On Pinterest

July 12, 2014

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Something I've noticed over the past year or so is this phenomenon where people credit Pinterest for all the neat things they find on the internet.

Don't get me wrong, I love Pinterest. I'm an enthusiastic, active user, but I don't give credit to it as an original source for anything. Maybe that's because I started blogging (on various platforms) long before its existence and widespread popularity, but sourcing Pinterest seems to make as much sense as sourcing Google for something you might find on Wikipedia or the Weather Channel.

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For me, Pinterest is the online equivalent of tearing out blurbs and images from your favorite magazines and newspaper to collect and refer back to. It's an inspiration board, but it's even more awesome because you get to share it and show people your own personal style and interests. I'm all for sharing free information and being as open and helpful to my peers as possible, but there is something about this trend that seems a little too generic to me. Why is everyone suddenly oblivious to the origins of publication, however informal they may be? Am I missing something?

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For instance, I recently found this article in the Phoenix New Times titled Make Your Own Chai Tea Concentrate, Thanks to Pinterest by Laura Gill wherein she writes an article about the struggles of finding the perfect chai concentrate, and jests about how a "Pinterest User" saves the day:

"Oh, I love how Pinterest always comes to the rescue... It knows when I have a problem even before I do!"

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The "Pinterest recipe" Ms. Gill is referring to here is a post from my blog for Spiced Chai Concentrate published back in August 2011 (you knew that was coming, right?), and remains one of my most popular recipe posts of all time. And, aside from the fact that it's a damn tasty recipe, the reason it has gone viral over everything else I've ever published continues to mystify me.

After all, the images aren't that pretty, and the recipe isn't even originally mine. I merely adapted it from the Tasty Kitchen Blog and posted my version so I could share the deliciousness with anyone who might be interested.

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But that brings to mind an interesting point. Whenever you see a recipe post on the internet these days, it's usually an adaptation or modification from some other source. Most people are good enough to list their sources, but over time you start to see the same recipe done over and over again, and the list of sources becomes piled so high that it's difficult (and maybe unnecessary) to locate the original. Maybe this Pinterest issue is merely the next step in letting go of our need to give (and take) credit because credit due has become too convoluted, a natural result of the rapid speed information is passed on the internet.

Thoughts?

17 comments:

  1. I think it's a combination of laziness and bad memory. You can remember that you found something on Pinterest, but you can't remember the name of the website it took you to. I've heard people say they found something "on Google" too, for that matter :-P

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    1. I can understand the laziness and bad memory stance (a little too well - hah). That's what I originally chalked it up to in the beginning, but then I start to see articles like the one linked above, and hear the way people refer to Pinterest rather than blogs or websites on a more regular basis, and it starts to seem like there might be more to it. :)

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    2. Lindsay, I totally agree with you! In fact, I've often chosen not to pin something on my Pinterest boards, precisely because the original source was not traceable nor mentioned. Sometimes, after failing to retrace it beyond the Tumblr page from which it was picked up (Tumblr is much worse than Pinterest for that matter, and this is why I don't browse any), I still eventually pin it and add "source not found" as a reminder to any future users that it should be, if possible.

      Lastly, I think your images *are* quite special, particularly in here, with a timeless feel and a great sense of mise en scène ;o)

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    3. Thank you - I appreciate that.

      For me, Pinterest is totally a personal thing. I use it for my own reference, so it doesn't always matter to me whether an image goes back to the original source (although I really wish it would!). I just find it really surprising that so many people seem to be confusing Pinterest as a source of content rather than a gateway for it. To use the Google comparison, it seems to go beyond simply saying, "I googled it."

      Of course, there are some people who upload images to Pinterest directly rather than linking to a site, so I guess it's even more gray than I originally thought.

      And Tumblr? Sheesh. Tumblr always seems to be a dead-end for me in terms of finding the creator of an image. I don't have an account with them, but I've definitely noticed that trend too.

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  2. I feel like the internet has really changed how we percieve of authorship and intellectual property, and in the vast hubs of information like Google or Pinterest it's easy to lose sight of individual sources. I know in a lot of cases I can't find everything I'm looking for from just one source. Instead of citing all of the places I found the information, I'll say that I "googled" something as a way of communicating that I synthesized my information about a subject from multiple sources on the internet.

