Discovery Streams to Curated Sets
So, I’ve been thinking about what is “it” with Pinterest? What’s the underlying insight to take away and extend?
As humans, we collect. One way to create is to collect and display and organize other works in our own way, in ways both common and elite. Think baseball cards, stamps, art, toys, wine etc. Think museums, galleries, Trader Joe’s. There is a creativity in the choices made for inclusion and exclusion. In other words, one way we express ourselves is by collecting and curating.
Pinterest — and the concept of curated sets — fits into the Internet’s mega-theme of providing better self-expression tools. I have blogged about how the trajectory of the Internet can be plotted as a map of better enabling the expression of its users and encouraging creativity and content production. See here. Curated sets provide another method, template and format for creating and sharing in a way that could be quick, easy, meaningful, and satisfying.
This interesting post on the Elad Blog makes an important point on the power of a curated set. The curated set is fundamentally different in moving away from the stream of Twitter and Facebook.
However, all of the social services continued to serve content as a time ordered stream. Moving from a stream to a structured collectible set of content was the next innovation in social media….
Pinterest (launch 2010) was one of the first sites to take push button content generation (via bookmarklets and “re-pinning”) and structure it into sets of curated content called “boards”. This allowed users to collect content from across the web, as well as from other users on the site. In some sense it took what a site like Tumblr had been doing but transformed blog-like streams into structured, curated collections users could share. Importantly, it was easy for new users to consume these sets of content visually as structured sets, and to share these sets with others.
It’s interesting to think how the stream has become so dominant today. There is a place for the set as well. The set brings more of a sense of unity and permanence. The set allows the author to create and the user to consume a set of content that has unity around a theme, around the curator’s taste, distinct from the “stream” of disparate content based on the actions of one’s friends on Facebook or who they are following on Twitter. There is also less of a transitory (blink and you will miss it, or alternatively, don’t look and it will take a long time to catch up) quality to the content with the curated set. It doesn’t disappear downstream. I bet this use case opens a number of interesting opportunities for business models across a variety of areas.