Pinned Potential

Day 366

I like the idea of Pindex, which is a tool for collecting educational videos and infographics, but I think that for all of the possibilities it offers, it hasn’t found its niche.

Of the several topic areas I concentrate on exploring for this blog, I hadn’t done any list items related to getting better at writing in a long time -- not since August, when I posted about resources on imposter syndrome and about my venture into Morning Pages. Pindex has a board titled “Creative writing with Pixar,” which I was intrigued by since I had seen something about learning writing principles from Pixar staff going around the web. A few items had a clear Pixar connection but most did not -- I wonder if the Pixar element was a jumping-off point, like the “seed” of a Pandora station?

It took me maybe two hours to work through the creative writing pinboard, which was mostly videos of five or six minutes. The one twenty-minute video took me by surprise; a quirk of this platform is that there’s nothing to give you cues about what to expect, except the other elements of a board. It feels a little like a syllabus, but doesn’t operate like one. Some of the videos were not my speed, while others were really good, and I don’t think I would have run into them elsewhere, since I’m not a big follower of TEDtalks and the other sources Pindex seems to draw from.

The board I tried is an “open board,” meaning that any user can add things to it. Pindex boards "curated" in the popular sense of the term, but there's no sense of who is doing the curating. It could be any user, it could be one person with a specific vision for the board's use, or a number of people essentially just tagging resources they like with this common interest. The Creative Writing With Pixar board also has a completion badge attached to it -- after I watched each video and read each text piece and checked their corresponding boxes, I received the “Creative Writing Award.” I’m not sure how well open boards and completion badges go together. I submitted something myself, a link to a video of Alice Walker talking about her life as a writer. A day later, I got an email saying the addition was approved -- now I still have my completion badge even though not everything on the board is checked off.

A curious feature of Pindex is that after you check off three elements on a board, you get a pop-up that says, “you have unlocked Internet Gold!” Internet gold is, apparently, fun things one might find on the internet, like a gif of a swimming tiger or an animated short about a cat. This would be kind of cool if I were using Pindex to complete homework assignments or study something that I needed to focus intently on to understand -- it gives you built in breaks for your brain, along the lines of Written?Kitten! (the internet really is made of cats. I’m not complaining.) However, since I was watching the videos on a board for entertainment, I found pop-ups with a completely different form of entertainment a bit strange. There is an option to turn them off, which I may use if I keep going with Pindex.

Some parts of Pindex seem very clearly oriented towards teachers and students, and using the boards as self-paced homework assignments. The “A Guide to Pindex” board is all about how “Internet Gold” is a fun motivation for students, and how the fun and engaging videos can help them learn. At the same time, the user interface is all about exploring and finding boards on topics that interest you. I think in both cases, the boards work better as a place to aggregate possible resources to use, rather than a way to progress through a checklist. Ultimately, I think that’s what doesn’t work for me about Pindex. It’s like it tries to cross Pinterest and a MOOC, but you wouldn’t teach yourself to sew by systematically trying every sewing project on a Pinterest board, and you wouldn’t get inspiration for designing a totebag by working through a dozen lessons in a Craftsy course. You certainly could do those things, but it would be the long way around, and many people wouldn’t find the journey enjoyable. If you want to try Pindex, my advice is to separate the uses. Browse, but don’t worry about completion badges, or if you use it to teach, edit your boards thoroughly, and use the open boards for inspiration only.