Nina L. Diamond


Pinterest, the photo-sharing site, is a tool journalists can use, but it has its limitations. (AP Photo/Pinterest)

Journalists can use Pinterest, but with limitations

Update: I will be pinning this how-to Poynter article to my Pinterest page, afterall. After reading my article, writer Deborah Nam-Krane tweeted me with a workaround she uses to get past the Pinterest image pinning limitation I discuss here. Until Pinterest fixes the issue, this will help you pin your work on your Pinterest boards and I’ll use the workaround to pin this article and other articles I have written that were published in Poynter and other publications:
1. Choose an image and download it. Or choose one that you already have in your photo files. You may want to choose the logo of the media organization.
2. Go to your Pinterest page and in the upper right corner click on the + icon. Click on Upload a Pin to upload your chosen image.
3. You will be in a Pinterest pin box, and you can choose which of your boards your chosen image will be pinned to. Choose your board and write your description in the section provided.
4. Click on Pin It to pin your image to your chosen board.
5. Go to your new pin on that board and click on the pencil icon to edit the pin.
6. At the bottom of the box, you will see that the pin’s source can be edited. Right now, the source box will be empty. Add the URL of the work (article, video, whatever it is) you want to pin. That URL will now be attached to your pin’s image. Then, click Save Changes.

I won’t be pinning this how-to article on my Pinterest page.

I’d like to, of course, because I have a board for my articles, and this article is about how journalists can use Pinterest boards to showcase their work. Ah, irony.

The reason I won’t pin it is because of a fundamental Pinterest flaw: advertisements are the only images from this Poynter page that Pinterest’s programming recognizes as images for pinning.

That is, unfortunately, the case with any website’s journalistic offering (article, video, you name it) that doesn’t have an editorial photo, illustration, or other non-advertising image to go with it. I can’t pin any of my articles from the archives of the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, the Sun-Sentinel (Ft. Lauderdale), and many other major newspapers and magazines either, unless I’m okay with ads as those pin images. And, I’m not.

The late, best-selling novelist and feminist scholar, Marilyn French, is not a giraffe. But an ad photo of a giraffe is the least objectionable of the pinable images Pinterest recognizes on the page containing my Chicago Tribune interview with her. When the article was published, her photo appeared with it but, like many articles in archives, that editorial image is long gone.

Whether you click on the website page’s Pinterest icon or type in that page’s URL while you’re on your Pinterest page, the only images that will appear will be ads and promos that may be on the page. If the page has no ads, promos or other images that Pinterest recognizes as pinable, then you’ll see a notice from Pinterest saying that the page has no pinable images. And, a pin can’t be created without a pinable image. Pinterest doesn’t recognize a headline itself as a pinable image.

I know what you’re thinking: Pinterest recently announced the introduction of a new feature that enhances article pins, and now includes headlines and bylines with images. That’s a great new feature, but it doesn’t solve the problem. You still need an editorial image to pin or else what will appear on your pin will be whatever images are on the page — advertisements and promotions.

Below the image in a generated pin, Pinterest provides a blank section where you can write a description (up to 500 characters) of the pin. That’s where you’d write the title of your article, your byline, the date it was published, and any other description of the article you’d like to include.

When someone clicks on that image, it will take them to your article because that’s the URL of everything on your article’s page, including that ad image.

But, the likelihood of anyone clicking on an ad, even though the description you wrote below it says it’s actually your article, is greatly reduced.

Your article pins will live on the Pinterest board or boards you’ve created for them and, unless those are “Secret” boards only you and others you’ve invited can see, those pins will also go out in your Pinterest feed, which will be seen by those who follow you on Pinterest, and will be available through Pinterest’s search function.

When anyone re-pins your pin, they can delete and/or edit what you wrote in the pin’s description box and write whatever they’d like. The image, however, remains.

