Pinterest 2013.01.09

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Do I have any interest in Pinterest? At this point, I'm not sure. My wife has been pestering me to write a story about the popular website and I finally took a look.

pinterest.PI saw the word “Yummies” and a suggestion for “best sports bra” and I thought this might be one difficult story to write for a man whose vocabulary doesn’t include the word “yummy.”

First of all, for the dozen or so people who don’t know about Pinterest (everybody is doing it, after all), here’s what it’s all about.

Pinterest describes itself as a virtual pinboard. I’ve also seen it described as a pinboard-style photo-sharing website. Neither description meant much to me until I realized that a pinboard is what I call a bulletin board. It’s a place to hang things you like, things you want to display, things you don’t want to lose.

On your personal Pinterest page, you create a variety of pinboards that are each labeled with a name. Food and Drink, Crafts, Do-It-Yourself, Recipes, etc.

When you find something you like while searching the web, you click the “Pin It” button that you have installed on the toolbar of your browser and it’s instantly pinned onto your pinboard. That makes you a Pinner.

You’re also going to be a Follower as you follow other people’s pinned items. If it’s something you really like, you can re-pin it onto one of your own pinboards.

If this doesn’t make a lot of sense, you need to visit pinterest.com to see how it looks.

I started off by calling my neighbor, Andi Rorick, who was on my wife’s list of Pinterest users.

“Pinterest is awesome,” she said. "Most of what I do is for school. I have tons of ideas for lesson plans, crafts, ways for kids to remember things.

“I follow people that I don’t even know such as teachers from other schools. You get ideas of other people's favorite things and make them your own favorite.”

I learned that teachers are big Pinterest users. It's a nation-wide idea exchange.

I mentioned it to my colleague, Kim Ekins, across the office. She has a Pinterist account but isn’t spending much time there. However, it came to her rescue recently.

She was having a washing machine cleaning problem and a Google search sent her to a Pinterest pin.

“It was just what I needed,” she said.

I signed up for an account to better understand the process. A new user is asked to select five pinboards to follow. I chose five from the suggested list: Natural Science, Architectural Towers, Design, Instagram and Tattoos. I didn’t take a lot of time to shop around; I just wanted to get my five selected and move on.

The next step was to create my first Pinboard. I called it Growing Paramecium and collected a couple images from the web to pin on my board. 

Why paramecium? No, I don’t have any great interest in unicellular protozoa. It just came to mind and I obviously wasn’t taking it too seriously. I don’t have any tattoos, either, but it’s great fun to see what some people have done to their bodies.

Now I was an official Pinterester and I started looking around at what other people were interested in. Andi has 13 boards covering subjects such as “Products I Love,” “Favorite Places & Spaces,” “Food,” “Books” and “School Ideas.”

Pinterest is one more form of social media to suck up your time, but it's significantly different than Facebook. It produces a web of contacts (who you're following and who is following you) similar to your Facebook friends, but in this case it's not a matter of who you know as much as what you know. If you're coming up with good recipes or interesting hair styles, there's someone who wants to follow your pins. It doesn't matter if you're friends.

It's easy to while away time just looking at who someone else is following. And then you'll catch a familiar name and you take a look at who they're following or who's following them and on it goes.

That's not all. It's also interesting just to snoop around and look at other people's interests. On my page, for example, there's a scattering of half-naked people showing off tattoos. Maybe I should unfollow that one.

I was surprised when Kay Holubik of Morenci told me that she's a big Pinterest user, but not such a big Facebook user. I figured they went hand-in-hand.

Kay is a triple-user. First of all, she uses Pinterest like most people—ideas for cooking, sewing, etc., and for her interest in knitting and crocheting. She also uses it to promote items from her Etsy store (an on-line community of home crafters and artisans). She makes an interesting variety of covers for cloth diapers, among other things.

