Tag Archives: pins

Actual Pinterest CAPTCHA That Got Rejected

Pinterest now preventing some users from pinning.

The problem of spam is one that Pinterest has been dealing with since the beginning of the year, but their efforts to stop it have some users unable to pin.

Today Heidi Kay of PediaStaff emailed to let me know that she was seeing a CAPTCHA when she tried to pin on Pinterest.

The actual CAPTCHA and message that Heidi received.

More troubling, even when she entered the correct CAPTCHA characters, she was unable to pin.

This isn’t the first time Heidi has had an issue with Pinterest. Heidi also had her ability to comment on pins taken away this month and was unable to get Pinterest to resolve it despite sending emails to Pinterest and @ messaging Pinterest engineers on Twitter. Heidi told me she often would post ten comments in the morning on her own boards as she actually uses Pinterest as way to communicate.

What we were trying to do is to develop discussion groups around certain pins where therapists could look at an idea and suggest ways it could be modified for use in special needs classrooms.   I thought it was a pretty innovative way to use the platform, but as I explained in my blog post I guess Pinterest didn’t like all the commenting I had to do to make it happen.   I think maybe it was because I was cutting and pasting the same comment to attract activity to my pins, but who knows.   Might just have been volume and the quick succession of timing.  Never got a clear answer from the engineers on this in February as to what was triggering the freeze, but when it seemed to stop for a while I thought we were home free and then when it started again in April it was ruthless.

In this latest episode starting April 3rd I couldn’t make more than 2 or three comments, and then it was 1 and now none.  I didn’t try to comment for about 5 days and still could not comment as of yesterday.

Why pins are being blocked

The best explanation for why Heidi is experiencing these issues is that she is a Pinterest power user, and her behavior might trigger anti-spam measures. Her Pinterest account for PediaStaff is one of the most active on Pinterest. While Pinterest itself doesn’t provide rankings, third party service Pinreach has the Pedia Staff account in the top 20 users as evaluated by reach.

In this case it could be an issue of pinning the same image to multiple boards. I asked her how many pins she did today before she got the CAPTCHA and she told me:

Today I pinned about 25 or 30 pins first thing this morning no problem.    Then around 2 PM I created a pin, duplicating it 5 times for the various boards I wanted it in (this is something I do all the time for the long term viability of my boards.   Sometimes pins overlap into several categories.   (I even have a pin that explains why we do multiple pins )

It is possible that Heidi might have to change the way she uses Pinterest or continue to deal with these issues. While no legitimate user should have their ability to pin taken away, it should be noted that the PediaStaff account is not the only one dealing with this failed CAPTCHA issue. I posted about this issue on the Facebook group page for #Pinchat, and while most users hadn’t experience the issue, one person did have the exact same experience. She tried to pin an image, got a CAPTCHA, entered the text correctly, and still wasn’t able to pin. She indicated that she doesn’t pin frequently so this issue could start to affect more people. Later she reported that she was able to pin, so this may be a temporary issue that Pinterest has now resolved.

Pinterest Spam

The point of a CAPTCHA is to stop bots run by spammers from pinning. Two posters on Black Hat World (a forum frequented by grey/black hat marketers, i.e. spammers) reported that the they were also unable to pin when they enter the CAPTCHA. It is unclear if they were using bots, and in the case of the poster who started the thread, he seemed to indicate it was no longer an issue.

Lauren Orsini brought attention to the spam issue with her piece on the spammer who claimed to be making over $1000 a day spamming Pinterest. As I told Lauren when she interviewed me, I actually alterted Ben Silbermann, the CEO of Pinterest, about Black Hat World as a place to check out what spammers where up to. At that time there wasn’t much talk of Pinterest, but now there are dozens of individual threads posted each week about spamming Pinterest.

Pinterest is addressing the spam issue (they actually published a blog post on the issue this past Friday), and while it does make sense that some legitimate accounts may have issues as Pinterest’s tries to stop spam, preventing a legitimate user from commenting and pinning is troubling.

