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Pinterest: Pinboard Wizards

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I’m hooked on Pinterest, the photo-sharing website for people who don’t take pictures. Pinterest is for magpies who enjoy browsing the internet and assembling virtual “boards” themed around anything from adorable pets to coronary-inducing pâtisseries.

While Twitter’s mission appears to be about giving spiteful egomaniacs a platform for their illiterate rants, Pinterest is warm, fuzzy and just a little bit old-fashioned. If you’re planning a wedding or giving yourself a fashion makeover, Pinterest is just like having your very own Cher from Clueless, to steer you away from a major faux pas.

The Pinterest mission statement is “to connect everyone in the world through the ‘things’ they find interesting”, a goal that is wildly ambitious and probably a bit daft, too. Some people’s “interests” definitely shouldn’t find their way onto a virtual pinboard any time soon. (No doubt there are other corners of the internet where they’ll feel right at home.)

You can get the measure of Pinterest by reading the laudable Pin Etiquette guide for users. Respect and good taste are valued here rather than the “snark” that seems to be the norm everywhere else.

I was particularly cheered by Pinterest’s assertion that “being authentic to who you are is more important than getting lots of followers”. Right now I have only two followers on Pinterest and not that many on Twitter either.

I should probably be feeling like a social networking pariah, but I don’t. Now that I’ve figured out that Pinterest is really a playground for bored sub-editors, I’m convinced that I can become a pinboard wizard — with a little practice.

As a teenager I had cork board on my bedroom wall, festooned with pictures of my favourite actors, singers and sports stars. They stayed up there until they were torn and covered with drawing pin holes and the sun had bleached everyone’s hair the same colour as Bjorn Borg’s.

Something was missing from my gallery of 70s icons — captions. Where Pinterest scores over blogging, is that you can assemble a picture gallery in just a few minutes by “pinning” images from other websites. (You can pin your own photos, too.) Then you can employ your journalistic skills to good effect with titles, standfirsts and captions.

James Blake Tennis Estoril Open 2009 (pic José Goulão)

Perhaps I’m just being lazy, but assembling a pinboard of “Tennis’s Greatest Headbands” turned out to be a lot less time-consuming than writing a blog post and uploading images. If I can overcome my growing aversion to Sue Barker, I may cover Wimbledon this year on Pinterest rather than WordPress.

I recently joined another new(ish) site for journalists called cuttings.me, which is a good way of assembling an online portfolio of your best work. (Not that good, actually, because as I tried to put the link into this post I found the site was unavailable.)

But I think, in time, Pinterest will be the perfect complement to my blog. I’m unlikely to spend much time lingering over other people’s wedding cakes or recipe collections, but I’ll enjoy curating and editing my “boards” for maximum visual and literary impact.

I’m sure I’ll live longer and feel more creatively fulfilled if I stick to virtual “pins” instead of eviscerating people on Twitter. This has been my 200th post on WordPress, so thank-you for reading . . .


Trash Talking on Twitter

Keeptidy_ask

“If you can’t say something nice… don’t say nothing at all.” (Thumper, Bambi (1942))

Wouldn’t the world be a nicer place if we engaged in a bit of self-censorship and followed the maxim handed down by Thumper’s father? No, the Disney fairy hasn’t waved her wand and turned me into an Evangelical Christian overnight. (God forbid.) I’m just getting really bored with reading about the daily outrages perpetrated by splenetic Twitter users.

Not a day goes by without someone making a complete arse of themselves on Twitter, and then paying the price with a barrage of negative headlines — or worse. Hard on the heels of last week’s racist tweets directed at Stan Collymore, came yesterday’s news that Oxford City had sacked their striker Lee Steele for a “homophobic” posting about Welsh rugby player Gareth Thomas. I’m not going to repeat Steele’s tweet, but let’s just say that if I had a hash tag for him it would be #shitforbrains.

I’m a relative newcomer to Twitter and I remain deeply sceptical about my forays into the Twitterverse. In terms of embracing the possibilities of “microblogging” I’ll admit I am still cowering in one of those Victorian bathing wagons, while everyone else is on the beach letting it all hang out.

For a writer or blogger at any level, Twitter is a necessity for publicising your posts. The sad fact is that figuring out how to link your Twitter and Facebook accounts is probably more important than knowing how to spell or use the apostrophe. If, like me, you’re looking for work, your CV will probably end up straight in the (virtual) trash basket if you can’t flaunt your social networking credentials. Last summer I got a pitying look from a well-known sports journalist when I told him how few followers I had so far acquired.

So, I’m happy to post links on Twitter and engage in some online banter — badinage if you prefer — but I would think twice before letting loose a stream of invective. As the headlines prove, it’s just too easy for anyone with two thumbs and a smart phone to launch 140 characters’ worth of insults at anyone, any time, anywhere. You don’t have to pass an IQ or spelling test to get a Twitter account (more’s the pity), which is why trolls who have hashtags where their brains should be think they’re free to bully and defame.

This is the age of snark, and Twitter is the gladiatorial arena in which top exponents battle it out with their pithy put-downs.

Twitter’s democratising effect has been good for celebrity watchers. If you want to be privy to the “thoughts” of Wayne Rooney, you don’t have to wait for an interview or the next volume of his autobiography. I also like the fact that frustrated consumers can now hold businesses to account in this public forum. You don’t need a journalistic Rottweiler like Anne Robinson to fight your corner. You can land a blow on your under-performing energy supplier or ISP, with a well-timed tweet. Rest assured, they are listening.

