Pearltrees: Bookmarking Program for Organization Lovers

By  |  Monday, December 7, 2009 at 2:27 am

(This review is part of the Traveling Geeks tech tour of Paris. David Spark (@dspark) is the founder of Spark Media Solutions and a tech journalist that blogs at Spark Minute and can be heard and seen regularly on ABC Radio and on John C. Dvorak’s “Cranky Geeks.”)

For the first stop for the Traveling Geeks trip to Paris, we stopped by the offices of Pearltrees, a Web bookmarking, organizing, and organizing tool. Sitting inside their offices I could have been sitting at any Web 2.0 company in Silicon Valley. Very open work atmosphere. Brightly fluorescent lit rooms with everyone worked around big conference tables.

I had met with Patrice Lamonthe, Pearltrees’ CEO, back in San Francisco. Now I was his guest in his office. When I first received a demo, I immediately started making comparisons to Delicious, a bookmarking program that I use heavily. I use Delicious because it allows me to quickly bookmark and tag sites that I see that I know one day I’m going to need and use. What I like most about Delicious is the speed of bookmarking, tagging, and organizing. I can quickly “file” something away without going through the arduous task of filing.

While I kept making comparisons to Delicious, I soon realized through my conversation with Patrice that my comparison was misdirected. The goal of Pearltrees is to reach the type of people who enjoy the process of organizing. They’re trying to reach the person who likes organizing their record collection, MP3s, books, and other personal effects. And then Pearltrees is social, connecting other people who like organizing and discovering.

I have one harsh criticism of the product that I believe is extremely fixable. While on first look, Pearltrees appears very cool. The drag-and-drop interface has a fun type of gravity to it. It moves, expands, and has a character of its own. All the information spokes out in a mindmapping-style of organization. You’ve seen these types of programs before, but when have you ever seen this style of organization actually work?

I’ve never seen a successful deployment of a mindmapping-style program. Have you? The reason is it’s extremely hard to read. Any designer will tell you that it’s important to line up content so people can read it. With a spoked map, where do your eyes go? It’s hard to follow a hierarchy. You can look at it as a snapshot, but you can’t really read it at great length comfortably.

There’s no doubt that this mindmapping look is what differentiates Pearltrees and Lamonthe rallies behind it. I asked if Pearltees could also be mapped more linearly in a folder like structure. He said they’re considering it as an option, but he didn’t seem too excited about it.

Personally, I like Delicious because I don’t want to waste my time organizing my content. I like the speed of it. There was a time I did enjoy organizing my stuff, but I don’t anymore. There is definitely an audience for having fun with organization. I just think that Pearltrees’ front end, the mindmapping look, which is what you see first, could scare some organization lovers away.


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3 Comments For This Post

  1. Barbeuz Says:

    Pearltrees is a nice service indeed, it’s always a bit tricky to discover a new interface, but it’s much more convenient that the usual “folder” interface!

  2. Hobie Swan Says:

    You make a good point that mind maps can be hard to read. If you hand someone a map that they haven’t had a hand in making, then it can look like gibberish. Mapping is much better as a participatory sport. Get a bunch of people in a room to map out a problem with some process, get a new project up and running, or brainstorm around a proposed new product…then you can see the real power of mind mapping. In my experience talking with people in some very large private and gov’t organizations, there is no question that mind mapping is being successfully deployed. But it’s best when the mapping is not an artifact, but a living documentation of a collaborative effort.

  3. hacked929 Says:

    This is a bit old… but…

    There are many more awesome things you can do with PearlTrees now that it has reached beta 0.6. For instance, you can set “auto-pearl” on, so that every page you visit is turned into a pearl. Also the browser add-on allows you to instantly select which of your pearltrees the new pearls are inserted into. So it’s pretty quick ;D

    Second, the mind-mapping works wonderfully imao. You can collapse and expand pearltrees’ content, so it is like folders. But you see everything visually.

    And the most awesome thing is that you can “play” your pearltrees. Hitting the Browse button takes you to the first pearl in a list. Then just hit forward/back to peruse the content of your pearltrees. So you have two ways of looking through the bookmarks and sharing the pages you collect! Awesome if you ask me.

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