Just pin it up

Nandagopal Rajan        Print Edition: April 2012

If of the latest developments in the online world, the chances are you have heard and read a lot about Pinterest in the past few weeks. While many have dismissed it as just another social networking startup, the phenomenal surge in the number of people requesting an invitation to join the "virtual pinboard" means it is not a site to be overlooked, at least not yet.

What is Pinterest?
Pinterest, which likes to call itself a "virtual pinboard", has been running an invite-based Beta version for almost a year. It lets users make online pinboards of all the good things they find online. Users can make boards on any topic, which will ultimately appear like a bunch of images. So even if you are pinning a very serious Wall Street Journal article, you will be able to post only a picture from the page.

As of now, Pinterest is a collection of the best pictures on the Net and the most interesting videos, all collated in a way that appeals to the eye. This visual interface, and the apparent lack of long winding prose, is also what sets it apart from other social networking sites. All the talking on Pinterest is done by the images.

How does Pinterest work?
Once you have managed to get yourself an invite and logged in to your account, you can start pinning stuff to your boards. Some category boards are already made for you and more can be added easily. As the boards are visual, it is only natural that most boards are of photographs-and there is a stunning collection of images out there. You can add a comment while pinning something, but there is a 500-character word limit. After something has been pinned to a board, the link can be tweeted or sent to your Facebook wall.

People can follow all boards posted by an individual, or just specific ones, which we found very effective in reducing clutter. If you are impressed by a pin, you can either like it, re-pin it to your boards or post a comment under it. Clicking on a link will ultimately take you to its original source. If you want to add original content to the boards, you can create a pin by uploading a picture or video to a board.

How is it different?

  • Very visual-there is hardly any text to wade through.
  • No direct messages or pings, so the bug quotient is very low.
  • Easy to browse by topics as all posts have to be categorised.
  • Postings can also show price-very handy for small online vendors.
  • There is no nudity or hateful contect, so Pinterest is office and kid-safe.

Other small big ideas

If you thought Twitter was the height of brevity, then you obviously haven't heard about Hycku. As the name suggests, Hycku in inspired by Haiku and other ultra-short forms of poetry and has a seven-word limit. Chennaibased software engineer V Vasanth, who created Hycku.com as a hobby, says: "Here we praise the Thirukural, in which each poem has seven words. We just developed the idea from there." Working on the same formula as Twitter, Hycku has found some takers. And that is a plus for Vasanth, who says he initially thought the idea would never take off. However, the website doesn't seem to offer much for the literary minded as it is mostly a garble of links and soliloquies at the moment. Still, do take a look if you think you have a thing for Haiku.

If you can't remember the last time you wrote someone a long mail, maybe you should get yourself a Shortmail account. Called the Twitter for email, Shortmail limits all mail to 500 characters, and that is including the spaces. Shortmail thinks the focus should be on conversations and doesn't have space for unnecessary forwards or spam. At the end of the day, you will have just conversations in your inbox. Anyone with a Twitter account can log in with the same details - even the handle will be the same. Conversations appear like threads, similar to text messages on smartphones. There is also a public mail option where you can post something for the world to see. Mails can also be sent to anyone with a twitter account, they will see it if they have activated their Shortmail accounts.

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