This explains why no men were using Pinterest

If you ever wondered why Pinterest took off with women and not men, we have our answer. Friday the company announced it had changed its search filtering options so that men could see results catered to their gender.

In the past, when searching for workouts or clothes their feed would fill with pins targeted to women. Since Pinterest’s early users were women, the application spread virally through that demographic. Naturally the most popular pins and pinners are, as a result, for women or by women.

That shut out men who might also find the technology useful but didn’t like the results they were served. Although some people who identify as men might appreciate a more feminine selection, not all would. Take a look at Pinterest’s screenshot on the difference in genders:

The difference in gender searching on Pinterest. Left: Men ; Right: Women

The difference in gender searching on Pinterest. Left: Men ; Right: Women

The new gender focus will appear as a toggle, allowing women and men to search for items of the opposite gender as well. That could be helpful for anyone with more androgynous taste, or it could serve well for gift shopping purposes.

The attempt to make Pinterest appealing to men comes from the company’s new head of brand, David Rubin, who formerly ran marketing for the ultra dude product Axe body spray. He was brought on in part to achieve that goal, and he started by commissioning Pinterest ad storylines to appeal to men and filling men’s home feeds with male products. Frankly I’m surprised it took the company this long to create gender specific search results — it has been around for over seven years, after all.

With the product announcement Pinterest also revealed new statistics, saying that its number of male signups have grown 73 percent year over year. It’s impressive numbers for the U.S. As we’ve covered, in some other countries, Pinterest has actually had a far easier time recruiting men to the application.

Since it’s a user-generated content site it’s demographics tend to build on themselves. The more women — or motorcycle fans, or cooks, or interior designers — are on the site, the more pin will be created that appeal to them.

To kickstart other groups Pinterest has to woo them with product shifts, and it’s doing just that.

Cooperative tools need to become ‘engines of meaning’

Had a discussion yesterday with Kakul Srivastava of Tomfoolery.com, formerly of Yahoo, Flickr, and Tiny Speck. Got a peak at Tomfoolery’s coming products, but there are some UX changes coming in the near term, and I still have only played with it for a few minutes, so an actual review will have to wait.

What I want to share is an idea that I’ve been stewing on for some time — years, actually. Somehow these ideas crystalized in the discussion with Kakul.

The subject is following. I believe that any cooperative tool — one that is really designed to support a fast-and-loose style of work, and not just another collaboration tool — will have to rely on following as the central mechanism of messaging. Following is a pull mechanism: the potential recipient of information opts to receive messages from people (and other information producing agents). The default mechanism in collaborative tools is membership in groups, teams, spaces, or other defined contexts: belonging. That is a push model, since the creator/owner of the context has to invite the user, and in order to receive any messages from the context at all, the user in essence has to sign up for a long list of things, including symmetric visibility with the other members.

So, I believe that one of the differentiators of the coming generation of cooperative tools is this: while they will support contexts and belonging, other and better mechanisms of supporting messaging through following will be supported.

I reviewed Azendoo recently, and suggested that some of that product’s features put it in at least past the border between collaborative and cooperative tools (see Azendoo is one of the first cooperative work tools). I wrote about Azendoo’s ‘topics’, which at first glance seemed like just another term for a context, but then I realized they’d done something unique:

Users define topics in the workspace as a means of organizing content, and as a way of managing visibility. In most solutions we see some sort of context — a space, project, or group — to which people are invited in order to symmetrically share access to some store of information and conversational streams. However, if you are not invited you can’t see anything going on inside those closed contexts.

Topics are different. They act as a context and as tag to be followed, at the same time. For example, I can create a topic that people can follow like a tag in Twitter, and all public postings made by members of that topic can be seen by anyone following. This support an open follower style of interaction within a business setting.

[…]

Azendoo topics are like light: they are both waves and particles. Both a closed, private context and an open, public stream. I believe Azendoo is one of the first to implement this model, and I have been waiting for this breakthrough. Azendoo is one of the first of what will prove to be the next generation of social business software: cooperative work tools.

Talking about the possibility of overload with Kakul, I had an insight regarding the possible filtering of followed streams using tags. So, imagine that I am following a colleague, Bette, on an imaginary cooperative tool, Koan. Koan (let’s imagine) implements a user tag-based filtering. So I could tag Bette with ‘Jones project’, ‘social business’, and ‘NYC’ and then messages that match those tags would surface in my stream.

This requires the Koan system to be very knowledgeable about tags, and to be able to cluster them, like Flickr does, in order to infer things that I would like to see. So when Bette tags something as ‘Manhattan’ or ‘Times Sq’, Koan should pass it along to me. And, following in the footsteps of Azendoo, anything public, or private that I am privy to, regarding the Jones project, I should see. And if she has some breaking news about Yammer or Tomfoolery to share, the social business tag should suffice to pull that information into my stream.

