BO.LT and Pinterest: Beyond Sharing, Organizing

In the age of information inundation, being able to organize content in a meaningful way is one thing that can save us from getting lost in the deluge—that feeling of indiscriminate interestingness the Internet affords. Or perhaps it’s just indiscriminate curiosity. Whatever it is, users are increasingly interested in not only sharing content, but organizing it. Perhaps that’s why Pinterest has been so successful—a social media site that allows people not only to share the images they find interesting—but to organize the vast depository of visual information. That means different things for different people. While in the U.S., Pinterest users are overwhelmingly female, with interests like crafts, fashion, and interior design; users in the U.K. are mostly younger males interested in public relations, SEO, and venture capital. That’s good news for Pinterest, suggesting room for expansion into other demographics.

BO.LT, an online service still in beta, is like Pinterest in that there is a community of “bolters” who share and discover material through “bolts,” which are like “pins” but for entire web pages. It’s like Pinterest for pictures and text. Users who “bolt” a page can choose an accompanying image—a photo from the page, a thumbnail, or they can upload a photo from the computer.  They can also write brief statements about why the page is particularly fascinating, and sort them into categories. And unlike Pinterest where everything is public, users can choose to make all their bolts private.

One challenge these types of social networking/sharing/aggregating/organizing sites share, is how they will navigate copyright issues. Pinterest, whose growth has been higher than Facebook and Twitter in the same time span, has recently come under criticism when a user found that its “Pin Etiquette” discouraged users from pinning their own photos, while their “Terms of Use” prohibited users from posting photos they do not own. BO.LT did not want to comment on Pinterest’s legal issues on its blog, but offered the following statement: “Our objective is to drive people to the original content in the original context whenever possible.” When a page is bolted, it’s stored on the company’s servers, so even if it gets taken down, users can still access it as a “cache.” “We continue to run ads and analytics to make certain that the content owner is aware of the copy, can monetize it properly, and can provide attribution and context,” said the same blog post. But in an environment where business models are uncertain and everyone is trying to figure out new ways to monetize content—copyright troubles might be inevitable.

Nonetheless, these services are valuable not only for their social and sharing aspects, but for their ability to help us organize, remember, and connect all the bits of information in the whirlwind.

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