In the past month, I have pinned four things to Pinterest. I have saved 88 to Evernote. Obviously one of these cloud-based information storage systems is winning my mindshare, but I wanted to figure out why I had cooled on Pinterest.
Yes, Evernote isn't a one-to-one competitor or match to Pinterest. It's meant as a productivity app, while Pinterest is a social website. But the core competency of both is the same: Each is meant to be a means by which you easily store, sort and find data when you want it. So why am I using Evernote for everything -- how-tos, recipes, infographic storage, collections of tutorials -- and ignoring my Pinterest?
Off the top of my head, here are three reasons why my Evernote account killed any interest I had in Pinterest.
Pinterest is not an offline service. You're dependent on being able to access a website. Evernote has at least three ways you can access it: the website, via mobile application, or via desktop application. In the case of the last one, everything you need is contained in the app, so you don't need live network access if you're looking something up. I'm all for information living in the cloud, but let's not underestimate the importance of being able to get to it when you're offline.
Second: If you pin something and come back to it later, clicking on the pin takes you to ... a blow-up of the pin superimposed over the board you're on. You have to click again to go to the primary source of your pin. That's two clicks to get to the information you wanted.
By contrast, I have a browser plug-in that lets me suck URLs, images, quotes, selected sections of web pages or entire web pages into Evernote. These individual chunks of data are saved as notes, and I can go back and tag them at my leisure. The source URL for these is attached to the note. And if I want to find a specific bit of information, it's one notebook, tag or search term away.
Which brings me to my next point: you can't really use any of your pins, because Pinterest's search engine is terrible and there's no way to easily or efficiently rearrange your pins so they make sense.
I like white kitchens. Among the 112 pins I have on my kitchen renovation board, 70 feature white kitchen cabinets. (I counted.) Yet if I use the Pinterest search engine to find "white kitchen" among my pins, I get three results, and only two are for kitchens.
I realize that search engines are only as good as the data being put into them, but my question is this: I can't be the only person who's pinned a specific photo from a specific site, so why isn't the search engine aggregating all descriptions associated with a specific image source, then returning results based on that?
Another problem: There is no easy way to drag and drop pins, nor select multiple pins and rearrange a batch of pins at once. This is ridiculous -- Pinterest's great strength is that it displays sets of visual data, which you should be able to rearrange and organize so you can analyze that data and draw useful conclusions. "Pins are in reverse chronological order" is not really useful.
(Also, Pinterest does not detect when you pin the same thing multiple times; there needs to be a de-dupe mechanism that lets you know if you're tagging the same specific image or re-pinning the same pin. What good is a data set if it's filled with junk?)
Don't even get me started on why I think you should be able to tag pins in Pinterest.
By contrast, Evernote lets me attach tags to notes by the batch. It also lets me move notes by the batch in and out of notebooks. And I can view my notes in all manner of organizational schema. As a result, it's much easier to synthesize individual notes and learn something from the aggregate.
The third thing that really killed Pinterest for me: I don't need to be social with my information.
Maybe this is a generational artifact -- I'm of the age that got online in the early 90s and played with identity and anonymity. Maybe it's a vocational one. Since I don't make my living as a lifestyle blogger, I don't need to curate visual collections as a way to bolster my brand credibility. Or maybe I already have too many social sites to deal with -- there's Facebook and Twitter for fun, LinkedIn and Google Plus for work. Why do I need another place to fret about public presentation and interaction?
There's also the flip side to this, which is that Pinterest is a weird form of digital conspicuous consumption: people get to see and judge your taste, and while I personally like my taste, I'm not sure I really want it put it all out there. [*]
Evernote, by contrast, has privacy as a default. You can control what you share, and the sharing tends to be more task-based, as opposed to the "Eh, I'll surf this while I'm on this conference call" serendipity of Pinterest.
Obviously, Pinterest is not going to go away any time soon. It's a valuable way for brands to seize control of their visual profiles. It's fun to look at. And it really has affected the composition of online media: Because it's trained people to the expectation that they can curate and share images, more media outlets are responding by crafting visual components to their content.
It's just not a very useful tool. And this speaks to something we're going to see a lot. People spend a lot of time dorking around in their tools (see also: Why email will not die). But websites have to work hard to maintain people's attention.
Pinterest isn't keeping my attention any more. Even digital consumption, it would appear, has its limits.
Agree or disagree? Let me know by hitting me up on Twitter at lschmeiser.
[*] I am not even getting into the professionalization-of-domesticity aesthetic that seeps across that site. Pinterest's showcased pins typically showcase a type of middle-class consumption model that is problematic in its enforcement of gender and socioeconomic norms. And no, I do not think the answer is some sort of AlternaPinterest or looking for more "alternative" boards on Pinterest. I think the answer is in questioning who profits by establishing and reinforcing crazily unrealistic expectations for how we conduct domestic life.