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    1. Oh, that's interesting. Using the generic "I Googled it," or "I found it on Pinterest," to cope with the vast number of sources we encounter on any one topic. That's a good point.

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  3. Thanks for pointing out the recipe, now I can make my own chai :) I agree, it's frustrating not to be able to find the original source of a photo or a recipe and even more so if it's your own content that gets taken away from you. I would never cite 'Pinterest' as a source for anything!

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    1. Of course! I hope you l like the recipe as much as I do.

      Yeah, I have mixed feelings about the article. I mean, the recipe was never originally mine. I just adapted it, so I don't tend to take offense when I find it elsewhere on the internet (as I often do). Plus, I'm all for being generous with quality information. I think that's one of the reasons I love the internet so much.

      But... I don't know. It seems a little weird to write about how Pinterest 'saved the day,' but to refer to it as more than just a search engine in this particular context is a little confusing. And it's not just this article. People all around me seem to either not understand how it functions, or to not care.

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  4. wow stunning photographs. i lose too many valuable hours on pinterest.. but isn't it fantastic!

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    1. Thank you. I love my iPhone, but I'm always a little worried the images are too low quality for how big they appear on my blog. Then again, I don't care THAT much or I wouldn't do it - hah!

      And yes, I agree. Pinterest is definitely fantastic.

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  5. As an academic, the Pinterest phenomenon has baffled my mind too. I've spent years teaching kids how to properly cite sources and vet others (Pinterest would fail a vet-test!), yet people still resort to Wikipedia and Pinterest for their quick and easy sources. I use Pinterest as an "I want to remember this link and I'll never find it again if I don't file it somewhere now" filing cabinet. I know I would want to be cited for something cool I did, so it's a real shame that you were cheated of that because someone thought your recipe variation was great enough to pin.

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    1. I've been wondering how schools are dealing with citing sources these days. When I was going through school, my professors would tell me that Wikipedia was never a bad place to start, but that you should never use it as a source for anything. I assume things haven't changed much, but I also wouldn't be surprised if internet sources are becoming more widely accepted, too.

      As for feeling cheated, I'm actually not harboring any resentment. The recipe was never originally mine (I adapted it from the Tasty Kitchen Blog back in 2011), and she does list me in the article. I might feel differently, though, if it was my original recipe. Mostly I'm just a little perplexed at why Pinterest is mentioned at all as anything other than a search engine in this context.

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  6. I would still click through and try to find the original. You can't always, but even if the person doesn't't want credit, I feel it should be given. Most pins you click through go to source anyway!

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    1. Yeah, that's been my experience too. I always like clicking through pins to find the original source. It's led me to so many amazing bloggers that I now loyally follow.

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  7. I found your blog via Pinterest. Now I am an avid reader/follower. So it does have its benefits. I like to think of Pinterest as the ultimate image search with the added bonus of the picture linking (usually) to the source to make x, y or z.

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  8. Coming out of lurk to say I totally get where you're coming from. It's amazing to me that Pinterest gets such accolades since without the hard work of bloggers like yourself, there wouldn't be a Pinterest since Pinterest itself doesn't give any original content!

    I give credit on my blog all the time, just my way of saying thanks to the people who shared whatever the idea is with me and because it's just the right thing to do.

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  9. I think most people honestly don't really understand what Pinterest is, or how these *sharing* platforms work. What gets me is when bloggers who know better, especially big name bloggers, link to Pinterest as a 'source.'

    I have mixed opinions on Pinterest. In the beginning, I was very strict about what I would pin and only ever shared something I could find the original source for. I even did reverse image searching to track down original sources. But I'll admit I've become lax and a bit of a pin-whore. Now I use Pinterest mainly for steady stream of visual inspiration and therapy. It feeds the creative/visual side of me. It's akin to flipping through a magazine. Like Ness said, Pinterest is a place to bank things in case I need them later. So once I go beyond that, to sharing or mentioning it elsewhere, I do track down the original.

    (PS: This looks delicious!)

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