This is where Pinterest’s new feature comes in handy: If your article appeared on a website that has Pinterest’s enhanced editorial images, then that editorial image will include a headline, byline, and short description that can’t be deleted because it’s part of what Pinterest recognizes as the pinable image. That headline, byline, and short description isn’t part of the blank description box that pinners can write in and edit. The blank description box under the image is still there, of course, so you or anyone else can write whatever you’d like, which can then be deleted and/or edited by anyone who re-pins it.

Nobody can delete or edit the descriptions you’ve written in your pins’ description boxes that live on your Pinterest boards. They can only make those changes when they re-pin your pins to their boards. Your originals remain untouched on your boards.

It’s not practical to expect websites to change their designs and include editorial images with all articles in order to have images other than ads on those pages that Pinterest’s code recognizes as pinable images.
Pinterest must find a way to classify headlines as pinable images.

That way, even if an article doesn’t have an editorial photo or illustration, its headline would be recognized as a pinable image. An article pin’s image would be its headline. Not pretty, perhaps, but perfectly functional, informative, and, most importantly, reflective of the content of the pin, unlike the ads that appear as editorial pins now.

You may decide that you don’t care if an advertisement is the image on your article or video pin. In that case, you can put a pin of your work on your board as long as the page it is on contains at least one image that Pinterest recognizes as pinable.

The ad image issue aside, here are a few tips for pinning your work:

Name and describe your boards clearly: While you can certainly be clever with your board names and descriptions, remember to be clear. Don’t make people guess what’s on your boards.

• Create boards for topics that interest you personally and those you cover as a journalist.: When people see your informative, clever, and entertaining pins from your topic boards, and they come to your Pinterest page to learn more about you and decide if they want to follow you (your entire account, which gives them all of your boards in their feed, or just individual boards), they will also see your work boards.

• Create one or more boards for your work: You may decide to include your work on just one board, or create separate boards for different topics or media. Do what works for you. You can also have one main board that contains everything and separate boards for however you choose to organize your work.

• Use “Secret” boards for organizing only: Pinterest allows you to have up to three Secret boards that only you (and anyone else you allow to access them) can see. These boards and their pins do not show up in Pinterest’s search, and the pins from these boards are not included in your outgoing feed to be seen by your followers. But these boards are online, of course, so you should not use them for pinning material having to do with sources or research that you wouldn’t want to be made public. Secret boards are a great organizing tool so you have a place to put your work (or anything else) before you put it on one of your regular, public boards.

• Cross-pin your work: Your work can be featured not only on your specific work boards, but also on your topic boards. I’ve pinned some of my humor columns on my work board, which I call My Published Articles/Books, but they’re also on my Humor board; my interview with the late singer/songwriter Dan Fogelberg is also on my Music board; and my interview with Frank McCourt, the late, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Angela’s Ashes, is also on my Writing, Books, Literary board.

When you pin anything, it goes out in your feed. By cross-pinning, your work will be seen by more people: Those who follow your entire Pinterest account (they see the pins from all of your boards), as well as those who only follow one or more of your individual boards. My Dan Fogelberg interview pin, for example, was seen by those who follow my My Published Articles/Book board, my Music board, and my entire Pinterest account.

Pinterest is already of great use to journalists, not only as a way to further spread their work, but also as an archive and research tool. It won’t achieve its enormous potential, though, until Pinterest expands how it defines a pinable image so that ads aren’t the only options for editorial pins.

Nina L. Diamond is a journalist, columnist and essayist who has been published in such publications as Omni, the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times Magazine. Her books include “Voices of Truth: Conversations with Scientists, Thinkers & Healers.” She’s also a humorist who performed on “Pandemonium” and wrote a monthly humor column for Independent Publisher Magazine from 2003-2012. She is on Twitter and Facebook. Her Pinterest page can be viewed here. Read more

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What journalists need to know about Twitter’s expanded lists

I’m in Twitter List Heaven. Well, actually, now that Twitter has expanded the capabilities of its list feature, just about the only category I haven’t made a new list for is heaven.

Before Twitter updated its lists feature last week, users could create only 20 lists with 500 accounts in each; now, they can create 1,000 lists with 5,000 accounts in each. The update impacts the role Twitter plays as an international news source by enabling journalists to be even more organized and save time as they gather, report and share news and information.

