I have been completely, utterly pinned

I have a new obsession: Pinterest.

You may have heard of it and you may use it already. It started “way back” in March 2010 and got Time’s attention, landing on its list of top 50 websites of 2011. I’ve known about it myself for several months but hadn’t taken the time to join until this week. I was immediately taken with the concept: a digital pinboard where you can organize your recipes, decorating ideas, favorite quotes, photos, travel bucket list and virtually anything else you can possibly think of. It’s kind of like what Tumblr might be if it matured a little and hit an OCD phase.

I was dismayed to find that most of my friends had no pins at all or had very few. When I start something new like this, I want to dive in and immerse myself in it and set up a good foundation. I began with about four boards for books, recipes, decorating ideas and my travel photography. Four boards became six and six became nine (macarons really needed their own board …) and soon enough I had 300 different pins and had sent invitations to several of my friends who were interested.

My favorite aspect of it is the near-immediate social payoff. I’ve been getting alerts all afternoon and evening telling me that people have been repinning my photos and the links that I’ve added. The functionality appeals to my organizational style: hyper-compartmental, a place for everything and everything in its place. The design is clean, there are multiples ways to follow people (I can follow all of John’s boards or just the ones I’m interested in) and the use of square, 3 x 3 thumbnails for each board is visually appealing.

You can receive an invitation from any friend who is already on Pinterest, or get on the site and request an invitation. There are enough users already to have a good foundation of content, but not so many that it ends up being one big pass-around the way Tumblr tends to be. I’ve found that the “audience is there” for the photos, recipes and links that I contribute myself. The nifty and genius “Pin It” button, added to your browser toolbar, lets you add items to Pinterest while you’re looking at other websites, without having to reopen your full profile.

If you’re already on it, use it! If you’re not already on it, request an invitation and give it a go. Fair warning: You might get hooked.

My Tumblr gets un-tumbled

For the better part of a year, I’ve had a Tumblr feed. For as long as I’ve had it, I’ve struggled to figure out what to do with it. I left it back in October, only to return to it a few days ago when my Google+ habits gave me some social media zest.

“I can make this work,” I thought. “I just need to figure out what to do with it.”

Successful Tumblrs, I’ve noticed, have a theme of some kind. My personal favorite lists hilarious things that kids have submitted as homework. Sadly it’s now on summer vacation. Many websites, newspapers and magazines have Tumblrs for content. Others exist to pass along artwork, recipes, videos and memes of all kinds.

I was determined to post my own work as much as possible, whether it was text, videos or photos, even if it took me a while to gain followers because I didn’t pass along Popular GIF #5638. I took inspiration from two of my friends’ blogs — Lauren’s and Jessica’s — and tried to let it come naturally.

Finally, earlier today, I made my decision. I’ll use my Tumblr to display my travel photography, and pair the photos with proverbs I deem thematically pertinent (or, you know, cool). I take many, many photos, but I’m not a photographer in any trained sense. Using my Tumblr to show them off seems like the perfect way to get them “out there” without needlessly duplicating any content from my Google+, Twitter or personal site (although my existing work on here will stay). It’s a simple pet project.

I’ve posted four photos total since deciding to take my microblog in this direction — I hope to add one or two every day — and it’s been fun selecting the photos and the quotes to accompany them.

I feel an odd sort of triumph that I’ve sorted out the formerly mystifying Tumblr. Even if I’m the only one who ever looks at it.

Google+ — a plus, or a minus?

It’s been about 32 hours since I accepted my Google+ invite, and I’m ready to give my initial reaction.

My signed-up friends — most of whom are former journalism school classmates — and I have used Google+ to debate the merits of Google+. How meta. One of my friends called it “Facebook built by the post-Facebook generation.” Others praised its cleanness and ease of use.

While I maintain a pretty far-flung social media presence, it’s rare that I join a platform this early on (although my Facebook account, from June 2005, is relatively ancient). So I thought I’d take advantage of that and offer up my impressions. Here it goes.

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  • The design is remarkably clean and straightforward. It doesn’t have a signature “look” like Facebook just yet (although it dovetails well with Gmail, Reader, Docs and other Google goodies), but nor is it an eyesore like MySpace tended to be.
  • I love, love, LOVE the idea of circles. My friends’ opinions vary somewhat — some praise it, others think it builds walls needlessly. My one hangup with Twitter is that it’s hard to separate personal, non-DM replies to friends from more professional/serious tweets. With circles, you can easily keep professional items professional and personal items personal. You can do this with Facebook, too, but in my experience it’s a much bigger headache.
  •  It seems to take the best parts of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Tumblr and combine them. You’re free to shape your profile however you want — one of my friends is off and running with GIFs, others are sharing videos and photos and others are having conversations through status updates. It has a definite “it is what you make it” feel.
  • The simple yet aesthetically nifty way that Google+ displays photo albums is something I like, but I haven’t seen much said about it. Instead of cycling through individual photos in an album or seeing a wall of uniform thumbnails (like Facebook), photos are displayed with their cutlines in a crisp mosaic. Thumbs up.
  • I like the idea of Sparks, where you submit subject tags of interest (politics, economics, news, whatever) and receive a filtered newsfeed as a result. It’s nothing that Google Reader and a Twitter feed don’t already do, pretty much, but it’s nice having an in-platform option.
  • I’d like to see photo- and video-specific postings that allow URLs and not just file uploading. You can share online photos and YouTube videos, obviously, but as far as I can tell it’s treated like a generic post. Given Google’s ownership of YouTube, this is kind of awkward. EDIT: Google+ actually does allow for photo- and video-sharing using URLs. For some reason I was unable to locate it earlier, but it’s definitely there. Consider this shortcoming deleted.
  • The hangout feature, which is basically a sprawling video/chat meet-up (either planned or impromptu) has potential, but I confess I haven’t tried it yet. It looks like some outlets, like The Huffington Post, have used it already with some success.
  • Unlike Twitter (which allows one “official” URL) and Facebook (which buries them), Google+ lets you link to multiple personal and social media profiles, and displays them prominently on your page. I have links to this blog, my LinkedIn profile, my Tumblr, my Twitter and my Foursquare. Nifty.
  • The biggest complaint: so few people. With about 4.5 million users (last time I checked), Google+ has less than 1% of the registered users that Facebook does. It seems content to follow a pace of steady, gradually increasing growth. I think its real test will come when “normal” people — not journalists or technology enthusiasts — start migrating over, if they do. Google+ has to offer them something that they’re not getting with Facebook or Twitter. What that might be, I think, depends on the user. But Google+ can’t rely too much on exclusivity and being a journalistic utopia, or else it could easily go the way of Google Wave.
So there you have it. Frankly I’m pretty impressed, but only time will tell if the novelty can successfully segue into indispensability.