Pinterest Add Engineering Talent to Battle Downtime and Slow Loading

Homemade Pinterest Logo
What do you do if you’re running one of the fastest-growing websites of all time?

Once you’re done with a few high-profile media interviews, you’d better get serious about hiring people who can help your site stay up.

Get ready for millions more eager visitors hitting it every month.

Pinterest have this morning added another couple of names to their Team page. One is Steve Cohen, a software engineer with experience in architecture and infrastructure at a number of tech firms including Bebo. Another is a chap called Dave who, so far, is a bit of a mystery. It looks like Steve has been with the company since March, but wasn’t listed on their Team page until now.

And in case you’re looking for a job with one of the hottest startups on the planet, their Careers page says they’re still looking to fill a number of roles. One could be particularly important in the months to come: Site Reliability Engineer.

Photo by rasamalai

Pinterest Introduce Board Covers

Pinterest boards just got better! Thanks to a new ‘board covers’ feature announced today, you can now choose which pin is used to represent each of your Pinterest boards.

According to Paul from the Pinterest team, this was one of the features that had been most requested by users.

I personally think it’s a great idea. Until now, your most recent pin was effectively the one that represented each board, and that wouldn’t necessarily be the best one. Now, you can choose. Nice.

 

 

Now He’s Confirmed It Himself: Paul Sciarra Leaving Pinterest

Paul Sciarra

We posted earlier about how Paul Sciarra was reportedly leaving Pinterest. Paul’s now confirmed it himself with a post on the official Pinterest blog about his departure.

As others had reported, Paul is leaving for a role as Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR) at well-known venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz who are investors in Pinterest.

It’s a role which will likely see him founding another startup before long. That suggests that running a startup is something he’s still keen to do. For whatever reason, he wasn’t able to continue doing that at Pinterest. Perhaps people involved felt Ben Silbermann was a better fit for the role. Perhaps there’s another explanation. In any case, we wish Paul well.

Photo from @sciarra

Why is Paul Sciarra Leaving Pinterest?

Man walking away
Why is Paul Sciarra leaving Pinterest?

We were shocked to hear just now that Paul Sciarra, one of the co-founders of Pinterest and officially the startup’s CEO and President, is leaving the company in the next week or so.

Ben Silbermann will be taking on the CEO title.

We’re yet to hear why Paul Sciarra is leaving or, indeed, whether he had a choice in the matter. As Ben had been doing so well in front of the press lately, perhaps Paul himself or others felt he was no longer the best person for the role.

Whatever the situation, we wish all the best to Paul in his next endeavours. Having set up a company like Pinterest, he’s not going to be short of interesting opportunities. And we’re guessing he’ll be leaving with enough equity to do very well out of Pinterest’s success.

[Update: Paul has now confirmed his departure.]

Photo by Rocpoc

 

 

Has Pinterest’s Growth Just Fallen Off a Cliff?

Tortoise
Is this the end of Pinterest’s rapid rise?

ComScore data reported last week suggested a massive slowing in Pinterest’s growth: from an 85% monthly increase to mid-February to just 18% to mid-March.

This drop could have huge implications for the future of the social network. If accurate, it already means they have around 20 million users rather than the 30 million they’d have had if the 85% growth rate had continued. And these differences will only be compounded over time.

But relying on just one set of traffic stats can be dangerous. Do other indicators tell the same story about Pinterest’s growth rate?

1. Hitwise

Hitwise’s US data for the week ending 31st March 2012 show Pinterest.com with 0.91% of all social networking site visits. This is exactly the same as the site’s share for the previous week.

2. Google Trends

Looking at Google Trends data for the last 12 months, searches for “pinterest” seem to have grown rapidly until February, but appear to have dropped off since then.

Whilst not a direct indication of site visits, this drop in search volume does suggest that interest in Pinterest has declined lately. Interestingly, the data suggest a big spike in news mentions of Pinterest happened during the March decline in searches.