My first Poynter article about Twitter lists, published last December, focused on (and kvetched about) how using lists meant creating strategies for dealing with those then-current, now-old limitations. We are now free of those frustrating, time-wasting constraints and their accompanying strategies. My second lists article, published in April, explained how to remove yourself from other users’ lists, and under what circumstances you may want to do that. Twitter’s new list expansion doesn’t affect that issue at all.

Your strategies for creating and using Twitter lists now include adapting your old lists to the expansion, and the freedom to create more lists, with more accounts in them, than you will probably ever need.

Here are some tips to keep in mind as you expand your lists.

Be aware of Twitter list glitches

Often, when Twitter upgrades a feature or rolls out a new one, there are temporary glitches. That has happened with the list expansion, as well. Using Twitter’s website directly, this particular glitch began months before the expansion, and continues as of this writing: Users may not be able to edit the name and description of a list.

After making the edits, nothing happens when clicking to save them. This means that until Twitter fixes this problem, you’re stuck with the name and description you give to each list unless you delete the list.

I named a new list and put a few accounts in it, and then changed my mind about what that list should be called. So, I created a new list, with the new name, put those accounts in it, and then deleted the list with the name I didn’t like.

Creating your lists

Since you can now create up to 1,000 lists, with 5,000 accounts in each, you will no longer have to shove 10 pounds of crap into a five-pound bag, a practice I first heard applied to journalism years ago from one of my favorite magazine editors.

Under the 20-list limitation, I had many combined lists, but I have been dismantling them and creating individual lists for the accounts they once held. I had two International lists for accounts that were based in or focused on locations outside the United States: One for the United Kingdom and Canada, and one for the rest of the world. I’ve begun transferring accounts from those lists to the many individual regional, country and continent lists I’ve just created. When I’m done, I’ll delete the two old International lists. I’ve already deleted my TV/Radio/Online list, after creating many individual lists for those accounts.

If you already have lists, it’s well worth the time it takes to dismantle the old ones as you create new ones. This upfront investment will save you a tremendous amount of time down the road as you use your new lists.

If you don’t already have lists (and even if you do), remember that your lists should reflect how you use Twitter, not how anyone else does. Tailor your lists to your needs.

Each list can be made either public (anyone can see it) or private (only you can see it), but remember that it’s never a good idea to put confidential sources in private lists.

If your Twitter account is hacked, those private lists won’t be so private anymore. As tempting as it may be to bow to technology, you should never store confidential sources or sensitive information on Twitter or anywhere else online, or even on your computer, phone or other device.

Now that we can create so many lists, you may want to create the kinds of lists you didn’t have enough list capability for until now. Those lists could include temporary or ongoing lists you may need for breaking news events, and those that will have lasting impact.

Take advantage of cross-listing

You’ll find it useful to have larger, general lists as well as medium-sized and small lists that cross-list accounts. For example, I now have two general lists of television networks and cable channels, one for the U.S. and one that’s international (for countries outside the U.S.), but I also have separate lists for individual networks and cable channels even though those accounts are on the general lists.

Remember that apps can’t replace brains

Don’t let apps make your choices for you. It’s worth the time to make your own lists. Apps can’t take into consideration all the factors that go into choosing which accounts to put on your lists.

Maintain your lists

Creating lists and adding accounts to them is not a singular event. Create them and add accounts to them as needed. Go through your lists periodically to weed out accounts you no longer want on lists, including those that have been inactive for a long time. On occasion, you may want to keep an inactive account on a list because lists are like Twitter’s Rolodex. An organization or individual may have stopped tweeting, but if the account still exists and its description and website link are not outdated, having this information may be helpful.

As of this writing, I have more than 130 Twitter lists. And, no, that’s not too many — not if you keep them organized and find them useful. Here’s a link to my list of lists. I’m still moving accounts from old combination lists to many new lists. And I’m still creating more.

In my first Twitter lists article, I wrote that “people on Twitter often ask me if I have three heads and six hands. No, I tell them. I have Twitter Lists.” Now, people will think I’ve sprouted even more heads and hands.