Importance of Pinterest

Heidi told me that Pinterest is so important to PediaStaff’s business that they actually paid for audio/video hookups for the American Occupational Therapy Association Conference so they could incorporate their Pinterest boards into their booth. The conference is in two weeks, and she is concerned that all their work could be for naught if they can’t get normal access to Pinterest again.

Heidi has an email out to Pinterest on this issue. I have called Pinterest to get a comment, but I haven’t heard back yet.


Pinterest is quietly generating revenue by modifying user submitted pins.

Additional Update (2/15)Pinterest adds disclosure about how they (might) make money, my error about Skimlinks and a conversation with the Pinterest CEO.

If you post a pin to Pinterest, and it links to an ecommerce site that happens to have an affiliate program, Pinterest modifies the link to add their own affiliate tracking code. If someone clicks through the picture from Pinterest and makes a purchase, Pinterest gets paid. They don’t have any disclosure of this link modification on their site, and so far, while it has been written about, no major news outlet has picked up on the practice or its implications.

Pinterest doing this is big news in my opinion for two reasons:

  • Pinterest is monetizing their site while in the early beta stage, which is almost unheard of for a newish social network.
  • Pinterest has taken this action in a quiet, non-disclosing way.

How long this has been going on isn’t clear, but it has been at least a month as Lindsey Mark wrote a blog post that mentioned it on January 5th. In my case, I saw a tweet from from fellow Lawrence social media user Debbi Johanning that linked to an article Why I Don’t Mind Pinterest Hijacking My Links. That blog post was based on a post by Joel Garcia on an affiliate marketing blog which pointed out the practice, but also explained that if an affiliate link was in the original pin, Pinterest wouldn’t modify it.

How Pinterest modifies its users’ links.

An example of Pinterest adding an affiliate link to one of @free’s pins.

Pinterest is able to do this across their site by using the service skimlinks. This service is rather innovative in that they automatically go through a site and add affiliate links wherever there is a link to a product that has an affiliate program associated with it. While many forums, smaller web sites and even Metafilter have taken advantage of the service, I have to think that the volume of links skimlinks is modifying for Pinterest, has to make Pinterest their biggest client and perhaps the majority of their business. skimlinks makes money by taking 25% of any affiliate revenue generated.

Pinterest is taking the unique path of generating revenue early.

Historically large social networks have focused on user growth with little regard to making money. Twitter and Facebook went years before doing any advertising, and more recently, popular services like Instagram and to a lesser extend Path are almost dismissive of how they are going to make money. The idea of growing big and figuring out the business later is dangerous for small businesses, but in the world of venture capital, it is absolutely the norm for rapidly growing web sites and services aimed at consumers.

That Pinterest is breaking from this mold, and getting revenue while it is still technically in beta is news on its own. I wrote previously on how Pinterest could be the most valuable social network for retails sales, and in Pinterest’s case, they have found a relatively easy solution to start capturing the value of the network before they even leave their beta phase.

How they are doing it with no disclosure to users feels weird.

As most bloggers are aware, when you use an affiliate link in your post, you need to provide some type of disclosure either by it clearly being an ad, mentioning it is an affiliate link or at a minimum providing some type of prominent disclosure that your site features affiliate links. This is done, because you have a financial interest is promoting the product.

In Pinterest’s case, since they are not creating the content and are inserting the links automatically, they might feel that they are not promoting affiliate linked pins any more than other pins, and thus they don’t need to disclose as the placement is not affected based on the financial gain.

skimlinks own site has a FAQ section about disclosure, and it would seem their own recommendation would be that Pinterest make a disclosure.

We encourage our publishers to disclose to their users and comply with the FTC regulations which state… “When there exists a connection between the endorser and the seller of the advertised product which might materially affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement, such connection must be fully disclosed”.