I think of Twitter like a giant cyber playground that’s open 24/7. Just like when you were at school, you will find that not all the kids play nicely together. Amongst all the millions of anonymous users, there are the popular kids (Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Stephen Fry); the big show-offs (the Beckhams); and the dunces. The latter camp is filled with very angry people spewing carefully crafted gems like “I hate [insert name of celebrity, politician here]” or “[A.N. OTHER] is a tw*t!!!” into your twitterfeed. It’s not big and it’s not clever.

This is the age of snark, and Twitter is the gladiatorial arena in which top exponents battle it out with their pithy put-downs. We can’t all be Giles Coren, though. If you must slag people off, just remember that you’re not holding forth from the privacy of your sofa or even your local pub. We won’t just dismiss your comments as the drunken, late-night ramblings of another sad loser. Racists, homophobes and misogynists should clean up their act, or start an online cesspool that’s more appropriate for their brand of “humour”.


Down to Earth: Rafa Hits Roger for Six

Rafael Nadal (pic Yann Caradec)

“Self-praise is for losers. Be a winner. Stand for something. Always have class, and be humble” The first & last part are incorrect no? (John Madden quoted by @PseudoFed, 4 June 2011)

Does Roger Federer ever write himself a “to do” list before squaring up to his greatest rival, Rafael Nadal? If he’s anything like his Twitter alter ego, the unashamedly egocentric @PseudoFed, he probably has an assistant to do that for him. But according to the BBC commentators at yesterday’s French Open Final, Roger’s list should probably boil down to: “Win first set; win second set; win third set.” But the Big Swiss Cheese failed on the first two counts — Nadal triumphed 7-5, 7-6, 5-7, 6-1, to claim his sixth French Open title.

I’ve always found Federer’s imperious tennis more admirable than his sometimes dismissive attitude towards opponents. To be fair to him, he does have to put up with a lot of stupid questions from journalists with short memories and even shorter attention spans. But to say, as he did after yesterday’s match: “So it’s always me who’s going to dictate play and decide how the outcome is going to be. If I play well, I will most likely win” strikes me as deluded. Federer did play very well yesterday, though perhaps not quite as impressively as in his semi-final against Djokovic. But over five sets — on any surface — Nadal’s game beats Federer’s.

Roger Federer (pic Esther Lim)

After 15 days of tweeting, tennis and unbearable tension I too am in need of a serious reality check. PseudoFed’s stream of consciousness on Twitter has been only marginally less ridiculous than some of the pronouncements from the BBC commentary team in Paris. I lost count of the number of times that Sam Smith informed us that Roger’s mum won’t sit next to his chatterbox dad, Robert, during matches. It was like having to smile politely at Christmas while an elderly relative regales you with an anecdote you’ve heard every year since 1975.

When I winced at the attempts at humour from Andrew Cotter during January’s Australian Open, I forgot that the BBC had an even more scary weapon up its sleeve — Andrew Castle. This ex-player and former breakfast TV presenter appears to be a really affable chap. Unfortunately when you stick him in behind a mike and ask him to talk about the game he used to play, the results are less than stellar.

To borrow Radio Times TV critic Alison Graham’s description of The Tudors, Castle’s commentaries are “a towering pile of nonsense”. When he’s not reacting with a Sharapova-like shriek to a particularly exciting rally, he’s throwing out inaccurate statements and retracting them seconds later. Claiming, as he did yesterday, that Federer and Nadal had only ever lost to each other in Grand Slam finals must been surprising news to the many fans of 2009 US Open Champion Juan Martin del Potro. A little later a shot of the Eiffel Tower had him excitedly announcing that Roland Garros was the only Slam venue close to a city centre, before remembering that Melbourne Park isn’t exactly out in “the bush” either.

Though both Castle and Sam Smith moaned about the sheer volume of stats that were handed out to broadcasters at this year’s event, I think they would really benefit from a Post-It bearing the words “Think before you open your gob.” That advice might also apply to British Number 1 Andy Murray. (Though I hesitate to offer any criticism of him here, for fear of attracting vituperation from internet trolls.)

Jimmy Connors famously read a letter from his mother, Gloria, during changeovers at Wimbledon. I think Murray might find this more constructive than constantly bawling at poor Judy and his team during his on-court struggles. It would also relieve Andrew Castle of the tedious duty of having to apologise for those expletives during a pre-watershed broadcast. The commentators were right to say that Andy’s emoting sends the wrong message to his opponents. If he wants examples of really intimidating “game faces” to imitate he need look no further than the world’s top three players — Nadal, Federer and Djokovic.

Of course tennis isn’t simply about good looks. If it was then Maria Sharapova (dubbed “Sharaposer” by her detractors) would have completed her set of Grand Slam titles last week. But though I remain a big Rafa fan I do understand why Parisians have taken the immaculately dressed and well-coiffed Federer to their hearts. There could hardly be a greater physical contrast between the way the super-cool Swiss glides around the court and the sweaty exertions of the unshaven Spaniard. Roger’s elegance translates well to TV, and its current obsession with super slo-mo shots. Watching a drop of perspiration fall from Rafa’s nose is, I’ll admit, a less appealing sight than Federer’s forehand in full flight.

I know this makes no sense at all, but following @PseudoFed has given me a new respect — even affection — for the real Roger Federer. Hearing about his wife “Murky”, his beauty routines and his thoughts on how to beat Djokovic, added a new dimension to this year’s French Open. But when it comes to the heated battle of Grand Slam encounters — particularly on clay — the humbling reality for Federer is that Nadal remains a hard man to beat.


I’ll be tweeting throughout Wimbledon (@Susannah63) and I expect @PseudoFed will be doing the same — when he’s not on court or having his hair blow-dried.


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