Pinterest: to pin or not to pin

If you haven’t found Pinterest yet, you’re probably not missing out on very much unless you are the type of person who liked cutting things out and collecting them for later reference. If you like pretty things and magpie articles, it’s perfect for that.

Take me. I’m a compulsive cutter-outer. I blame my mother. She’s a cutter-outer too. She even cuts things out and posts them to me. Then I categorise them and stick them in a book. I keep recipes, ideas for the garden, ideas for the home, pictures I like… just like I used to keep pictures of Morten Harket from A-Ha when I was twelve. I keep them to read when I need them.

Cutting-out compulsion!

This isn’t so easy on the internet.

Back in the early days, about fifteen years ago, I used to print things off. This is not good for many reasons. One is that it uses up a lot of ink. The second is that it uses a lot of paper.

Then bookmarks came along.

I book marked. I reddit. I found other online ‘cut-and-keep’ methods and I kept them.

Book marks, however, are just a link. They don’t always tell you about content, unless you tell it to. They aren’t pretty. They are just functional. Not only that, my book mark bar was getting out of hand. Even with Diigo, which has a wonderful facility where you can add tags, I very rarely go back and look at stuff again. It gets forgotten about. I’ve got hundreds of things on Diigo and I never look at them again, unless I’ve book marked things for a lesson and I look at it once.

Bookmarks also need looking at regularly and you spend an inordinate amount of time looking over sites that may have added loads of new content or none at all.

That’s where RSS reader comes in. Add an RSS reader to your browser, click on it to ‘subscribe’ to a blog and then it cuts them out and puts them on a feedreader. It’s brilliant. I follow about 200 sites and it tells me every time I click on it what’s new or been updated. I can subscribe to gardening pages and get their new articles. I don’t have to keep looking back at a blog that hasn’t been updated.

An RSS button... click to subscribe (and click to find the article this came from telling you how to use RSS if you haven't already)

RSS is only good if you want everything on that site, however. I then have a choice. I’ve read something interesting, but didn’t really want the rest of the blog/site. What do I do?

I can RSS it, but then I get stuff I don’t want to read, which is annoying. I can bookmark it or Diigo it and never revisit it.


I can pin it!

This is my ‘pin’ page for my garden

As you can see, I link to articles I’ve read about the plants I’ve sown. They give me advice, reminders, prompts. Sometimes, it’s from the exact seed company. Sometimes, it’s just a track of what I’ve read and what’s in my garden. It’s a one-stop at-a-glance place where every time I want to see what advice I need for growing my lettuce, I can just click on the picture and it will take me there.

It’s a great digital version of something I’ve done for donkeys.

Of course, some people think – and the law is included in this maybe – that I’m ‘stealing’ the image.

They say that I’ve not credited the owner (Pinterest does… it’s easy to link and hard to get rid of the link to the original site – therefore, it’s very easy to get back to the source… even if it gets ‘repinned’)

Sometimes, they say that the owner wouldn’t give permission for me to ‘use’ the image.

That’s true. I have not asked a single one of any of the image-owners for their permission.

However, when I pin an image, it tells the website that a ping-back has been created. This tells the owner that a link has been made. You can click on it and see it. I can see who’s pinned my stuff and who’s repinned it. I can even comment on their pins. Two people have done this on mine. I’d pinned a great artist, Belinda Fireman, and she commented on my pin. Not only that, she knows how great I thought her work was. I pinned something from a Spanish Etsy designer and she’d said thanks too. People have pinned my stuff from Flickr. It’s amazing to see people spread and share your work.

Of course, recognition is nice too. Sometimes, something is pinned beyond all recognition, or people don’t click to see the original site.

Once, when I was a teacher-adviser, I came up with an oral activity on Macbeth. It was based on Paul Ginnis’s work. I credited him in the article. I delivered the activity and wrote my findings up. I took photos. I sourced and credited appropriately. It went as an article in the Secondary English Magazine. 

Two months later, I was at a paid-for conference where someone delivered this as ‘their own.’ They didn’t credit Paul Ginnis. They didn’t credit me. They even had copied my photographs from the article, uploaded them, put them in a powerpoint and delivered it to 20 people paying £100 for the conference. Including one angry owner. Me.

After the conference, I approached the thief. I asked him where he’d got his inspiration. To his credit, he admitted it wasn’t his. Then I told him it was my work. He didn’t even blush. I was mad. Hardened copyright abuser meets his source.  Hardened copyright abuser has just made £2,000 from theft.

