Pinomenon Do doo be-do-do
January 30, 2015 6:00 AM   Subscribe

On other social-networking sites, the most-followed members read like the guest list for Vanity Fair’s Oscar party. There’s Bieber, Miley and the rest of the red carpet crew. But Pinterest, the online scrapbook that showcases pictures of domestic bliss for an estimated 70 million members, is dominated by women who are mostly unknown, even to their followers.
The most popular people on Pinterest aren’t famous celebrities or pop-culture icons.
posted by MartinWisse (14 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
The absolute best thing about Pinterest is how it determines what else you might like. I pin the occasional craft thing for our kid, and share a pin board with SO for furniture and design stuff.

And Pinterest thinks I want to make my own women's underwear.

And I'm not even talking about the porny side of Pinterest. Literally pins about making your own bras and briefs.
posted by clvrmnky at 6:37 AM on January 30, 2015

I found the money angle interesting - clearly people are making money off their pins, and it's Pinterest's right to prohibit that. But leaving people with this weird grey area where corporations are sponsoring them but they're not allowed to admit it because that would be breaking TOS -- I don't see how that's good for anyone.
posted by Mchelly at 7:06 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Right, it is all about the money angle. As the joke goes, on Twitter, there are only brands, and people who think they are brands. People who's income derives from their "fame" will cultivate and manage their social media presence/brand. Sure, some folks have figured out how to monetize their pinterest, but these folks seem to be in the 1996-web-page era where they are doing it for fun .. If/when it becomes more heavily monetized, that will change.
posted by k5.user at 7:40 AM on January 30, 2015

For a part of 2012, I had 1+ million followers on Pinterest after being put on a list of recommended accounts thanks to a friend in the company. It was an awful experience. People would complain at me when I posted things that didn't match their expectations. I lost the ability to converse with friends on the platform because of the comment noise. The worst was a 400 comment thread attacking/defending my right to post a picture with the word “fuck”. I was offered the opportunity to make a few grand per month in exchange for pinning photos of certain products periodically. I ended up getting rid of the account and moving to Tumblr where my friends are, because the commercial nature was too un-fun.

On the other hand, I know plenty of people who love the platform and used it to plan their weddings etc.
posted by migurski at 8:09 AM on January 30, 2015 [5 favorites]

I've never interacted with Pinterest because only my most extremely, uncomfortably hetero-normative female friends ever seem to have anything to say about it. Can someone confirm or deny my suspicion that this is an anachronistic, Better-Homes-And-Gardens-style mega-gendery throwback? This article seems to confirm all those suspicions, right down to the part where the femininity status quo provides a vehicle for large companies to sell things to women who've been lured to a mental space where they can feed notions about how they match up to the norm...
posted by Mooseli at 9:32 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Can someone confirm or deny my suspicion that this is an anachronistic, Better-Homes-And-Gardens-style mega-gendery throwback?

Create an account as a man and then as a woman and note the difference in the suggested subjects to follow it offers you on sign-up; it's fairly comical. Although it seems to think everyone wants tiresome fitness memes.

I rarely use pinterest so am probably missing out on all it offers but it was useful for researching packaging and label designs for a product I was private labeling. Also I found a great gym bag via searching gym bags there.
posted by jamesonandwater at 9:55 AM on January 30, 2015

This is hilarious:
But Pinterest prohibits getting paid for pins-even, presumably, if the pinner gets to choose what items to post and when to delete them. The site seems keen to reserve this particular privilege for itself. Earlier this year, it launched "Promoted Pins," a way for Pinterest to charge companies for placing pins in users' feeds. Members aren't allowed to do so, explained a Pinterest spokeswoman, because the company "want[s] Pins to represent authentic interests-not just things sold by the highest bidder."
The authentic interests of the companies promoting the pins, I guess?
posted by kenko at 9:56 AM on January 30, 2015

Can someone confirm or deny my suspicion that this is an anachronistic, Better-Homes-And-Gardens-style mega-gendery throwback?

If you use it that way, then yes absolutely. Many people do use it that way. But fundamentally it's a website for finding and storing information that you want to be able to browse using pictures.
posted by clavicle at 10:30 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Homemaking and domestic interests are a thriving genre on Pinterest, but I've also found some great accounts that use Pinterest as an artist's reference file. As a graphic designer who already hoards more ephemera than I should, I love the ability to stow away images like a squirrel with nuts, and I love following other people who do the same thing. As a perfect example, check out illustrator C.B. Canga's impressive 119 boards filled with image references for things like ships, street scenes, and states.
posted by redsparkler at 10:34 AM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

Thanks for posting this, it's interesting to learn about the inner workings of Pinterest. I have a Pinterest account with a following that feels large to me, but with 660 followers, it's minuscule compared to the ones mentioned in the article. I do have over 200 boards, though. It's like the gag in the old Mad magazines: if you have a Pinterest board for fashion plates from nearly every year from 1778 to 1965, you're a winner AND a loser.

I love to look at Pinterest analytics and read the lists of who repinned what, and I've noticed that I have no way of predicting which pin is going to be popular. I have one pin showing different types of diamond cuts that had over 1000 repins: why did I get those repins and not the person from whose board I repinned it myself? The analytics don't show you the keywords used to find it; I guessed that with that much traffic it was from something common, and it turned out to show up highly in a search for "diamonds." At the height of its popularity, it was getting some comments, including people trying to put their own spam links on it. That pin's activity has died down, and now I have one pin that gets five times as many impressions as my next popular pin. Why, I have no idea -- I pinned it from Tumblr and didn't do any additional description, so it just has information about the photographer and nothing about the subject, but it's certainly showing up in some search.

