This morning, someone on Twitter linked to this Pinterest article on sign ups, and well, my hackles, they are up. And when that happens, I like to figure out why. Turns out the answer is, as usual, capitalism.
The piece essentially explains why Pinterest’s annoying “you must sign in to even think of looking at anything” strategy exists and how, based on the terms of “success” set out by the growth team (people signing up for the service at a higher rate and those signups using the service at the same rate as users signed up through other means). While the changes have had the effect of driving me further away from the service, my behavior is not captured in this test — because I am already a member and a low-using one. But these changes have moved me from a sometimes pinner / more often viewer to someone who actively seeks out Pinterest alternatives.
Why do I care about signing in if I already have a sign in? For one: it is user-hostile. I don’t believe you need to know who I am so you can more effectively annoy me (oh, I’m sorry provide “core features” like “messaging, and recommendations”) when I just want to see someone else’s content. If I want to do things to my account, be assured I will then sign in.
Except I won’t. Because the current state of security is crap. The amount of work required to remember or manage passwords across services, particularly the many that require a level of complexity far above what is necessary to protect their content, strikes me as irritating enough that I will only proffer such effort to services that really seem to deserve it. And here the effort : repayment ratio is way out of wack.
So I won’t go through all that effort for a service that has cleanly demonstrated its contempt for me as anything beyond a trackable unique datum.
And perhaps this should be the point where I just walk away and say “not for me”. Which would be find had Pinterest not been very successful at designing a method of capturing curation activities from basically anyone who doesn’t want their own site or a bunch of tiny, one-off Tumblrs. It is a great way for people to share cool shit and as a human who likes cool shit, so many of my web wanderings wind up there. But for the exigencies of private businesses it is walled off and tribute in monitoring is demanded.
Here is where I get into territory that I have covered in the talks I did this summer. Using data for cash and business, perverts things I like using data for, like understanding and art. And in this case, much like Facebook, this private service is capturing the creative work of users and then holding it hostage until you too agree to be annoyed. And all this is justified by BUSINESS! which much like SCIENCE! is, to so many, an inarguable natural force. It only makes sense that that which is shared is held hostage. And this sucks. And it makes me mad to see a writeup of studies justifying it, calling it success.
Is this declaration a design flaw of the study? Am I just weird? Is it collateral damage from the disaster that is web security? Is it wrong to hope for a private service to consider public concerns?
Maybe Pinterest doesn’t care, but at this point it seems they are more interested in boosting stats than in a deeper understanding of users, and that’s kinda too bad. For me, I’ll just keeping going into dev tools and deleting the offending divs if it turns out there’s something I really want to see.