Categotry Archives: Pinterest

Why Do We Always Need to Change?


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Photograph of a sign in a store window that reads "FREE WIFI & INSPIRATION"

Seen at the REI Store in Roseville CA

Back in May, I talked about some of the hyperbole that constantly surrounds social media trends. If you follow these trends at all, you’re always hearing that [fill in the blank] is now the hot platform, what you know already is obsolete, and there’s something magical that will answer all of your needs just around the corner, especially if you’ll fund my kickstarter account!

In the meantime, the most popular and commonly used platforms are constantly changing things, seemingly to maintain hipness and interest plus deal with constant lawsuits over privacy violations and patent infringement. Less popular ones do the electronic equivalent of throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.

I used to think that a lot of this stuff is done just to tick me off. I really loathe it everytime a platform innovates, and Facebook is the nadir of this annoyance, I guess because it’s the most pervasive platform out there. I hate it for the same reason I hate video games. I never get the doggone thing totally figured out! Just when I feel like I know what’s going on, here comes a shift; a new reality.

Much as it might annoy me, though, these platforms have to innovate constantly. Part of it is litigation. It’s common knowledge that Facebook, Instagram, Google and other platforms are constantly being sued for privacy violations. As a result, they change the way they collect, display and use information.  It’s not benign or necessarily corrective, by the way. Rather than really address privacy issues in a way that most people would be happy with, the changes often just provoke frustration and tick people off. Most recently, privacy settings have changed on personal pages. This and several other things have been explained by Information Week.

They like to change how information is laid out on the platform too. It was just a couple of years ago that Facebook did a major redesign to incorporate cover images. and switch over to a two-column layout. Milestones also appeared, allowing you to highlight significant dates. Nearly everyone I talked with about these things hated them, but we adapted.

Another reason for this constant innovation is to better monetize the platform. It’s one of the things that virtually all of us, I think, totally disregard about social media. Regardless of whether we’re providing content as an individual or on behalf of an interpretive site or business, we are performing unpaid labor for the platform’s owners.

Let me rephrase that. Without our content, Facebook, Instagram, Google +, Foursquare, Tumblr, or whatever has no content to draw viewers. No viewers, no eyeballs, no advertisers, no Silicon Valley, no Mark Zuckerberg, no… Hey, wait! This could be just great! I’m going to set up a Meetup group so we can plan this, and then send out evites, and…


Al Jazeera has a great opinion piece written by E. Alex Jung called Is It Time To Quit Facebook? where he makes his case pretty well. You may have heard about the research project that Facebook used us as Guinea Pigs for, Emotional Evidence of Massive Scale Emotional Contagion Through Social Networks. You can read the “editorial concern” in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for yourself to learn some of the details, but essentially Facebook played everyone who uses the platform by selecting post types that you and I would receive, determining (duh) that happy posts make us more engaged, while sad or non-happy posts decrease our engagement. This might sound kind of silly and obvious, but it’s not if you understand that we are not only an audience, but also unpaid content providers for some of the richest and largest content providers in the world. The study, while verifying something that seems obvious, also gives license to social media platforms to target what we will see, to drive more engagement and therefore sell and charge more for ad content.

How does this concern us, aside from the obvious? Well, for those of us who provide content on behalf of an employer or a beloved interpretive site, perhaps some of our most intellectually important posts are not “happy” enough, and won’t be seen by a large part of our desired audience.

The work we do as interpreters is not at all related to feeding tame deer and reveling in nature’s beauty. Well, part of it is, I guess, but in addition to the “happy” stuff we also interpret tragedy, death, greed, horror, accident and natural disaster. If we don’t, but they are part of our story, we do a disservice to our audience and stakeholders. Who is the world is Facebook or whoever to censor or diminish distribution of what we feel is important to get out to our audiences? Who gave them the right?

I’ve previously opined that social media is the equivalent of a public utility. They are pervasive, ubiquitous, and necessary for a lot of people to keep up in a fast-paced and modern world. I was wrong. A public utility normally provides a level of service commensurate with our ability to pay for the services. My water service won’t be diminished by my mood or the colors of the flowers in my garden. My electricity won’t be cut off if I like to burn lights all night, and my satellite provider won’t change my channel lineup based on what they think I should see. How can social media providers then, filter what I see versus what’s put on the platform and offered for viewing?

They are the owners. We are the unpaid employees, and we are at least partially, suckers for agreeing to be in servitude to them.