Note that these ‘search tags’ must be interpreted liberally, and not limited to looking just at the explicit tags offered up by Bette. In particular, tags and terms of other users, commenting on Bette’s messages, would be important, even if I am not following them.

Years ago, in 2006 and 2007, I advanced the idea of ‘groupings’ as a replacement or extension of groups. I made the case that all the people using a tag or searching for it represent a ‘grouping’ which has similarities to a group or a context, but which is very different. No one has to invite me to use the tag ‘social business’ or to search for it. I opt to do so without the tag being ‘owned’, and participation in the grouping is very unlike membership in a group. There may be reasons to allow people to define tags that are ‘private’, meaning they define contexts, but I bet in the future the proportion of closed tags will decrease as part of the explosion of connection as we move to a cooperative world of work.

[Incidentally, it was in a Twitter discussion of these ideas, back in August 2007 where Chris Messina proposed the idea of Twitter channels, similar to IRC chat tags, for which I offered up the term ‘hash tag’.]

The Azendoo topic acts like a context and a tag at the same time, but doesn’t include the fuzzy logic that I envision will be necessary for actual serendipity to happen. With that fuzziness, I could decide to follow ‘social business’ and discover people who I don’t know arguing about a new release of Dachis software. And that acceleration of serendipity, that increase in coincidensity, is the magic needed for cooperative work tools to take us past collaboration’s slow-and-tight models. When we can rely on platform-mediated weak ties to surface the information we have made clear we want to see, then that machinery will become ‘an engine of meaning’, sifting through the social exhaust of thousands to find the eleven things I really need to see right now.

Kosmix Eschews the Needle, Delivers the Haystack

Like many web workers, I spend a lot of time searching online, and I try to expand my set of tools for doing that well beyond Google. One of my latest finds in this area is Kosmix, a search engine that’s still in Alpha but does what it does very well.

As described in this post, Kosmix is based on the following notion: “Search engines are great finding the needle in a haystack. And that’s perfect when you are looking for a needle. Often though, the main objective is not so much to find a specific needle as to explore the entire haystack.”

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Obama Girl Directors Get Feature Gig

Larry Strong and Kevin Arbouet, who directed the first few Obama Girl shorts for Barely Political, are shifting gears this summer — the two have tipped NewTeeVee that they’ll be producing a feature film tentatively starring DJ Qualls (Road Trip, Hustle and Flow) and Jerry Stiller (King of Queens, Ben Stiller).

Strong and Arbouet were already experienced media pros before responding to a Craigslist ad searching for Obama Girl directors — but it’s their work in online video that has really helped open doors for them in Hollywood. More details about the project, which is titled The Last Day of Summer, to come. In the meantime, for more information about the two, check out their web site.

And, just for old times’ sake — Obama Girl vs. Giuliani Girl:

UPDATE (5/21/08): Larry Strong writes in with a few more details:

Last Day is a dark comedy about a confused and angry young man who decides to take revenge on the people that hurt him. The script was written by Vlad Yudin, who is also directing. Kevin and I plan on doing a series of viral videos from the set of the film.

Apple iPhone ads make you want to stand in line now

Apple_iphone_ads

If you haven’t seen the Apple iPhone television ads just yet, you can view them directly on the web; even in high-def. James and I were chatting on Skype this morning and both of us came to similar conclusions:

  • Aside from designing products with ‘wow factor’, Apple is excellent at marketing that ‘wow’
  • A similar interface approach could go a long way with Windows Mobile devices and UMPCs or other touchscreen Tablet PCs
  • Regardless of the missing 3G support (a stable for us on the run), the ads just make you want this device

Neither of us is a current AT&T customer, but come June 29th….well; who knows?!?

Comcast expects 250,000 VoIP Users

Comcast, the cable godzilla had only 7000 VoIP/Phone service subscribers at the end of the first quarter, but the company expects to end 2005 with nearly 250,000 subscribers. Clearly cable guys are taking a lead in the VoIP space, leaving behind the independents. In addition, the company added 414,000 broadband subscribers, bringing its total to 7.4 million. In other words, it put more distance between itself and its rivals, especially the bells. When it acquired Adelphia, it will have nearly 10 million broadband subscribers. That’s pretty huge, and for that reason alone, one needs to track their movements closely. I think, their recent DNS screw-up, and falling customer service standards are a sign that the company is not geared for broadband growth in scaling sense.

“You’re continuing to see high-speed Internet drive growth,” Tim Gilbert of Des Moines, Iowa-based Principal Global Investors, which manages $125 billion in assets, and owns 4.8 million Comcast shares told Bloomberg.com. Still 21.5 million cable subscribers, $5.6 billion in sales (up 9.4% from same quarter 2004) and tripling of profits to $313 million makes an impressive quarter. Tip of the hat to Brian “Da Broadfather” Roberts.

PS: Da Broadfather is not the number one Brian Roberts on the planet. That is Baltimore Orioles second baseman. You may own this big a slice of the Internet, but you can’t own your Google rank.