In 1906, strolling around the local livestock fair, a man comes upon the crowd at a weight-guessing attraction. An ox stands on a scale as people guess its weight on scraps of paper. I avoided feeling like the ox in this game every summer at our local amusement park at all costs – including the best hot pink stuffed animals. Being livestock, this ox was just chillin’ and eventually the closest guess won a bag of hot peanuts, but our observer noticed another funny thing. Most of the guesses were off. Wildly off. Like, “haven’t these country bumpkins ever seen an ox before?” off. But he was one of those charming old-timey polymaths, so he had an idea. After the crowd shuffled off, he approached the man in charge and inquired whether he might have the scraps of paper guesses. This is one of history’s best data collection moments, by the way.
Long story short, our man, Francis Galton, ran the numbers and found that the average guess was one measly pound away from the ox’s weight. In fact, the average was much closer to the animal’s weight than the single best guess. Somehow, the unruly mob, who couldn’t be trusted with democracy, much less you life in a bar fight, could be trusted to know something no single member of the mob knew. This is also one of history’s best WTF moments, by the way.
Fast forward a century and we are using crowdsourcing every day. Sometimes it’s just another word for statistics, the field Galton helped birth. Sometimes it’s just another word for voting, and the result is no great WTF moment. We can use the crowd to answer questions in different ways. Anyone who researches their blog’s SEO knows that Google’s algorithm for search results uses certain data points from your blog more than others. And this is why I think Pinterest is better for images of interesting stuff. An image explodes across pin boards based on one data point: someone found it interesting enough to repin it. In 2010 when I started pinning, this didn’t happen much. Now, when I see an image in my Pinterest feed, someone either pinned it from the web, or – more likely – re-pinned it from another board. This means that the images I see are filtered through at least two iterations of interest, and usually way more. Interest sells, people. This is powerful stuff.
This is why I increasingly search Pinterest for trends, styles, and techniques to use in my art and products. Google images is good when I need a perfect amigurumi blue bird, but Pinterest is best when I’m looking for some cool amigurumi to make for my friend’s kid’s birthday party. Pinterest finds a more interesting result because of crowdsourcing. It hits the ox on the head. (Whoops! Poor ox.) The same applies to product development, inspiration, illustrating blog posts, or whatever iron you have in the fire right now.
Below the images are the best boards to follow for fiber art and other fun stuff. Show me your favorites with links in the comments.
If you’re not on Pinterest yet, leave a comment and I’ll send you an invitation.
Lorna at Knits for Life
Eco boards by Team Eco Etsy
Fun boards by The Men of Etsy