a pinner’s manifesto

I admit it. I was initially resistant to Pinterest. Why do I need one more social network? was generally my perspective. But then I tried it and quickly became hooked. Finally, my folders upon folders of bookmarked recipes were actually useful, because instead of scrolling through filenames, I could browse photographs on a “board” to choose what I wanted to cook, the same way I flip through a cookbook or magazine looking at the pictures. As a sewer and crafter, I could collect inspiration to use later, too, like yellow dresses that became my the spirit of my first yellow sundress that I made for myself. Much as I love Instagram for giving me a greater eye for beauty, Pinterest has helped me see all the world as a source of inspiration for making my spaces and meals a more beautiful place. For every critique I see of Pinterest as a place of envy and lust, I would argue that it’s what you make of it. If you collect pins and follow pinners who only share things you’ll never have, sure, you could easily get down and jealous and start to feel inadequate. But if you follow people with a similar vision for life and the world, you’ll never cease to be inspired. Because I judiciously unfollow thinspiration boards and mostly follow people who pin yummy food and quirky outfits and cute spaces, Pinterest has become a Happy Place for me.

But we can make it better.

Let’s face it, Pinterest’s search kind of sucks. But it’s because of us. Pinterest can only return pins to us if they’re captioned with the kinds of terms we use in our search. If I’m searching for pictures of foxes (which I often do because I’m obsessed and want a pet one), but everyone has captioned their fox pictures “CUTE!”, I’m not going to get many results. For a picture of a fox to show up in the results of my search with the keyword “fox,” the word “fox” needs to appear in the caption. Similarly, if I’m searching for images of toddler bedrooms or shared bedrooms to inspire me in sprucing up the gals’ nursery, only pictures captioned with words like “toddler room,” “shared room,” “twin room,” and “bunk beds” are going to return me the kinds of images I’m looking for, while the ones captioned “cute room!” or “idea for later!” are never going to reach my screen.

So, we have to start doing better. We have to start captioning our pins with actual descriptions of the image. Most people already do this with pins of recipes, captioning them with the name of the actual dish. But we need to do it with everything. I need to do it too. Also: did you know Pinterest has been tagified? Much like on Twitter, where placing a hashtag before a keyword turns the word itself into a clickable search that takes you to a page with all other posts that share that tag, putting “#coconut” on a pin for say, coconut rice turns the word #coconut into an instant search for other pins that share that tag. Click that link and see what I mean.

Here’s an example from one of my own pins. The bad pin has just a space instead of a useful caption, while the good pin has a descriptive caption that makes use of keywords and hashtags.

This is my pledge: In order to make Pinterest more useful to us all, I will henceforth caption all of my pins appropriately, describing what is in the image or the content of the blog post the image links to, and making use of related hashtags to make my pins more search-friendly. Will you pledge to do the same?

P.S. If you would like to follow me on Pinterest, please do! I’d love to make more “friends” there!

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is technology killing love and trust?

Image via Air America via degreedate.com.

David Brooks is sort of the Andy Rooney of the New York Times, always baffled by modern ways of life and love, and wishing we could return to the good old days, maybe even in Lake Woebegone, where the men don’t have iPhones, the women don’t have Facebook, and all of the relationships are hookup-free until marriage.  Brooks’ latest column is about how cell phones and texting have killed romance.

Brooks’ column is littered with proof of how he just. doesn’t. get. it. (He notes that the daters he quotes make up nicknames for their partners, not catching that “Stage Five Clinger” is a “Wedding Crashers” reference.  He also seems to think Bruce Springsteen is an appropriate cultural reference.) I sort of imagine that Brooks does his phoning on a Jitterbug.  He seems to almost want to return to the days of arranged marriages:

Once upon a time — in what we might think of as the “Happy Days” era — courtship was governed by a set of guardrails. Potential partners generally met within the context of larger social institutions: neighborhoods, schools, workplaces and families. There were certain accepted social scripts. The purpose of these scripts — dating, going steady, delaying sex — was to guide young people on the path from short-term desire to long-term commitment.

Now we have a dating free market, and free market conservative though he is, Brooks DOES NOT WANT!!!  Why? Because “texting and the utilitarian mind-set are naturally corrosive toward poetry and imagination.” Continue reading “is technology killing love and trust?”

i bet president obama doesn’t whine about HIS blackberry

So.  I’ve ranted about pod-people only to become one.  And now, I fear, my technology addiction may only get

This is what my new baby looks like.  Can you show me how to work it?
This is what my new baby looks like. Can you show me how to work it?

worse.  You see, last night, I got a Blackberry Crackberry.