I’m not quitting social media; it’s simply too much a part of my life, and it’s definitely a part of my work. I’m not happy about it though.

The Power of the Community


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A photograph of a space shuttle on the back of a 747 airplane flying over Sacramento

This evening I’m sitting in tranquil California, worried about my friends back east (not to mention tens of millions that I don’t know) who have been affected by Hurricane Sandy, and thinking about the power of social media and the concept of community.

I’m old enough to remember when our society wasn’t quite as fractious as it seems today, and social media has to share some of the blame for that. Social media can isolate us, can lock us into narrowcasting that only reinforces our pre-existing biases, and use up a perfectly good afternoon when we should be working in the orchard…

Or so I’ve heard.

But social media also has a remarkable ability to bring us together when there are clear events or occasions that seem to demand our attention. For instance, about five weeks ago, the shuttle Endeavour flew over Sacramento and in particular did a literal flyover of the California State Railroad Museum, where I work.

Everyone, and I do mean everyone, stopped to witness this. It wasn’t just our facility of course, and the shuttle flew over the State Capitol, San Francisco, a NASA facility in Mountain View, and then arrived in LA where there was an entirely different event involving a two day move to its new home at the California Science Center, but I don’t think that I’ve been part of a truly universal moment like this since, well, I don’t remember.

Since I’m the social media guy for the Railroad Museum, and since I’ve been kind of a space geek since I was genuinely a child, I sort of co-opted our Facebook page for the day and put up an album of Space Shuttle photos.

screenshot of a facebook photo album showing space shuttle endeavour photos.

The CSRM Facebook album showing the Endeavour flyover.

Big deal! But it is kind of a big deal. I have guidelines and missions and responsibilities to focus on railroads and stuff like that, but the occasion and the opportunity was just so profound that it transcended everything else. It was a sense that everyone who witnessed the fly-over, regardless of personal interests, political affiliation or anything else, felt the same sense of national pride, perhaps of some melancholy about the end of the shuttle program, of awe at what humans can create and take the risks of climbing in and going into orbit. It was an extraordinary moment. I was able to vicariously share this by merely posting some photos, but in the process I connected myself and our institution in a different and more compelling way than we normally do. We were essentially all one in this process.

For the past couple of days, I’ve been feeling the same sense of community on a national level concerning our worries, observations and fascination with Hurricane Sandy. As I’ve checked my Facebook and Twitter accounts, I’m seeing far more informative and visually compelling coverage of the hurricane’s effects than I see in my newspaper or through traditional media:

screenshot of a facebook post

Adam Deras on Facebook.

Amtrak post on Facebook

Amtrak update on service interruptions.

Kelly Farrell update on Facebook

Kelly Farrel Facebook update

Twitter screenshot

Twitter screenshot with hurricane information for Philadelphia residents

I could post on and on of course, but you get the idea. To me, at least, the sense of community is remarkable. In addition to Facebook and Twitter, there are of course Tumblr feeds, Pinterest boards, blogs and all kinds of stuff where people are reaching out, both officially and unofficially, to help each other, lend moral support, show love and concern, or just verbalize what they feel. Far from isolating us, social media is helping us come together to share the event.

I’m heartened by this. Frankly, I’m a bit weary of how segmented and inward looking that many people seem to be these days. Perhaps this is just the stress of the upcoming election or other polarizing conditions. Regardless, I’m really impressed.

In 2010, there was a huge earthquake in Japan, with a resulting Tsunami effect that had minor effects here in California, but was much more serious in Hawai’i. It wasn’t that long ago, but a colleague who had friends over there had a heckuva time getting through to her friends and kept finding the same news stories over and over again, which was very frustrating for her. I suspect that today she would be much happier to be facebooking, twittering and IM’ing her friends in a society that’s much better attuned to living in this way.

My concerns about over-reliance on technology and using social media as an excuse to avoid human contact still remain, but for big events like we have going on right now, these tools help unify, inform and comfort us. I’ve got no real slam-bang point for this post, but it just sort of makes me feel a bit better during a time of great stress for myself and many of my friends and colleagues.

And now for the something completely different department:

If you’re frustrated with Facebook and feel that you’re not seeing your friend’s posts as often as you used to, YOU’RE RIGHT! Those weirdos in Menlo Park or Farmville or wherever they exist keep changing how the danged platform works and populates your newsfeed. You don’t get all the posts from all of your friends. It’s a long story, but it’s got something to do with Mark Zuckerberg wanting to make even more money to spend on hoodies and Skittles.