Nina L. Diamond is a journalist, columnist, and essayist who has been published in many magazines and newspapers, including Omni, The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times Magazine. Her books include “Voices of Truth: Conversations with Scientists, Thinkers & Healers.” She’s also a humorist who performed on “Pandemonium” and wrote a monthly humor column for Independent Publisher Magazine from 2003-2012. You can find her on Twitter and subscribe to her Facebook posts. Read more

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How journalists can remove themselves from Twitter lists — & why it matters

I love Twitter lists, and a while back I wrote about how they can help you as a journalist. So you may be surprised that I’m now going to tell you why you might not want to be on some Twitter Lists, and how to remove yourself from them.

Some people and organizations may put you on Twitter lists you don’t belong on and don’t want to be part of. But you can review the lists that include you, and remove yourself from any that are inappropriate or make you uncomfortable. For example, while as a journalist you might personally or even publicly support a particular cause, issue, or political view, that doesn’t mean you want to be on a specific user’s Twitter list of those deemed friendly to that cause.

I’ve also removed myself from Twitter lists created by users who spend most of their time engaged in Twitter wars. They included me (and others in the media) in their lists because we have similar views on certain issues, but I don’t want to be associated with or listed by people or organizations who behave badly, whether online or off.

The good news is it’s easy to find out which Twitter lists you’re on, and to make a graceful exit from them.

How can I find out which Twitter lists I’m on?

When using Twitter on the web, click on lists. You will arrive at “Subscribed To.” Next to that heading, you’ll see “Member Of.” Click on it to see the Twitter lists that include you as a member. This list of lists is chronological starting at the bottom — the first list you see at the top will be the one that most recently added you.

From here, you have two choices:

1) Click on the name of a list, and you’ll be able to read its name, description, and the names of its members.

2) Click on the name of the Twitter user who created the list, and you’ll arrive at that user’s page, where you can read his or her Twitter bio.

Do I have to ask a Twitter user to remove me from a list?

No. You don’t have to request removal, ask permission to remove yourself, or even have any contact with the Twitter user. You can take care of it yourself.

How do I remove myself from a Twitter list?

Go to the Twitter user’s page (as explained above) and click on “Block.” This automatically removes you from inclusion in any list created by that user. Then, unless you have a reason to block that user’s account, immediately click on “Unblock.”

Does Twitter notify a user when someone is removed from one of that user’s lists?

No. The user will probably not even notice that you’re no longer on that Twitter list, especially if it has more than 25 members.

If I remove myself from a list, how will I know if that Twitter user puts me back on it?

It’s easy to check — click on Lists, then click “Member Of.” The Twitter lists you’ve been added to most recently will be at the top.

What if I have to remove myself from a list again?

Follow the same steps you took to originally remove yourself from the Twitter list: Go to the Twitter user’s page, click on “Block,” then immediately click “Unblock.” Though since the user put you back on a list you had removed yourself from, this time you may want to consider not clicking “Unblock.” Blocking a Twitter user will prevent him or her from following you as well as from including you in a Twitter list.

Nina L. Diamond is a journalist, columnist, and essayist who has been published in many magazines and newspapers, including Omni, The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times Magazine. Her books include “Voices of Truth: Conversations with Scientists, Thinkers & Healers.” She’s also a humorist who performed on “Pandemonium” and wrote a monthly humor column for Independent Publisher Magazine from 2003-2012. You can find her on Twitter and subscribe to her Facebook posts. Read more

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8 tips for using Twitter Lists

If I could change anything about Twitter, allowing us to have more than 20 lists would be high up on my list. Pun unavoidable.

Twitter grows with each redesign that expands its abilities, but it hasn’t expanded the limits of its lists. Twitter still has the arbitrary 20-list limit (with only 500 accounts allowed in each list) that it had before it became a powerful international newsroom. An expansion is long overdue, especially since the company understands its value as a news-gathering, news-sharing power.