But I was gracious. I said I was very flattered, but would he please credit a) Paul Ginnis and b) the children who’d produced the work (the name of the school was clear on the photos anyway…)

Probably, he was sussed as being a fraud. Maybe not. Maybe he’s written books filled with ‘stolen’ ideas.

Recently, one of my little students said he was going to perform one of his GCSE pieces in class. It was based on ‘Room 101’ – the BBC comedy series. Now, way back in 2006, when I was a speaking and listening assessor for an exam board, I got so tired of what ‘speeches’ most schools did that I had a hissy fit. Most were doing ‘do a speech about your work experience’, or ‘do a speech about a hobby. ‘ This is fine if you don’t mind 30 accounts over about 3 hours of making tea, or – worse – 30 accounts over about 30 hours about teenagers’ hobbies. Until you have someone bring skinned rabbits into school, or a selection of shotguns, fishing rods or cheap make-up from the market and talk about it until you and the other 29 non-interested teenagers in the room all have bleeding ears, then you won’t really know why I had that hissy fit. Having spent 5 days – 25 hours – listening to boys talking about their fishing rods – then I went home and thought about speeches that would spark everybody’s interest. Room 101 was one. Make an argument about a thing you’d want to ban. Another was ‘It’s so unfair!’ largely inspired by John Scieszka’s The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by A. Wolf. Ironically, I was not the only one inspired by a retelling of a villain’s story. Wicked seems to have gone a long way on it.

Anyway, said student told me of his assignment. I was a little flattered, though not big-headed enough to think that it was definitely MY idea (which it isn’t, since it was taken from the BBC series, and them from 1984 and Orwell probably yoinked it from somewhere or other) as such memes seem to have a life of their own, spontaneously flowering in many open minds globally. However, I did not get my knickers in a twist and try to trace down the teacher’s source and demand a credit. I just had a little moment when I thought ‘wow!’

Honestly, I thought it was pretty cool an idea had travelled and I was pleased my student was inspired. He got an A. I was suitably pleased.

The upshot of all of this is that you can try to copyright things, trademark them and so on, but ultimately, people will take your ideas and not give you credit. Nice people will. They’ll say thank you and appreciate you. Unscrupulous people will take your stuff anyway. They’ll use screen capture to steal your images or words, if you use a programme to stop them copying.

And if you don’t want stuff sharing, don’t post it on the internet. Simple. Maybe you think you should post stuff on the internet and people won’t steal it, but really, is your idea THAT unique? Did YOU source everything that inspired you? Did YOU put a little © God or © Fate or © La Rochefoucauld architects for providing me with a wonderfully inspiring view of a beautiful castle or © this-or-that artist who gave me the idea?

Personally, people who are precious about their own ideas are those who like to think they are inspired in a bubble and that all of their ideas are self-creating and spontaneous and original. I’ve unsubscribed from three blogs who find it offensive that I pin things and say they don’t want their own things pinning. So you want to use the internet to share your ‘original’ ideas (one was a painter whose work owed a lot to lots of other painters, and one was an embroidery blog I follow, who often links to stitches from other people and I think it’s a bit rich to say ‘Oh, I like this sharing, but not that sharing and I want YOU to share how I inspire you, but I don’t want you to keep hold of anything that I’ve done that inspires you…) but you don’t want to share what I do.

Why have a blog of your stuff if you a) don’t want people to look and b) don’t want people to be inspired by you or c) don’t want people to share your stuff with others who might also like it?

I’ve visited 10 sites today that I wouldn’t normally have visited because of Pinterest. I get Pinterest traffic myself. Pinterest shot one blog’s stats through the roof. And that’s all good.

I think, as a writer, artist, whatever, if I personally put something on the internet, I can’t then say ‘but don’t share it’. Pinterest doesn’t encourage stealing because it links back automatically to the original source, so the owner gets a credit.  Tumblr does the same.

So those people who bang on about copyright infringement and theft – well, they maybe would be better to keep their ideas to themselves – and then they’re never, ever going to be stolen.

So, if you see something on my site you want to pin, go for it! I’d be honoured. If you want to share it – lovely! If you think it’s worth sharing, I’m truly touched. If it ends up ten months later splattered all over Pinterest, completely uncredited, well, I’LL know, and that’s the important thing. I can tell myself ‘that’s me!’ and smile at the effect.

And for those getting ants in their pants about it, by my count from my FB friends, 4 out of 300 use it. That’s less than 1% of the internet population. All are women. All are about my age. All are crafty. All pin because they want to link back to the original site easily. None are thieves. Is it really worth getting all agitated about?!