I didn’t set out to get one.  In fact, I wasn’t going to get one.  Our 2 year cell contract was finally up, and Jon especially was in dire need of a new cell phone.  About a year ago, he washed his nice LG flip phone in the washing machine, and had been using a 5-year-old Motorola since then.  Not only was this phone 5 years old, complete with walkie-talkie-style telescoping antenna, but Olive had gotten ahold of it and chewed the crap out of it.  The battery was held on with duct tape.  Now, considering what it had been through, the Motorola was holding up pretty dang well.  In fact, if we hadn’t recycled it, we probably should have sent it to Motorola to use in ads, like Timex– takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’.  Pretty impressive considering cell phones are basically DESIGNED to break within a year so you have to buy a new one (talk about Planned Obsolescence!), and there’s no one out there who will actually repair a cell phone.  They think you’re nuts.  Just go get a new one seems to be the attitude. Continue reading “i bet president obama doesn’t whine about HIS blackberry”

the perks of being a pod person

For a college advanced comp course, I once wrote a pretty scathing essay about people who are addicted to their ipods.  I believe I created an extended metaphor about ipods as invaders from another planet, slipping their tentacles into people’s ears and slowly sucking out their brains, turning them into pod people.  I may have even suggested that ipods are a health hazard, as more than once I nearly gave a roommate a heart attack by “sneaking” into our room before she saw or heard me, thanks to the music blaring in her ears, causing her to shriek upon suddenly seeing me. It was a pretty funny essay and it even got published in my college town’s paper.  Ever since, I’ve tried to avoid becoming a pod person.  Yes, I have and love a few-generations-old red ipod nano.  But it mostly only saw use in my car and on long plane trips, as I dreaded becoming one of those people addicted to my own personal soundtrack, shutting out the world as I walk down the street or sit on the bus.  I’d rather use my bus time to chat with people sitting around me, and walking down the street, I tend to get a little tree-hugger, listening to birds and stopping to inhale deeply any time I pass a jasmine vine.

Things changed today.

Shes clearly become captive to the pod people. By Martin Krzywinski @ Flickr.
She's clearly become captive to the pod people. By Martin Krzywinski @ Flickr.

As I boarded my bus, I could already hear a man pontificating.  I have no idea what compels the crazies to sit at the front of the bus and regale the poor drivers with their thoughts on life and politics and child rearing, but there’s always at least one, oblivious to the effect they are having on everyone else’s commute, conducting a running monologue all the way to wherever it is they’re going.  This morning, it was a white-haired older man, who seemed to be speaking in fragments about how white men just don’t want to work hard (um, did he know what color HE was?), how dumb it is that people keep coming downtown and robbing college students because they don’t have any money (um, I WORK at the college, and let me tell you, plenty of these kids probably have plenty of money that they keep in the Range Rover mommy and daddy sent them off to college in), and how they should rob the tourists down on the battery instead.  Seriously.  He said, “Those white women have $12,000 diamond rings on their fingers, cut off a finger, you’ve got yourself a score!”  He also went on about how he doesn’t drink or “use the cocaine” because “those are white women things.  They love to drink those martinis with their pinkies in the air.”  When (and I note that at this point we had made it about, oh, a mile from my house, so he really packed the info in) he launched into some sort of diatribe about sending his pennies to Obama so all the lazy black men could get jobs (at this point I decided he was just a misanthrope who hated everyone– white women, white men, black men, maybe the only ones he likes are black women like the bus driver he seemed to be trying to impress), I decided it was time to find the escape pod.

I fished around in my giant be-prepared-for-anything-that-could-happen-on-the-bus tote and found my trusty little ipod, Weasley.  I slipped those little white “tentacles” into my ears, clicked on my “Summer Dance Party” playlist and slid my thumb around the dial, cranking up the volume.  The lady sitting next to me, white tentacles also in her ears, nodded at me and smiled. A friend of mine across the aisle looked at me with jealousy, wishing she too could tune out the crazy sermonizer. When I couldn’t hear his insane rantings anymore, it was sort of funny to imagine his mouth moving to the lyrics of M.I.A. and MGMT.  I couldn’t help but smile to myself as I tapped my foot to the beat.

Now, in order to avoid true pod-dom, I should probably have removed the “tentacles” as I hopped off the bus for my short walk to the office, but I fear their little feelers had already worked themselves into my mind– one of my favorite songs had come on and I walked to its beat all the way to my building.  I sort of hope there isn’t a camera in the elevator because I may or may not have had a little dance party somewhere between the first and fourth floors… Guess it’s time to welcome my shiny red Apple overlord.

On being unplugged, but not nearly as cool as Eric Clapton

I wrote this post about a week ago, when I was still kicking this idea around in my mind.  Heck, I’m still not sure about it.

I am thinking of starting a blog.  Thinking seems to be all I do, because I’m scared to pull the trigger in case the thing turns into a pit of narcissism and monotony.  No one wants to read my diary.  Not even me.  And yet, I write so little now that I’m a liar when I call myself a writer.  Can’t remember the last time I wrote anything, let alone something worth reading.

But we’re in the middle of this recession/depression/whateveritis and I think I’m going to want to tell stories some day about how we lived through it.  It’s not like, Dorthea Lange portrait-worthy, but it seems more and more that the world is crumbling down and skies are falling and yet, in many ways I’m happier, we’re happier than ever.

Continue reading “On being unplugged, but not nearly as cool as Eric Clapton”