Having the ability to create at least 100 lists would translate to more focused and, therefore, usable lists that would also save all users, not just journalists, a tremendous amount of time. Like the 20-list limit, the limit of 500 accounts in each list may sound like a lot, but it isn’t. Given the many Twitter accounts around the world that you may want to include, it would be helpful if each list could hold at least 1,500 of them.

The current limits factor into many of your choices and strategies as you create and maintain your lists.

Even given their limitations, Twitter Lists are an indispensable, built-in tool for organizing who you follow, who follows you, and the accounts you may not officially follow but want to keep track of in Twitter’s Rolodex equivalent, which also allows you to unofficially follow accounts.

Click on one of your own lists (or a Twitter List you follow that was created by another user), and you’ll see an incoming stream of tweets from the accounts on that list, whether you officially follow them individually or not.

First, create and name your list. You have complete control since Twitter doesn’t restrict you by offering category or list names that you must choose from. The name of your list cannot exceed 25 characters, and the list’s description cannot exceed 100 characters. You may need to use abbreviations and initials. My lists of Publishing, Media, and Arts Followers are named P/M/A Followers #1, #2, and #3, for example.

Decide whether to make your Twitter List private or public. If you have a public Twitter account, anyone can see your public lists, even if they don’t follow you, and even if you have blocked them or they have blocked you. But you’re the only person who can see your private lists. Since a Twitter account can be hacked, don’t put confidential sources in public or private lists.

Make your lists as specific as possible, and combine when necessary. Given the 20-list limit, if you have to combine categories into one list, choose categories that are related. I have many combined lists, including one for science, weather, and health.

If I could make more than 20 lists, each of those would be in its own list and take very little time to scroll when I’m looking for specific accounts, and the list’s incoming feed would only include science, weather, or health accounts. I’d also have separate focused lists within those three areas, for example a separate lists for NASA accounts. Sifting through multiple category accounts in one list isn’t ideal, but it’s still far better than not using lists at all.

I have two International lists, one is for the U.K., the other is for everywhere else on the globe that isn’t the U.S. or the U.K. I’d love to be able to have separate lists for individual countries, but with only a total of 20 Twitter Lists at my disposal, that’s not possible.

Put accounts in more than one list. A journalist who covers the arts, and is based in London, is in my Arts Reporting list, but is also in my International #1 (U.K.) list. Because of Twitter’s limitation on the overall number of lists and the number of accounts in each list, there’s no room to cross-list most of the journalists who cover the arts by also putting them in any of my three general journalist lists. The same is true for journalists listed in my Science/Weather/Health, Media, Book Biz/Literary/Library, and Humanitarian/Gov/Travel lists.

Maintain your lists by removing accounts as well as adding them. And, if you’re at or approaching 500 on a list, and need to remove accounts in order to make room for more, choose easily searchable accounts for removal so you can find them again quickly when you need them. Don’t remove from lists the accounts that you follow.

Don’t let apps make your choices. They can’t replace your brain. They can’t take into account the circumstances that lead to your choices about which accounts to include in your lists.

Create general lists by category, in addition to lists you may create for a specific brief or ongoing news event.

Go shopping in other users’ lists. You can follow another user’s entire list, which doesn’t add to your regular following number. And you can choose individual accounts from another user’s list to follow in the regular manner, which does add to your following number. Or you can choose individual accounts from another user’s list to add to your lists, whether you follow those accounts in the regular manner or not.

Take a stroll through my lists for ideas about creating and using your own lists. Here are my 20 Twitter Lists (all public) and the number of accounts included in each, as of this writing:

People on Twitter often ask me if I have three heads and six hands. No, I tell them, I have Twitter Lists.

Nina L. Diamond is a journalist, columnist, and essayist who has been published in many magazines and newspapers, including Omni, The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times Magazine. Her books include “Voices of Truth: Conversations with Scientists, Thinkers & Healers.” She’s also a humorist who performed on “Pandemonium” and wrote a monthly humor column for Independent Publisher Magazine from 2003-2012. You can find her on Twitter and subscribe to her Facebook posts. Read more

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