George Takei, one of our patron saints here at Media Platypus world HQ, even complained publicly about this on his Facebook page, and got a response from someone at Facebook because he is the AWESOME George Takei. You can read about it on the All Facebook blog if you’re so inclined, but basically the workaround is to look for the gear icon on your page in the upper right corner, and add the person that you want to hear more from to your “interests” list. Cool! Now it’s even simpler to stalk someone online.

…And I’ll bet that you thought I’d work Halloween into this somehow, huh! Nope. Nada. Sorry about that, but I just forgot to shoot the really cool pumpkin shot that I had in mind for this.

By the way, since I can’t seem to do it for the header photo in the same way I can for the body photos, I want to credit my colleague Robert Mistchenko at the California State Railroad Museum for his classic photograph of the Endeavour that sits at the top of this post.


You’re Outa Here!


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Well, I finally did it.

I banned a user from the Facebook page for one of the Museums I work at. This person, oddly enough was a volunteer at the facility, but three separate times this person made potentially libelous, definitely insulting, and certainly immature comments about other volunteers and staff.

Does this thumb make my hand look funny?

Fortunately, I have push notifications set for the sites I manage for my Agency on my phone, so I’m pretty much aware of what happens, at least when I’m conscious, whether I’m at work or not. Each one of this person’s posts disappeared within seconds or a few minutes of them hitting the ‘post’ button on their computer at home, so with luck, no one saw their comments except for me.

Well, except for me and the volunteer manager that I printed and gave hard copies of this person’s comments to, who is taking their own appropriate steps with them, and I’ll say no more about the matter. Except here, of course. Because this really bugs me. I’m generally a civil libertarian. I certainly believe in free speech, and I believe that just because I see something I don’t like or agree with, it shouldn’t interfere with someone else’s right to believe or say those things, no matter how stupid it might be.

When I’ve talked with other people in my Agency about what is and isn’t permissible on our social media sites, I’ve been surprised at how differently some feel about permissible content. Down in Southern California, for instance, one of the State Beaches has a Facebook page where they have concerns about what people might say about whales, oddly enough. I’m trying to remember the details, but I think that the word “blubber” has been blocked from being used by commenters to their site. I live and work in a quite different environment than urban Los Angeles, and I don’t pretend to be hip with what the LA community is all about (except when I watch “The Californians” on SNL,) but I still find this surprising.

When I’ve spoken with groups about using new media tools in our jobs, I’ve been asked several times about what the line is that would cross over into something that should be deleted or blocked. My list includes racism, political content, commercial spamming, blatant obscenity and things like that. I’ve specifically refused to censor people who stay stupid things about our institutions or are wrong in their assertions about what we may or may not do, or what our emphases in content might be. (Shh! Don’t tell anyone that I said this, but just because I think that something that someone says is stupid doesn’t necessarily mean that it is stupid. On rare occasion, I might be wrong!)

In the about 14 years that I’ve managed websites, chat boards and now some social media sites, I’ve taken down spam, and I’ve tried gently to engage people who want to tear down the places I work for, and I’ve tried to correct factual inaccuracies head on. I’ve never had to ban someone for being a bonehead. I certainly don’t regret doing so, but it feels like I’ve crossed a line that I can’t go back behind. Perhaps this is a minor loss of innocence for me, as if I had any innocence left. In the sum total of the world, this is really a non-issue, but as a professional communicator, I guess it violates my ethos to cut someone off. Ultimately, it was and is the right thing to do.

Speaking of which, have you heard of the Reddit troll, Micheal Brutsch? Reddit is a kind of crowdsourcing site where “reditors” submit either original content or links to external stuff, and readers give the content thumbs up or thumbs down to rate the content.

Because Reddit is pretty open and free-wheeling, and frequently unsafe for work, there are things that will curl your hair, or at least my hair. One of these that I thankfully never saw were reddit boards moderated by a user called “Violentacrez” who put up vile content, including violence and content that includes awful content about women and children, was outed by the gossip site Gawker. As a result, Mr. Brutsch has been fired from his day job and is apparently destitute, now accepting on-line donations, and no I won’t link to that site at all.

Oddly enough, though Mr. Brutsch has stopped being “Violentacrez,” he was not stopped by Reddit, but by social pressure brought on by Gawker. He continues moderating things on Reddit under his real name, mostly talking about the fallout from his being outed. You can read about the whole mess on Salon, or the Huffington Post, or the Atlantic, or of course Gawker. There are a lot of social media users having a very active debate about a) how thoroughly offensive this guy really is (pretty much general agreement) and b) how either brave or stupid Gawker was to out someone, and what this might mean to our very important freedom of expression, even stupid, and gross and indecent expression.

