore in 2011.