Mooseli: for what it's worth my boards get 63,000 impressions from female viewers each month, compared to 5,000 from male viewers and 4,900 from unspecified viewers. But nearly all of my boards are devoted to various types of women's clothes and related things like jewelry and embroidery, so that's not surprising to me. At its heart Pinterest is a bookmarking site that uses images, and you'll see only boards or interests that you follow, with the exception of the occasional suggested pin (based on pins that you've pinned yourself, I believe) or promoted pin (based on what you search for). I've seen boards for individual artists, cars, scientific articles, cultural information, architecture, drawing tutorials and so on; check out this collection of boards for an example. I think it's great to have a space that gives so much weight to subjects that tend to be associated with women and femininity, but if they aren't to your taste, you don't have to use it that way. (I hate every cutesy image with "uplifting" or "funny" text that's ever intruded on my Pinterest feed and unfollow those boards with glee.)
posted by shirobara at 10:51 AM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

I've seen boards for individual artists, cars, scientific articles, cultural information, architecture, drawing tutorials and so on; check out this collection of boards for an example.

Sounds good ...

"Sign up to get more details about this board"

Pintrest, a login screen stomping on a human face, forever.

I'll install stylish/greasemonkey and run - Pinterest: Hide nag and get back to you.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:28 PM on January 30, 2015

That people use Pinterest interactively with other users baffles me. I use it as a bookmarking service because the interface is perfect for that. I have two friends who are costumers who post interesting things but for the most part I see absolutely no benefit from subscribing to or browsing other people's pins. The entire internet exists for me to look up things that might interest me. Not every useful thing and not every internet thing is about listening to the noise of strangers or even the random thoughts of friends.

That brief period of time when my entire page was useless "suggested pins" was dreadful. I get that they need to make money off their thing or they won't keep running it, but shit, just give me an option to pay.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:17 PM on January 30, 2015

Pinterest is what you make it, period. Of course there are crafts, recipes, gardening, fashion, make-up, parenting, decorating, knitting, travel, etc boards, but there are fishing and fly-tying and cooking and car repair and writing and every kind of art, cyber everything, oh yes costuming and renfaire and comics and conventions - and dealing with illness and grieving and politics and activism - just loads of 'em - because there are thousands of people who are interested in those things. But there are boards for anything your little heart desires - pick a subject, any subject - and check it out. Even if you choose something no one's ever expressed interest in before you can make your own board! Collect material from all over the internet and save it in your own file - anything at all. I have boards for books, for sewing, for gardening, for philosophy, for ideas to put my Dremel to work, for genealogy, for history, for photography, for birds, for papercrafting, for bookbinding using old leather, for loads of other things.

If something interests you, it probably interests someone else on Pinterest, too. So you can explore their gatherings and share your own with anyone who would like to explore your own stash and both of you benefit. What is there to criticize about that? Yes, there are plenty of posts trying to sell something and many, many posts regarding stuff that doesn't interest me at all, and there are some boards that are posted that involve porn-type material that isn't my thing, and I'm not raising babies or puppies and don't much care for platitudes or trite, one-line philosophy - but so what? Those things are interests for other people and it's very easy to just pass them by.

It's not for everyone, but it's appreciated by many.
posted by aryma at 11:28 PM on January 30, 2015

I use it a) to keep visual bookmarks of embroidery techniques, which was a serious, decade-long problem for me in text-based bookmarks and the primary reason I joined pinterest; b) to keep track, with my kids, of all the animals and insects we identify in our backyard because it's way more fun for them to see the pictures; c) to follow MoMA and other museums that suit my artistic tastes and link to emerging artists; and d) to link lots of examples of home renovation/furnishing ideas to narrow it down. I showed these to my contractors during the last couple things I had done and they were both like, "What IS this? I LOVE this! I want ALL my clients to have this!" because I was able to immediately show my carpenter a dozen examples of what I wanted with different colors and trim and point to specific details. I showed my bathroom guy the construction of a specific things I wanted that I'd found plans for (turned the vanity toe kick into a slide-out step for little kids to reach the faucet).

(Oh, and e) I made a board of all the artworks mentioned in The Goldfinch, which has been linked here, because a visual bookmarking seemed necessary!)

I also have a board for things I find cool or amusing, and a secret board where I pin ideas when gift shopping so I can see things side by side. Most of what's in my friend feed is recipes (some good, some weird) and activities yo do with your kids; most of what pinterest feeds me is related to embroidery and they do a good job of highlighting things that interest me.

Anyway there are definitely heteronormarive super-girly things out there, but most people seem to use it for visual bookmarking and for following others who have cool bookmarks (like I said, I follow museums, and a couple of diligently pinning embroiderers in Russia and the Netherlands, and otherwise just people I know.). What I see is mostly recipes, Halloween costumes, and various nerdy crafts, like "build your own clock!" or "learn to whittle!" I think it depends a lot on your friends you connect with, and then on how you choose to use it. I don't really interact ...I just get my bookmarks and move on.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:11 PM on January 31, 2015

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