Monday, April 18, 2011

On Pinterest, and the various ways to sort a virtual life

I've recently rediscovered a website that everyone got hip to a long time ago. Pinterest is, at first glance, just a cool way to collect images you like. For those of you who aren't using it, it works like so: you create boards, and add content to them by pinning an image and adding a note. You can add prices, hashtags, and tag other users. They even have a handy toolbar bookmarklet so you can save content really easily.

My original mistake was assuming that Pinterest could only be used as a visual inspiration tool, a need that I had already filled by using tumblr (which I still do infrequently, over at press the pause). But then I realized I was using a few tools which Pinterest neatly streamlines into one place.

Screenshot of my Svpply main page

I was using Svpply as a wish and shopping list. It has a really beautiful, streamlined layout, and is an easy way to have everything I'm interested in potentially purchasing one day (or having purchased for me, hint hint) in one place. While I like the items it suggests for me, I could only save items that came from an e-commerce site (and those didn't always work), and I found what was recommended for me was often a little too aspirational (read: expensive) for my meagre budget.

Screenshot of my Google Reader hair feed

I've been using Google Reader for a while now, and I've been using the tags feature to categorize posts I want to save for later. For example, every time I come across a street style or blog photo with lovely hair, I'll tag it 'hair'. That way, the next time I'm heading to the salon, I click the hair tab and have everything I already like culled into the same feed. Neat, right? Like a hairstyle magazine designed by me!

But this lacks the ability to leave notes to myself, and it's still in the standard text-heavy GReader format—great for navigating blog content quickly, but not so great for mostly visual use. I've also tried using the starring feature on GReader, but I rarely checked that feed, so I haven't found it useful.

I would email recipes to myself under the label Recipes, and I still do when I'm immediately going to be referencing it. But where to put all those recipes I wanted to try one day, but a) I didn't have in a GReader feed to tag and b) would get lost in the annals of my inbox?

Screenshot of Etsy's Circles

What about Etsy? I've been favouriting items and shops for a while and now, with Circles, it's easier than ever to have my tastes aligned with others'. But sometimes I'm saving things because I want to buy it as a gift or for myself, sometimes it's because I want to try making it myself, and sometimes it's purely from a lust/aesthetic point of view, and there's no way to tag these different uses. There's no easy way to navigate through the stuff I've saved either.

Screenshot of my Pinterest page

Pinterest solves all of these issues. I save the clothes I like to a board called, unoriginally, Clothing, where I note all the things I like about an item, including the store (so if I place an order, I can gather all of the things I like from that shop). I have my Hair board, which I can note whether it was the cut or colour was I was admiring. I have a Recipes board, so I can save a visual of the food I was drooling over as well as the recipe (and tag it with the meal type, so I can find all my favourite desserts or dinners down the line). I note all kinds of things in Colour Inspiration, from cool photos to runway outfits to vintage baubles. I have a board called Sensible Buys for recommended products that I know I'll need one day. I even have a board dedicated to glasses, spectacle nerd that I am.

I've only started into using this in earnest about a week ago, and it's already becoming one of my favourite browser tools. To make it even more dangerous, there's an iPhone app coming soon so you can even use your camera to pin things! I could have really used this on the bus last week when I saw a gal with the most perfect colour of red hair imaginable. Like, Anne of Green Gables red.

Basically, it's a little spot of the web that looks like what I'd imagine my idealized life looks like, beautiful and organized and filled with things that inspire me. Come on—follow me, follow Laura and we'll all have fun inspiring each other.

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