That’s my almost-two-thousand-penneth.

No. It’s almost my almost-two-thousand-penneth.

I told you last time about my business cards… here they are:

Prime example of copyrightness… I think I came up with ‘for all your wordy needs’ spontaneously. Steve thinks HE came up with it. I KNOW he didn’t. But when I googled it, 748 other people thought the same thing. I’m DAMN sure the idea came from NONE of them. But whoever DID think of it first might be pretty annoyed I’m flaunting it on the internet. Hopefully, they feel like I do about the Room 101 lesson: it’s nice to be honoured, even if people don’t know they’re doing it. And if it’s a kind-of-spontaneous-great-minds-think-alike thing, well, I think human beings are amazing and sometimes scarily hive-like. But that’s still pretty cool all the same.


11 thoughts on “Pinterest: to pin or not to pin

  1. Thanks for introducing me to something I knew nothing about.. No, not copyright…. Pinterest!!

    I’ve signed up for an invitation.

    Some very interesting and valid points in your post. Thanks!

    1. It’s a very nice way to self-promote, Elizabeth – and all we internet-business owners need as much help as we can get! Enjoy pinterest – I’ve already been inspired to create several things. p.s. Coral shapes are this season’s must-have pattern from what I can see! I still find it bizarre that crafty, arty people wouldn’t want to share their things but hey ho.

  2. Found your comment on ‘Pin Tangle’ (well said) and then found your blog. As a long time textile artist, I have seen all the hype over the past week or so on Pinterest. Must admit to loving ‘pinning’ on my virtual scrapbook, don’t really know if it has increased traffic to my site but that is not my only reason for doing so, just enjoy all the wonderful pictures, creations etc. Copyright infringement has always been around and we have all experienced it, one way or another. With the advent of the internet it has become a lot easier but if it is so much of a problem, the solution is simple don’t share!

  3. At least there is clearly an identifiable person behind these lists. I find automatically created picture lists such as Flickriver can be irritating in that they don’t pick up that there are several towns in France with the same name, so you end up with a useless jumble of images. I also dislike very much the sort of picture favourite shows that do the rounds where the photographers are not credited, and the photos are so badly mangled by being forced into the wrong size or degraded in quality. I do object to commercial listing sites swiping our photos and using them to make money for themselves. I’ve also been in the situation as a crafts person where someone has made poor copies of one of my signature lines and sold them and I was fairly cheesed off about that. I have no problem at all with sites like pinterist where the link to the original is very clear and the owner gets a ping. I always quite like getting pings.

    1. Susan, as ever, you are the voice of reason. I was looking at Banksy’s page today. He says that people should feel free to use his material unless they are doing it to make a profit and his view on copyright is I think the same as mine and yours. I think I’m going to add a copyright bit to this blog (and my teacher blog – teachers are notorious thieves!) saying as long as they aren’t making money, they can do what they like, but if they make even so much as a single penny, I’ll rain down seven kinds of wrath upon their head! I like getting pings too – and it pushes the site up the rankings.

      I’ll punch a person who makes even a single penny and thus deprived me of that penny when it’s my work, but if I’ve done it for free, or for pleasure, and they too use it for free and for pleasure, then that’s wonderful.

      I put stuff on Amazon to sell my books – I don’t do it for free because they take me some time. I’d do it for free if I could, and I do put a lot on for free, but my books make me about £50 a month. I always make sure they are good value – I sell my Amazon book at the minimum price and to be honest, if a poor person asked me if they could have one for free, I’d give it away.

      I always liked what Radiohead did when they asked for an appropriate donation instead of a flat fee. I believe it made them a lot of money. Some people will steal, but they’d steal anyway. If you watermark your image, they’ll just use something like screen capture to ‘grab’ it. Ultimately, they have no morals and I believe in fate. They’ll get theirs, one way or another.

  4. Read your excellent comment on Pin Tangle and followed the link to your blog. I love Pinterest, it is for me a virtual scrapbook of wonderful pictures of places and creative ideas. Don’t know if it has increased traffic to my blog/web page but that was not my intention anyway. Copyright infringement is a problem, has always been around and the advent of the internet has perhaps made it easier. If this is a problem then don’t put pics on the ‘net.

    1. Leila, I feel exactly the same. It’s not copyright infringement and I object to people who WANT you to share their work (and share others!!!) and ask for more publicity then getting upset by Pinterest. As for ‘my links don’t link back to my page’, actually, on Pinterest, they always do, no matter how many times they’ve been repinned. Silly. I totally agree with you.

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