How Pinterest Brightens Up Information Retrieval

Search engines are the greatest thing since sliced bread. Google Chrome turned the URL bar INTO a search box so you don’t even have to use any extra energy to navigate to Google. We have the web at our finger tips.

But do we really want or need all that? Like my favorite food, asian fusion, Pinterest is the wonderful blend of Google, Facebook, and Twitter. It combines hand-picked user content with a killer visual search to present the user with links and photos to the things that interest them the most with a scrapbook-like visual display. Like all content driven platforms it requires you to make some initial interactions with other users, but after that all you have to do is enjoy an aesthetically pleasing display of pins.

The architecture of the website is part of what makes this site so cool. Pictures are displayed like a mosaic so you can view more than 1 at a time and not in a chronological order. It really does look like a digital bulletin board. The site also features an ‘endless scroll’ which means no more clicking around to see more. I love Reddit, but so..much..clicking..

Another great feature is the visual search tool which allows you to search for an image based on its syntactic image information (looks like someone read Westman). Since each picture is linked back to a webpage you are essentially browsing for information visually instead of textually.

I know I’m raving over here, but I think there plenty to say about Pinterest in terms of its information architecture and information retrieval. When the site first launched invitations to join were selective. This process produced a user group with competence and tech savvy. Over time the user population went up and the quality slightly went down. But still tags and meta data are often used correctly and that produces more accurate search results. I have yet to test the recall and precision of the search engine, but now it seems I have an excuse to look for chocolate cake recipes.


For more reading about Pinterest as a business or syntactic image information check out:

This article from New York Magazine

From Goker, A., Davies, J. (. J., Wiley Online Library EBS, & Wiley InterScience (Online service). (2009). Information retrieval: Searching in the 21st century. Chichester, U.K: Wiley. Available via City University Library.