Pinterest – Clean, Visual, Social Bookmarking

If a social service is going to grab me, it has to have two things, in varying degrees: utility and visually appealing design. If it has visually appealing design, but only a bit of utility, then I may play around with it for the sheer beauty of it. If it has tons of utility, but crappy design (I’m looking at you Twitter), then I will still play around with it, but might avert my eyes a bit. Pinterest has a healthy dose of both criteria.

What is it? Pinterest is an online scrapbook / pinboard / visual bookmarking / social network. Now that is an eyeful! The idea is to use Pinterest to save beautiful, useful, interesting things, but I can imagine it moving beyond that for your own personal use. Create a profile, mark your interests, and start pinning stuff. Save your web finds (called “pins”) on “boards”, which resemble a page or bulletin board. Organize and share your pins and boards and browse those created by others, tagged with your interests. You can use a bookmarklet to “pin” from across the Web, or you can upload your own images (super simple with the iPhone app for saving stuff while on the go).  You can re-pin something that someone else has pinned – pin-etiquette suggests that you should credit the original pinner with the save. Thus, the site is also social in that it encourages you to browse others stuff and interact via the repinning and crediting functions. You can also comment on pins, “like” someone’s pin and share your own pin with another user who might also like what you are saving.

Another cool feature is the ability to open your boards up to other contributors. Say you have a firm and you want some ideas on how to decorate the lobby. Each member of your firm assigned to designing the lobby could create Pinterest profiles. Open a board called “Lobby Design” and set your contributing members loose on the web.

Fit out your website with a Pinterest badge to encourage people to visit Pinterest and marvel at your design sense. Or add a “Pin it” button to your site in the hopes that other Pinterest users will reward you with a “pin”.

Even their FAQ is visually appealing. Way to go Pinterest – the “pin”nacle of design and utility!

Jot This Down: Springpad

Still looking for the perfect note taking tool? Have you tried Springpad (link here)?

Back a few months ago, I featured visual web snipping tool Zootool (link here) here in the Studio. In the comments to that post (since lost during my change over to Disqus), Jeff Janer of Springpad urged me to try their competing product. I immediately looked into it and, while I haven’t made a complete switch, I can see some very compelling reasons why this app has a privileged place in the somewhat overcrowded field of electronic notebooks and organizers.

First of all, Springpad is free. Second of all, it is web-based, but also is accessible from your Apple or Android-powered phone. You can access it from pretty much anywhere. Of course, you can make text notes. But you can also add events (syncs with Google Calendar), photos, voice notes, products by barcode or image, businesses, events, recipes — pretty much anything you can snip, copy, type, say, snap and paste. Of course, it syncs immediately across your devices / platforms. You can even email information to Springpad and the app will stow it away in the proper receptacle for you.

You can set up alerts to be sent to you via email or SMS. Anything you might want to know about can be arranged to alert you, whether it is an event or a price drop on a product you are interested in buying. And for the buying alerts, Springpad is working with some retailers and you might even get a Springpad-only coupon for the desired item.

With the web clipper button in your browser, if you can find it, you can clip it. The tool will suggest different categories or filters, so that the information gets appropriately slotted. But what makes Springpad special here is that the clipper is smart. It uses semantic technology to figure out what you are clipping and, therefore, interested in and makes related suggestions. Same goes for adding content via the mobile apps. Clip a movie and get local movie times. Clip a recipe and get prompted to add a shopping list. If Evernote is a filing cabinet, Springpad is a virtual assistant presenting added info you may not have thought of or were going to do next yourself. And this is where Springpad shines – it does some of the “thinking” for you. Springpad does more than simply hold your vast collection of information only accessible via rudimentary organization or search. Springpad is the perfect tool for people who want to get organized but can’t handle the process or can’t be bothered to set up their own organizational system.

I like the OneNote-like aspect of creating notebooks with tabbed pages. Springpad notebooks also offer templates, or apps as they call them in Springpad-land.  The apps help you actually accomplish goals with the information you save. You can add a wine notebook (sponsored by social wunderkind Gary Vee), a meal planner, a movie tracker, a travel checklist, a blog post planner, even a cleaning supply inventory. Again, Springpad works in conjunction with other “experts”, so, for example, the meal planner template or app results in a recipe list created with the help of Epicurious and Allrecipes.

In many ways, Springpad obviates the need for several separate apps. Springpad can: save notes a la Evernote; save bookmarks a la Delicious; save tasks a la Remember The Milk; and, create grocery checklists a la Grocery IQ. So, put a checkmark in Springpad’s plus column next to its ability to simplify and shorten your retinue of day to day applications necessary for staying on top of your game.

While I am not sure of the particular utility of this feature, you can integrate your Springpad information with your social networks. In other words, if you clipped something particularly interesting to a demographic broader than yourself, you can put your saved info into your Facebook or Twitter stream and “alert the media” so to speak. You also can tap the community built right into Springpad itself – yet another on-line venue to get social over information sharing.

Check out the quick overview of Springpad here, and see if you like its outline:

Springpad has been busy. It recently released an Android app and now, to my great joy, it has released a shiny new iPad app! There are lots of enhancements in the iPad and new iPhone app – hit the jump (link here) to read more on the details.

There is always some bad news, isn’t there? If you use Windows Mobile, Blackberry or Palm’s WebOS, you are out of luck. But with the rapid development Springpad has been pouring into its product over the past several months, I fully anticipate seeing an option on all viable platforms in the near future.