The hovels of information hierarchy

I’m an early adopter.

I grew up with Rocketmail before it was bought out by Yahoo; I made Realplayer podcasts with my friend Colin when ISDN was the fastest internet speed you could get in the UK and Realplayer was the only damn thing that worked; a more up-to-date example would be when Google announced that the Nexus would have Near Field Communication tech, I gave my Galaxy S to my niece; trust me when I say, I like new things, I like technological progress, and I like the internet.

I am, however, also a picky adopter: I’ll take a look at you when you first launch but I’ll not try you out just because you’re new – hell it took me long enough to accept that Twitter was worthwhile and here to stay.

So when it comes to blog and sharing-blog design, I get exceptionally picky.

So when someone comes along and says that one type of sharing-blog is ‘flattening the information hierarchy forever’, I get intrigued and make a note to myself to properly investigate a thing when I get more time.

So I’ve spent a few days exploring the wilds of Pinterest.

Here’s where the statement in that blog is wrong: Pinterest is a mess.

1st design rule of the net: make it clear. Pinterest fails.

2nd design rule of the net: make it clean. Pinterest’s really ugly.

Addendum to 2nd design rule of the net: if you want the ‘future/busy’ look, ensure that things aren’t gaudy. If you’re going for ‘the gaudy look’, ensure there’s enough space to follow the 1st design rule of the net.

I’m sorry to say it but from a design perspective, it has about as much sense for websites as the blade of an active blender does for fingers.

It doesn’t flatten information hierarchy because, when looking at Pinterest, all you want is for someone to show you what’s good out of all the trash. Then when you go to a name that you know and trust them to filter Pinterest for you, they look like they’re handling a helium hedgehog with friggin post-it notes on the edges of its bristles. That is, 12 post-it notes on the edge of each bristle and each of those post it notes has four small post-it notes at the bottom of the bloody note.

I couldn’t give a bloody fig if Terence from Chicago has pinned a pair of 90s ‘retro’ McDonalds shades [of which I owned 4 pairs when I was 12] to his board, he still found the bloody photo on Ffffound like the rest of us. Oi vey.

Yes, I do understand that it’s a new, ‘fun’ way of sharing ‘pins’ that are similar to post-it notes but when you see post-it-note art, do you ever notice how they stick quite a few of the same colours together to make it less incongruous? NO? Well, here, have a look:

Some would say Pinterest is like ‘window-shopping’, I would say it’s like watching 50 films at once. Without a mute button.

Some will tell me that I’m old and need to understand that people can process a lot more information at once now. To this I say, you’re partly right:  people can indeed happily process a lot more information in the 21st century compared to most who’ve lived their adult lives in the 20th but neither of those groups have to do it through such a messy medium.

I’ve spent a few hours each day, for 3 days looking for a Pinterest site that I enjoy looking at and in the end I found one:

it was in greyscale and had nothing on it.

So why the rant? And why the title? Surely it’s just another harmless thing to keep people entertained?

The rant’s here because there a lot of people who claim that every new sharing medium ‘flattens the information heirarchy’ and brings power to the people. I really am sorry to be one of ‘those guys’ that says this but:

no, they don’t – not every new sharing tool helps.

Pinterest helps the bored, the straight-up consumers, and people with short attention spans. Those people have already stopped reading this. If you haven’t and you have a Pinterest that you very much enjoy, please do tell me in the comments how you’ve made it aesthetically clean if you have.

I repeat: I am a picky adopter. You should be too.

The title’s here not solely because I think Pinterest a mess. It’s twofold: yes, 1) it’s a mess and; 2) when a place like Pinterest has garnered attention for as many months as it has since its launch  in September 2011 [a very long time in internet time] – and a friend emails encouraging me to join – the internet has got bored with itself and we, in turn, have got slobby about keeping it.

We’ve made a hovel. It’s time to clean it up.

When every new thing I hear about or am encouraged to join is a Facebook variant [and Instagram is a Facebook variant that focuses on the pictures, sorry Instagram fans] or a variant on another type of thing that already exists, the internet is bored.

We can do better.

Once the cleaner’s been by in about 2 years, we all need to sit down and ask ‘What doesn’t the internet do that we need?’ And even, ‘What doesn’t the internet do that we want?’ So long as the answers to the second question cannot be answered by something that already exists, go with it.

The internet is bored, let’s cheer it up.


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