When using our URL Shortener to include product recommendations on Twitter, we have provided some disclosure guidelines here.

You could also add disclosure to your site by joining our Referral Program and using one of our disclosure badges.

One specific, problematic issue is that when individual online stores pin their own content, it is unlikely they would insert an affiliate code. But if the store has an affiliate program, it is highly likely that those links now will have an affiliate code in them that gives Pinterest a percentage of any sales. Not disclosing this modification is putting individual stores at a disadvantage when they and their customers are putting in the work of adding pins.

I, like many people, don’t have a problem with Pinterest making money off of user content. The links are modified seamlessly so it doesn’t affect the experience. Pinterest likely should disclose this practice to users even if they aren’t required to do so by law, if only to maintain trust with their users.

Do you care that Pinterest is modifying your pins? Do you think they should disclose it to users? I would love to hear your thoughts.


Example of what you would see on your main Pinterest page (stream).

Pinterest explained, and how to use it.

I am doing a week of blog posts about Pinterest. If you are already a user, this particular introductory post may not be relevent, but I will be publishing six posts total on Pinterest:

Please visit again or subscribe to be alerted about future posts in the series.

Pinterest is a bit like Twitter was a couple years ago. You may have heard about it, and understand the basic concept, but here is a quick overview.

Pinterest is about viewing, organizing and sharing images (they offer video too, but that hasn’t taken off).

The two key parts of Pinterest are pins and boards.

Example pin of a glass bowl.


A pin is any image that you want to post. You can also add a text caption to any image as part of the pin. Pinterest offers a bookmarklet that you can add to your browser to quickly pin images you see on most websites.


You have to then put the pin on one of your boards. Boards can be labeled anything you want, but people usually use them to organize images around themes. Pinterest will automatically add some boards in the signup process if you approve it. You can always delete or rename boards later. It is helpful to have the default boards as a place to start.


Example of what you would see on your main Pinterest page (stream).

Your pins show up in the stream of pins that your followers see, and likewise, you see the pins of people you follow on the default Pinterest page.

You can follow all of a person’s boards, or choose to only follow the one’s you are interested in.

Pinterest uses an algorithm to place some pins at the top of your stream largely based on “re-pins” and “likes” from other users.


You can re-pin other peoples pins to your own boards and have the option of changing the text caption when you re-pin. Unless the caption is highly personalized, most users make very few changes to captions.


You can “Like” a pin, and that will show up in a separate stream that others can access from your profile. Likes are often used when a person literally likes a pin but doesn’t want to re-pin it. This could be because they don’t have an appropriate board or don’t want to make their interest as public as re-pin would make it.

Example board from my personal account.

Ways to use Pinterest

Like most social networks, you often don’t know how best to use it until you try it out. I personally started on Pinterest because my wife uses it, and I am interested in social networks. I use Pinterest to collect images of different art I like in addition to other random collections of images that interest me.

Popular board categories include:

  • Places
  • Food
  • Decor
  • Humor
  • Organization
  • DIY

The list can go on and on. Essentially any topic you could think of could be a board. And you can make it as broad or specific as you want. Most people start out creating broad catagories and over time make them more specific. But like most social networks, there are many ways to do it right. Pinterest’s search function is excellent, and when you find and image you particuarlly like, you can then explore all the images that are on that board.

Pinterest heavily leans to female users, but I believe the human impulse to collect and organize things, will make Pinterest of use and genuinely fun for most people who give it a try. Whether Pinterest can make the experience relavent to people outside of core female demographics remains to be seen. But being able to follow individuals by board (essential interests) and not just by person, naturally lends itself to more an individualized and relevant experience.

I have only used Pinterest for two months, so I welcome your ideas, thoughts and suggestions on the service. Comments are appreciated.

If you need an invite to Pinterest, just email me at jd12345@gmail.com with Pinterest in the subject line, and I will send you an invitation.