A Citizen Curator

About three weeks ago, I started using Pinterest. I’d seen others using it, but hadn’t seen the appeal myself until I saw another writer using a section of theirs as a vision board. Realizing there have been many times when I’ve tried (and failed) to beat Springpad into vision boards, I decided to give Pinterest a chance.

If you haven’t seen Pinterest, it’s essentially a visual bookmarking site. You can pin an image (which automatically links to its source if it was taken from somewhere online, which is a nice feature) or you can like an image someone else has posted. When you pin an image, you have to pin it to one of your boards. Pinterest offers a number of “template” boards, with a theme and a summary, but you can ignore these and easily create your own boards. (To be honest, I think I made my own boards in stead of using one of theirs.)

The whole set-up seemed simple enough, right up until it was time to start selecting boards for my early pins. What did I really mean by “Fantastic Settings” and “Math Class” (which was removed in favor of better boards)? I kept finding myself with pins I had to like because they didn’t fit my board structure. Over the past couple of weeks, my boards have slowly evolved into the vision boards they are now, and I’m betting they will continue to evolve as I continue using the service. I’ll keep seeing different ways to group what I have into boards that are more useful to me at that moment.

Using Pinterest has made me rethink how I use Springpad. Springpad is a flexible, well-planned digital notebook. It, along with Evernote, taught me how to use tags and categories…to the point where I kept trying to impose category thinking on my project-based notetaking system. Working with Pinterest and their board system, and watching how my own sense of organization has changed in response to Pinterest’s structure has made me realize that my approach to Springpad would probably benefit from a more flexible mindset, too. Instead of categories that notes will fail to be useful in, I’ve taken the Notebook structure and made that serve as the “categories”, giving me projects or some sort of related theme to help me better interact with my notes.

There are lessons to be learned here. First, any tool that can help you organize your thoughts and see what you’re doing and where you’re going are worth exploring. Second, learning how to categorize is important because it allows us to make some sense out of the chaos. But we need to understand that there isn’t just one right way to classify things, nor does something always belong in a single grouping. In fact, there will be times when something will need to be momentarily re-classified to help us with our work. It’s an object, an artifact, and it’s modular. It can be what we need, just by rethinking its classification.

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