Just a month back we had a brief but interesting discussion where a reader asked about Pearltrees and what was good about their visual way of curating web content. I had heard about Pearltrees before, but had never really got down to using it. The one phrase that has been consistently used to describe it is – visually pleasing. Now, we know that the more content we bookmark and stuff away for reading later, the more onerous it becomes to manage them. Social bookmarking helps to tackle information overload, but its management actually falls upon us.
Pearltrees is a more natural way to process all we save and share the best of the web. At its simplest, it is a free web curation tool but with a completely visual interface (like a mindmap) that gives you a birds-eye view of all your interests. It is also a collaborative community that allows you to discover new stuff related to your interests.
Please Note: In Pearltrees everything is public and collaborative by default. For private Pearltrees collections, you have to become a premium member.
Pearltrees on Chrome
Pearltrees has browser extensions and add-ons for Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer. You can use the Safari bookmarklet or your iPads and iPhones. You can even use it with the humble email. These help you do the spadework of collecting links and other content you want to bookmark and share. The Pearlers are the one-click tool for collecting, organizing, and sharing your content across the web. We are taking the Pearltrees Chrome extension for a run around the web and examining if it helps us to manage information overload better.
You start by creating your account and profile on Pearltrees. You can sign-up with Facebook, Twitter, or Google but I went with a fresh account. What you get is a clean library of your own to collect content from the web. Move through the tips…it takes just about five seconds to learn what the web application is all about. Okay, that’s my cartoon mug shot right in the middle of the vacant library which awaits a few pearls. Let’s start harvesting ‘em.
Turn Interesting Web Pages into Pearls
Think of yourself as a scuba diver out hunting for pearls – great content in this case. Each pearl holds a webpage, notes, or photos. You can move them around with your mouse. There are two ways to go about “collecting pearls”. The lazy way of using ‘pearls’ others have curated and the more active way of curating your own content. Pearltrees is a collaborative and open community and thus you can collect some useful resources by simply using the search bar on top. I am hunting for photography articles and that’s what I started with.
As you can see, Pearltrees gives you a visual mindmap of pearls it found related to your keyword. The outlying pearls are related content and may be relevant or not, but they are useful for discovering new interests. Clicking on a pearl opens it up and displays a spatial relationship of pages connected to the central pearl. Just like a mindmap, you have the central topic and nodes radiating out from it. You can use the mouse to drag and position the Pearltrees for better visibility.
Clicking on a pearl expands it to a detail window. The detail window gives brief information on the peal (i.e. the webpage), comments, and the users who have picked the specific pearl and added it to their own. This last feature is a shortcut to discovering people with similar interests as your own. You can also embed, link, and share a pearl. You can use the directional play heads on both edges to move through the other pearls in the same Pearltrees.
Cultivating Your Own Pearls
Picking somebody’s curated pearls is the easiest way to discover great content and shared interests. But Pearltrees is also a powerful tool to get an overview of your own saved bookmarks. Pearltrees gives you two ways to go about curating your own content – the add pearls button on your accounts and the Chrome extension.
The Chrome extension is a quicker way of collecting links as you go around on the web. You can create multiple Pearltrees and use them like folders to keep similar content. Once you click and get your content into Pearltrees and its Dropzone, you can go back later and arrange it like a mindmap.
One of the fastest ways to grow your Pearltrees is to search for other similar ones and pick them to add to your own. You also get notifications when new content gets added to them. A really nice feature is that you can team-up and collaboratively add to any of the Pearltrees. You have to send a request, and once it is approved by the user, you can join in.
You can also link Facebook and Twitter. You can then automatically pearl the links you share on Facebook or Twitter. It’s a nice way to keep everything that you share on Twitter and Facebook ad discover new content related to what you share there.
The Open Tree Of Knowledge…
Pearltrees is definitely contributing to my information overload. But on the other hand, it is helping me to manage it better. The first thing I am trying to do here is to turn all my years of bookmarks into a visual collection. It’s taking some time but the end result should be worth it – because I can use Pearltrees as a jumping platform to discover new content.
Pearltrees allows anyone to follow a person by picking up any of the Pearltrees or Pearls they have set up. You do not need to follow all their interests. There are many ways to visualize your bookmarks; there are also many ways to discover and stumble across new content (Reddit is my favorite); but Pearltrees combines the best of both worlds. As a reader had mentioned in a previous article, it is one of the best ways to curate your way to an internet following thanks to its open collaboration feature.
Yes, privacy features are absent in the free account but I think that lends well to the open collaboration. Pearltrees is meant to be that. Before I forget to mention it, Pearltrees has been a recommended by readers and thus finds a place on our Best Chrome Extensions page. Try out the Chrome extension. Tell us if it deserves a spot there.