I AM a sucker for shiny new social networks that require a special invitation to get in. So, when news of something called Pinterest started going around, I knew that I had to get on it.

Now, you’re probably thinking: “Ugh, not another social network!”. Well, you do have a point, as most people don’t need much more than a simple Facebook account to stay connected with friends and contacts. I do agree that social networking can be overwhelming sometimes.

But Pinterest … well Pinterest fills a more specific niche. Remember those cork pinboards at school or in the office where you put up notes and posters mostly to remind you of things? Think of Pinterest as the virtual version of that – instead of sticking up a piece of paper, you’re posting a link and picture to somewhere on the Internet.

You’re not limited to one board. Rather, you can have many boards, and many interests. For example, I have a pinboard for “Good books to read” where I pin the books I recommend reading or reviews of books that I agree with.

I also have another board called Warhammer 40,000 where I pin links to modelling and hobby projects for my miniature wargame, so I can get back to working on those when I’ve got more time.

If you’re my friend, you can follow one or all of my pinboards. For example, let’s say our common interest is in science fiction novels and I’ve created a pinboard called “Science Fiction”. You can now choose to only follow my pins on the Science Fiction board and ignore all the other stuff I post that don’t interest you.

Pin your interests online!

On top of that, you can share ownership of your boards with friends, allowing everyone within the community to post links. I can already see how useful this can be for students completing group coursework together. Imagine that your assignment is to create a model volcano, and the task is for everyone in the group to research and share their findings. With Pinterest, you simply make a board and everyone can pin their findings there, giving access to everyone in the group to see it.

The rise of Pinterest brings to focus a new dimension of social networking that perhaps has been largely ignored, which is what some commentators are calling the “Interest Graph”. The term plays off Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s Social Graph, which describes Facebook’s ability to link people with social connections together.

“Everybody knows somebody” and “six degrees of separation” was the mantra of the Social Graph.

The Interest Graph behaves entirely differently. Instead of organising people according to who you know, the Interest Graph organises people according to their similar interests. What happens is pure serendipity, especially when you have someone who shares the same interest as you discover something you like as well.

Love recipes? Follow people with pinboards for recipes. What about basketball? Start a “basketball” pinboard yourself. And instead of meeting people who just have a social connection to you, you’ll be meeting people who share the same interest and learning new stuff that’s interesting to you along the way.

There’s gravity in this movement as the Internet continues to evolve and shape itself around people. But more about the people you should know, than the people you already know.

The Internet allows people who’ve never met in real life to connect and share information, even though they are thousands of kilometres apart. The Interest graph takes this ideal on a totally different tangent, making meaningful connections easier.

Often, it surprises you with things you’d find useful but never search for. For example, a quick browse for me on the boards of other social media fanatics revealed some nice infographics I had never seen before.

If the current Internet is about “search”, and finding the things you like using search engines, with social networks like Pinterest and Facebook’s own “interest” initiatives, the future will be about recommendations and automatic links with things we like.

So give Pinterest a whirl. Who knows? You might just discover something you like.

* David Lian has a couple of Pinterest invites to give away. Tweet him at @davidlian.

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