So with that, dear reader, I really want to know what you think of all this. PLEASE comment! Let us know how you feel about censorship in social media. What are the bright lines you feel would cause you to ban someone or remove content? What kinds of subjects or topics might be inappropriate for you to deal with or want to see mention of? Inquiring minds want to know!

p.s.: For those attending the NAI National Workshop in Hampton VA in a few weeks, I’ll be doing a pre-workshop on using social media in Interpretation. For a bunch of reasons, the session will be a little different than what you’ve seen in the pre-workshop description. Basically I’m going to facilitate participants in setting up workshop related Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter and FourSquare sites and content to blanket the workshop and document as much as we can. In essence, I want a sub-race of social media zombies who will fill the internet with all things National Workshop related, using every option and feature of these platforms, unconstrained by any Agency policies or the restrictions of protocol. Please let me know if you’re interested in this, or have any brilliant ideas, because it would be nice to have at least a couple of great ideas. You can contact me at my gmail address, .

And be sure and watch “The Californians” whenever possible!

Should your site be on Pinterest? (Hint: Yes)


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I’ll be honest, my initial perception of Pinterest was that it was almost entirely photos of orzo chickpea feta salad (actual pin!). But it offers a terrific opportunity for interpretive sites to reach the sort of people who care about the sort of experiences they offer. Some background:

I had a conversation earlier this year with a representative of a state park who was frustrated that whenever she posted a photo of her park on Facebook, it got a bunch of likes and comments, but no matter how many times she posted information about a specific upcoming program, it got no attention at all. I said, “Yes that’s because people like pretty photos. Nobody likes information about upcoming programs.” I went on to say, though, that sharing photos that get attention on Facebook is a great way to get people talking about your site, and even gain additional fans for your page.

The image-sharing social media outlet Pinterest seizes on peoples’ appreciation for strong visual content. It allows users to create “pin boards” that are essentially collections of related images. For instance, if a graphic designer/sports fan were on Pinterest, he might have a collection of sports-based logos as one board:

Or signs that he finds interesting or amusing:

Or simply attractive examples of graphic design:

Opportunities for interpretive sites on Pinterest abound. A nature center could create boards not only for its physical site, but also boards related to the activities they offer at their site. A board called “City Nature Center” might get a handful of local followers, but boards called “Hiking,” “Fishing,” “Bird-watching,” “Inspiration in Nature,” or whatever are likely to attract followers from all over. Similarly, historical and cultural sites can create boards that are likely to attract followings of people interested in the content they offer.

In March of this year, I was new to Pinterest and not sure what I thought about it. I asked on the Media Platypus Facebook page if the National Association for Interpretation should have a Pinterest account. The first response was from the easily excitable Facebook devotee Jeff Miller, who said, “No.” The next response cam from Brian Cain, who summed up better than I could what I was feeling:

Yes, if you have visuals to share. I learned this with Twitter. It doesn’t matter if I personally “get it” because that’s where the people are. Go where the people are/ Pinterest has the added advantage of being more engaging and viral that Facebook – more and longer interactions by users.

I still don’t spend a lot of time on Pinterest, but I’m aware that people do. I may not totally “get it” when it comes to Pinterest, and yes, there are a lot of photos of orzo chickpea feta salad, but if I worked at a site that was visually interesting—which is true of pretty much any interpretive site I can think of—I’d make Pinterest one of my top social media priorities.

Is Pinterest Legal?


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Shhh! Paul’s in Hawaii this week, so I can talk about one of his favorite diversions—Pinterest, and whether what Paul’s involved in yet another illegal Ponzi scheme , err, some of the legal issues with Pinterest.

The Pinterest logo, a script P inside a red circle

Pinterest logo, used under license from

Pinterest ( is an interesting social media/crowdsourcing tool, where like minded users the world over can virtually “pin” images of similar objects or ideas or concepts together. For instance, I’ve seen examples of interpretive planners using Pinterest to gather ideas or visual media related to projects they are working on. One of the people I work with in Sacramento claims that Pinterest is the exclusive domain of fashion designers, and though I’ve certainly seen Pinterest boards full of fashion-related images, I’ve also run across bird boards, collections of photos of brick walls, sandstone arches, Laurel & Hardy, scrambled eggs, republicans, air hoses, lieutenants, the amazon, and for Paul’s benefit, of course, Hawaii. People can re-pin images create captions when pinning, and comment on pinned images. You can include both still images and video. I think that Paul, being a very visual designer, is drawn to the potential of Pinterest, but also due to the similarity of the Pinterest logo to that of his beloved Phillies.

