Recently, I’ve been working with a new tool that I think anyone that uses the web regularly is really going to appreciate: Pearltrees.
The company – which is based in France – has been developing this tool for a few years but in the last few days they have released their latest version and in my opinion it is now ready for prime time.
In a nutshell, Pearltrees allows you to very quickly and easily discover, organize and share the things you find on the web. This tool, which is truly a social web curation and collaboration tool, will enable you to quickly see a whole constellation of content specifically related to a post. More importantly, as additional links (or Pearls) are added to the original Pearltree, the tree in the post is updated in realtime making each Pearltree on a given topic a living reference to that topic. Furthermore, if you sign up for Pearltrees yourself, you can “pick” any specific Pearl or Pearltree you like from anyone else and then add it to your own personal Pearltrees content. Then, when the original creator of any Pearltree you picked adds content to that Pearltree, your own Pearltree is automatically updated with this new content. It’s a great way to drill down on a topic, to find people that share your interests and it’s also one of the fastest and easiest ways you’ll ever find to quickly and conveniently organize and share all the interesting stuff you discover while browsing the web.
For many, the most difficult thing about Pearltrees is understanding what it is and how it works without actually seeing it in action. Luckily, the new release has a feature that not only solves this problem it also makes this tool a new, and possibly indispensable new addition to any blogger’s arsenal.
Rather than try to explain in any more detail than I already have above, I thought that actually showing you a Pearltree that I’ve created would be one of the best ways for you to get familiar with what Pearltrees is and more importantly how it can help you organize content you have found, discover new content related to your interests, and finally share that content in a variety of ways.
Here’s what a Pearltree looks like:
As you can see, this is a Pearltree on Biofuel. When you look at it initially you are seeing a central structure with “Pearls” radiating off from it. Each of these individual Pearls is a URL (link) that the creator of the original tree has already placed within this tree – hopefully because it bears relation to the rest of the content in the tree.
By clicking any of these Pearls you’ll see an overlay appear on the site at which you are viewing the content. This overlay has the same controls as the actual Pearltrees site itself. These controls allow you to browse through the links one-by-one, to comment on the links or to “pick” a single Pearl or even the entire tree. This latter functionality requires that you create your own Pearltrees account (which is free).
When you pick someone else’s Pearltree you can choose where in your own Pearltrees account you’d like to place it. Once you do this a couple of cool things happens. First, the creator of the original Pearltree is notified that someone has picked one of his or her Pearls and secondly, as the original creator modifies that particular Pearltree (and most interestingly adds new Pearls to it), those updates appear simultaneously on the Pearltree you’ve added to your own account. In many respects “Picking a Pearltree” is like subscribing to an RSS feed only it’s visual – and providing that the creator is curating the content in a logical fashion – it is likely to be highly relevant to the primary topic of the tree.
There are a bunch of other really cool features associated with this new release. These include immediate notifications (both within Pearltrees itself and via email and eventually other modalities) as to when someone else picked one of your Pearltrees or commented on something in your account.
Beyond this, the new release features much improved navigation a short but very informative video on how you can get started using Pearltrees yourself and a much improved search algorithm. This last is really cool. When you enter a search term in the search box you’ll immediately see that lots of other Pearls congregate on your screen. The closer a Pearl is to the center of the screen the more closely related it is to your search.
The other way you can search is even more interesting. When you are browsing within your own account and you select an individual Pearltree you’ll see a small black “Pearl” right next to the Pearl you’ve selected. Clicking this will cause Pearltrees to perform a search that relates specifically to the content that you’ve already “Pearled”. This is the “discovery” part of the tool that I think people will find really interesting and useful. That’s because the search results this type of activity yields will give you a look at other people’s Pearltrees that are likely closely related to exactly what you find interesting.
One way to think of Pearltrees is like a very sophisticated, visually driven version of Delicio.us but with a much more socially oriented and collaborative way of discovering content and sharing new stuff you’ve found.
For content creators, embedding a Pearltree in your blog post or article will allow you to provide much more information, better context and a very interesting user experience to your readers while at the same time keeping them on your site.
As an example of how this could be used, think about websites that track celebrities. The owner of the site could create a Pearltree for each celeb they cover on that celebrity’s profile page. Then as things related to that celebrity are posted on the web the site-owner could add those links to that celebrity’s Pearltree. Not only will this provide a lot more information about the person, but people interested in news about that celebrity will be able to get that news all in one place. By maintaining the tree and keeping it current you will give people a reason to come back to your site over and over as new information is added.
There’s even more to Pearltrees than I’ve covered here but the best way to really understand what it does and how you can use it for browsing, blogging, research and more is simply to create your own account and get started using it.
As someone with a focus on social media I think this is a development that pushes social media in a new and exciting direction, one that has tremendous value to just about anyone that spends time browsing the web but especially for people that deal with lots of information and most particularly for people that want to share that information in a new, collaborative and highly effective way.