Finally, she uses Pinterest for her job with the Lenawee Conservation District. That's why you see boards with titles such as Soil Health, Winter Gardens and Cover Crops. She pins ideas for others to use or for her own use later in workshops.

"I use it a lot for a five-minute break," she said. "I get on for a few minutes and it re-sets your brain."

Overall it tends to unleash her creative side and helps her keep track of all those things she wants to get around to doing when she has the time.

I read an article about Pinterest that described it as a girls club. The writer said that if she were on a date with a man who gushed about it, she would be concerned. Now that's not quite fair. Fayette's school counselor Geoff Gilmore spends a fair amount of time with Pinterest, but there aren't a lot of recipe items on his page.

"I got involved because of my wife's handcrafted jewelry," he said. "It's another venue for marketing."

Here's one more Etsy person who's finding value in Pinterest—lots of value. 

"It's amazing how many people are looking at it," Geoff said. 

When you pin an item from your Etsy page, the photo of the item is right there, ready to take a visitor to the store.

"When I first started, I was gung-ho, trying to build a business," he said. Now he might spend 15 to 20 minutes a day with Pinterest, on the days when he does check in.

"It's pretty powerful in the things you can find out and learn," Geoff said.

His page has three pinboards relating to handcrafted jewelry and others include Education, Renaissance Festivals, and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Don't think Pinterest is only for women.

When Kristy Shaffer of Morenci was asked about her large collection of 137 pinboards, she said she's known as an anal organizer and Pinterest feeds that need perfectly.

"When I need something, I know right where to find it," she said. "Mostly I look for recipes, craft ideas, cleaning ideas."

She lists books she's read and those she wants to read. She's an Etsy shopper and she pins items that she might want to buy.

With a full-time job and two children, she doesn't spend an excessive amount of time with Pinterest.

"Usually it's in the evening," she said. "It's my wind-down time."

It's the recipe exchange that she really appreciates.

"My husband and I tend to collect recipes," she said, "and we don't have to print them out anymore. We just put the laptop on the kitchen table."

Tina Keiser of Fayette has 49 boards, but that doesn't mean she's actively following them all. Interests come and go, and she'll focus on what's currently got her attention. For example, she's been baking lately and she's looking at cake pops recipes.

She loves the way Pinterest works, gladly trading in pages and pages of bookmarked items on her laptop for the pinned items on Pinterest's attractive design.

Lately she hasn't been visiting her page every night, but she knows well the allure.

"People think Facebook is addictive," she said. "I think Pinterest is just as addictive, if not more."

Morenci teacher Kym Ries seconds that opinion. She finds lots of good ideas, but her use comes with a caution.

"You have to stop yourself," she said. "After 10 minutes it becomes addictive."

Another avid user says this (anonymously): "It makes you feel like you have to keep up with the Jones's and it makes you feel like a bad person because you don't do all of the cool things on there."

There's a board called "20 Places You Should Take Your Kids"…and she hasn't been to any of them.

There's also the matter of facing the slew of "easy" craft, decorating and cooking ideas that don't turn out as expected. There's an antidote for that feeling of incompetence, my daughter, Rosanna, tells me. Visit pinterest.com/craftfail and laugh with the other failures.

I’m thinking more about what Tina said: In the past there were so many bookmarked items on her computer; now she places things to remember in Pinterest. Bookmarks are something I understand, especially too many bookmarks.

This morning I read an article that described Pinterest as a "graphical bookmarking site" and now it's making even more sense. All this talk about recipes pushed me in the wrong direction. I'm ready to look at Pinterest in a new way.

I called my wife at closing time Friday and said that perhaps I would go home and make pancakes for dinner. That sounded good to her.

Just for the fun of it, I went to Pinterest, searched for pancakes and found a recipe for Black Forest Pancakes. As dinner progressed, I decided that cocoa powder does not belong in pancake mix, but my wife thought they were great. 

Ah, Pinterest, you must be a woman's thing after all.

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