Google Trends data for Pinterest

3. Alexa

Alexa’s traffic data for Pinterest.com show a steady growth in visits until February, then a general flattening-out since then.

Alexa data for Pinterest March 2012

Conclusion

The data suggest that Pinterest’s astonishing growth has indeed slowed significantly.

[Update: We’ve now created a page dedicated to Pinterest stats.]

Pinterest Deleting Pins and Accounts in War Against Spam

Deleted Pin
If you were running Pinterest, what would you do to clean up spam on the site?

It seems that the Pinterest team’s answer includes deleting spam pins and dummy accounts.

We can see this by exploiting a couple of bugs in the Pinterest code.

Let’s look at an example. Currently, when you search for “doctors”, you get a page with lots of results that mention “doctors” in the description:

Page of Pinterest pins for a search for doctors

Clicking on most of these pins brings up a larger version of the image as you’d expect.

Detail of Two Doctors pin

But for one image, a message appears to say that the pin has been deleted.

Deleted pin

(Such a deleted pin almost certainly shouldn’t show up in the search results; something Pinterest are likely to address in the near future.)

There are a couple of reasons why a pin might have been deleted:

  1. Pinterest decided it was spam.
  2. Someone reported it for copyright violation.

The item was pinned by a user called “Lexy Minner”. Clicking through to her account gives a 404 error suggesting that the account has been deleted.

Pinterest 404 Page

The fact that the account has been deleted (presumably by Pinterest), suggests that this was spam that Pinterest have now cleaned up.

Looking further down the page, you can see the same image appears again. The second instance is the same story — the pin has been deleted and the pinning account no longer seems to exist.

Curiously, despite Pinterest saying that the pin has been deleted, you can still repin it (for now at least).

Once repinned, you can then visit it on your own pinboard and follow its link.

You’ll find it’s a bit.ly link that bit.ly have flagged as potentially problematic…

bit.ly warning

… and clicking through it takes you to an Acai berry scam sales page:

Acai Berry Scam Sales Page

(Whatever you do, don’t sign up for this product!)

Conclusion

It seems that the Pinterest team is now cleaning up spam by deleting both pins and accounts. Their war against the spammers continues and no doubt we’ll see further developments soon.

 

 

Pinterest’s Growth Finally Slows

Pinterest

Pinterest’s massive growth has been startling until now. But new Comscore data reported by CNBC today suggest the growth may finally be slowing.

According to CNBC’s Julia Boorstin, the Comscore data shows that monthly growth in Pinterest’s unique users slowed from the 85% seen mid-January to mid-February to just 18% between mid-February and mid-March.

Based on their latest data, Comscore projects that Pinterest will grow its total unique users to just over 20 million in March. This is just a 12% increase over February. The site’s January to February increase was a much larger 50%.

 

 

Here’s a Quick Way to Find Lots of Pinterest Spam

Amazon Pinterest Spam

If you want to find screenfuls of Pinterest spam pins, here’s a quick way to do it: go to http://pinterest.com/source/amzn.to/

(This was suggested in a great thread about the Pinterest spammer on the Hacker News startup forum.)

Pinterest’s special ‘source’ URLs show all the pins from a particular domain, in this case from Amazon’s amzn.to URL shortener.

Right now, almost everything on this page is spam, using the Amazon affiliate ID of numanumaman-20.

No doubt there are spam links to other sites, too. Or if not, there will be soon. But for now, Amazon.com, with its wide range of pinnable products is the most obvious site for a spammer to send people to.

Is Pinterest’s Impressive Growth Driven by Spam?

Girl hiding behind lots of money
Pinterest is one of the fastest-growing websites of all time. But are their growth numbers being driven by spam?

A website growing as quickly as Pinterest is worth a lot of money. The faster the growth, the more it’s worth.

Pinterest’s last funding round reportedly valued the still-young startup at around $200 million. That was back in October 2011. And they’ve been growing like crazy since.

