Laura Gibbs

The Power of Pinterest (SRSLY!)

Blog Post created by Laura Gibbs on Apr 15, 2017

After a pretty crazy week last week ... and yes, I have to write up notes about Project Khaki! ... but this morning I just wanted to get back into my routine, posting a new growth mindset infographic and a new growth mindset cat. Here's the cat:


Don't let your fear paralyze you.


Don't let your fear paralyze you.

And what I wanted to share is a very nifty thing about Pinterest: although Pinterest does not get a lot of respect as an educational tool, it really does have some powerful search and discovery features. For example, I just uploaded today's cat to my Pinterest Board, so here is its pin page:


pin page


Underneath Pinterest gives "related pins" which are all kinds of LOLCats. It's one of those endless scroll pages; I don't know how many hundreds or thousands of LOLCats Pinterest might want to show me.


But here's a cool trick I want to demonstrate in this blog post: you can click on the magnifying glass on the image itself, and go to a visual search page keyed to exactly that pin. Here's the URL so you can see how it works, searching on a specifically defined area of the image, and you can control that by using handles that let you drag to define the area:


So, when I zoom out to do the whole image here, I get all the pins at Pinterest that people have made using this cat image. It is ASTONISHING. So many languages!!! The top six show me Italian, Russian, and Spanish in addition to English. Scroll down for German, Turkish, Portuguese and more.


visual search screenshot


And so much creativity! As someone who loves proverbs and aphorisms, I really enjoy the creative spirit that you can see at work here. I really like this one:


monster shield



So, I am a big believer in having students create and share memes, and this Pinterest feature is a beautiful way to explore the "meme-ness" of memes, how they are created and recreated and spread around the world. This is just one little picture of a kitten under a blanket; it's not even a famous meme. But Pinterest has so many pins from so many people that even just for this not-famous image, there is a wealth of human creativity on display, with the power of image recognition software being harnessed to gather and share the memes in a search result. 


And if you are wondering about Google reverse image search, it really does not deliver here, at least not for this kitten. When I do a "Search Google for Image" starting with my meme today, Google really comes up short, as you can see. It only returns three images, compared to the dozens that Pinterest finds:


google reverse image search

I don't know the ins-and-outs of how the algorithms work, but Pinterest is clearly ignoring, at least to some degree, the text on the image while Google, in contrast, seems very hung up on the text (even though the text here does not match the text on my meme). So, while I love Google as a tool for discovery, Pinterest wins here hands down.


My advice: if you have not explored Pinterest, give it a try. It really is fun to use, and because of its enormous worldwide popularity, it gives you access to a gigantic body of image-driven content that is a real pleasure to explore. Not just for LOLCats. :-)


Some notes here on Pinterest and Canvas:

Pinterest in Canvas