I follow and lurk on several discussion boards related to Social Media. I do this because I tried keeping my ear to the ground, but it makes my ear dirty, and that didn’t help with anything. Pinterest is a really fascinating idea, BUT… there’s a lot of questions about how Pinterest and copyright laws get along, and the answer may be that they don’t get along very well.

Let’s begin with the Pinterest terms of service. In item 1a, “Your content,” the good people at Pinterest tell you that “Anything that you pin, post, display, or otherwise make available on our Service, including all Intellectual Property Rights (defined below) in such content, is referred to as “User Content.” You retain all of your rights in all of the User Content you post to our Service.” Fair enough.

Item 1d “To Third Parties” says “You therefore agree that any User Content that you post to the Service does not and will not violate any law or infringe the rights of any third party, including without limitation any Intellectual Property Rights (defined below), publicity rights or rights of privacy.” Whoa.

How can I, or anyone else, pin other people’s images onto a Pinterest board? I obviously need their express permission. Take a look around Pinterest. Tell me how many people have gained permission from image owners to pin their images onto a pin board. Didn’t find very many, did’ja? I thought so!

Please keep in mind that I’m not an attorney; heck, I’ve never even played one on TV, so I’m definitely NOT giving legal advice, okay? However, one way to avoid this would be to only publish your own images or recipes. This will guarantee that you own the copyright, but that doesn’t sound like much fun. And speaking of things that aren’t fun, try understanding the length of copyright. The laws regarding copyright protection of been modified many times over the years and are very complex. If you’d like to begin exploring how complex they are, you might start at . Good luck!

By the way, the Digital Millenium Copyright Act more-or-less shields Pinterest from copyright infringement claims, since they merely host user-generated content, leaving you and me, the Pinterest users, on the hook for claims of copyright infringement. In a blog post on, Kai Falkenberg, suggests Pinterest users could avoid copyright infringement claims by “describing” content rather than “captioning” it on Pinterest. Oy, I’m not sure if I like getting legal advice from a blogger.

Now let’s look at the other side. What about content creators? After all, somebody has to come up with something to pin on these boards. I administer a bunch of Facebook pages for my Agency, and I generate a lot of original content for them, writings, photographs, and video. I used to administer websites for another Agency, and I have some personal things in various places around the web. Several times I’ve discovered that my content, and/or my Agency’s content, has been lifted bodily from my sites, most of the time without attribution, and 100% of the time without compensation. I have a friend, a gifted professional photographer who teaches photography, has many high profile clients, and even consults for a major lens manufacturer. He’s been directed by one of his clients to create a Facebook page, and though it’s been up for several months, it remains image-free. “Dave” values his work highly, and he’s far more versed in intellectual property law than I am. “Dave” cannot figure out how to protect his images online in a way that he feels comfortable with, so he won’t make it available that way except through specific sales, with rights assigned, to his clients. Of course I know some other photographers as well who are less  paranoid careful, and use an online presence to boost and promote their skills and business, but there are ways around watermarks and there are hacks around the javascripts that people sometimes use to prevent you from copy-and-pasting their content, and no, I won’t show you what they are.

Pinterest is a really fascinating tool for interpreters. I think that it goes to the very heart of theme generation. You gather like images, others contribute and comment, your mind automatically goes into a sort of thematic organization overdrive. It’s also a great way to plan a party, bone up on your trivia, and waste an awful lot of time, but those are just added benefits.

Copyright laws never anticipated the internet, and copyright violations are all over the place, both intentional and otherwise. I’ve been guilty of it, I’ll bet that you have too. Jeepers, now I feel like a major buzzkill. But the Pinterest model seems to encourage the theft of images. Is there a fair use exemption for Pinterest? In the reading I’ve done about this, some people seem to think so, but they are in the minority. One post I saw even predicted that Pinterest might soon go down the Napster hole, and just go away under the weight of legal claims. I hope not. Pinterest is interesting and helps me think, and besides, what would Paul do all day? Oh yeah, show his Hawaii photos to everyone. Great…

Perhaps this will all get sorted out, but I’m just sayin’, this stuff can get a bit dicey. Oh, just so you know, the Pinterest logo is from their website, and is used under license.