But not everyone ‘using’ Pinterest is a regular user. In fact, Pinterest is wrestling with a big potential spamming problem. And if there’s one things spammers tend to do, it’s create lots and lots of fake accounts and posts.

One spammer has already created hundreds of accounts at the very least and possibly vastly more.

This raises a question: when looking at Pinterest’s growth numbers, how much is due to growth in spam? And has this spam usage actually helped Pinterest’s fund-raising so far?

Let’s look at some indicators.

1. 3rd-Party Stats

Depending exactly how the spammers are operating, their efforts might or might not contribute to specific growth numbers such as those reported by Hitwise.

The growth started well before Pinterest started getting a lot of attention, though. It’s less likely that spammers would have been active on the site at that time, so this points away from the spam explanation.

2. Current Pins

Browsing the site currently, most of the pins seem to be from legitimate users simply wanting to share things they’ve found. This suggests that spam, though very much present, isn’t a major proportion of the site’s activity.

Conclusion

Large-scale spamming is continuing to occur on Pinterest. The evidence we’ve found suggests that this isn’t a major contributor to Pinterest’s growth numbers. We’ll be keeping an eye out for more data either way.

 

Photo by stevendepolo

Pinterest Clamp Down on Spam

Cleaning Shoes
Pinterest spam was looking like a big problem last week. How do things look now?

When we reviewed Pinterest’s ‘Popular’ tab last week, we were shocked to see that many of the pins there were tagged with the affiliate links of a Pinterest spammer. Our exposé got picked up by The Daily Dot and Business Insider.

Today, we’ve been looking again to see how the Pinterest spam issue has developed.

It turns out Pinterest have clamped down against the spamming. But not completely.

Spam Pins: No Longer on ‘Popular’ Tab

Last week it was very easy to find ‘popular’ pins with the spammer’s affiliate link. This week, looking through the ‘Popular’ tab, we couldn’t find any pins with his affiliate ID. Perhaps Pinterest have simply identified the pins with his ID and removed them from the ‘Popular’ list.

Browsing the ‘Everything’ tab, though, it didn’t take long to find a pin fitting our original spammer’s profile:

Spam Pinterest Pin

Pinterest Spam Account

This time, the Amazon affiliate ID is different: womansdesign-20 instead of finalfantas07-20, but otherwise it’s the same deal.

The pin has received 7 repins and 2 likes so far, so still something, but far less impressive than the spam pins we looked at before.

E-Commerce Product Pins: Few on ‘Popular’ Tab

Interestingly, it seems to us that far fewer of the ‘Popular’ pins are now products taken directly from e-commerce sites. It’s not clear why this is. Perhaps this one spammer was responsible for a lot of the pins of this sort that were previously appearing. Or perhaps Pinterest has taken wider-reaching measures against pins linking to Amazon or e-commerce sites in general.

Pinterest Popular Tab with No E-Commerce Pins

Spam Accounts: Still Present

We checked back just now on some of the accounts that we suspected had been set up by our Pinterest spammer. Would they have been deleted, we wondered?

First, some of the ‘repinner’ accounts that, in large numbers, had been repinning to make the spam pins popular.

All the ones we tried were still present:

Now, how about the accounts used to pin the items originally?

Rachel Rauchwerger… still there:

Nancy Nelon… still there:

And Sandra Stolley… also still there:

Original Spam Pins: Still Present Too

We looked at some of the pins that had been artificially boosted last week. They’re still there on the Pinterest site and still show a huge number of repins. So it looks like Pinterest has decided to leave them there for now. Perhaps they don’t want to delete things that legitimate users have repinned or liked.

Conclusion

It seems that Pinterest have got this particular spam problem under some control for now. Spam pins are still appearing, but seem to be garnering fewer repins than before and aren’t making it to the ‘Popular’ tab.

We’ll keep an eye on this issue and keep you updated when we have more news.

 

Photo courtesy of kodomut