How a Pinterest en­gi­neer is mak­ing search eas­ier

Jamaica Gleaner - - SPORTS -

SEARCH­ING FOR ideas on how to ar­range photos in her col­lege dorm room, Cindy Zhang turned to Pinterest for some in­spi­ra­tion as a fresh­man.

Now, the 23-year-old soft­ware en­gi­neer, who joined Pinterest in 2015, is help­ing 150 mil­lion monthly ac­tive users on the so­cial book­mark­ing site tap into their cre­ative side.

Zhang works on the tech firm’s search prod­uct team, which con­sists of 30 per cent women en­gi­neers. She built the An­droid ver­sion of a new fea­ture the com­pany is test­ing called Lens, al­low­ing users to dis­cover more ideas by snap­ping a photo of an ob­ject in real life.

“I think as an en­gi­neer it’s re­ally im­por­tant to have in­spi­ra­tion to keep you go­ing and work on a prod­uct that you re­ally love,” she said.

Q : Pinterest Lens ba­si­cally al­lows you to snap a photo and then you get a list of rec­om­mended pins. How is the beta test­ing of the prod­uct go­ing so far?

A : It’s go­ing very well. We’ve got a lot of peo­ple post­ing what photos they’ve snapped on Twit­ter and recipes they’ve found from Pinterest Lens. We’ve also got­ten a lot of peo­ple who take self­ies to get their celebrity look-alikes. We dis­cov­ered that peo­ple re­ally like the sug­ges­tions we give from Pinterest Lens. If you took a pic­ture of an av­o­cado and got pic­tures of more av­o­ca­dos, they didn’t find that very help­ful. They wanted more con­text, like av­o­cado recipes. We’ve got a lot of peo­ple re­ally ex­cited about (Lens) on Twit­ter and so­cial me­dia.

Q : If you’re search­ing on­line, nor­mally you would just type it into a search bar in­stead of tak­ing a photo. How do you change con­sumer be­hav­iour?

A : I think a lot of Pin­ners find a lot of ideas when they’re on their com­puter. We wanted them to get ideas in the real world. I feel like Pinterest is not a search en­gine where you type in some­thing and you get an an­swer. It’s more, ‘I’m cu­ri­ous and I don’t know what I’m go­ing to get as re­sults.’ I think Pinterest Lens re­ally helps with that. Here’s a type of fur­ni­ture I re­ally like, I don’t know what it’s called, but I’m cu­ri­ous about it, so let me take a pic­ture of it and get some ideas.

Q : Some­times peo­ple take photos at a weird an­gle, or it’s blurry. How is Pinterest tack­ling that prob­lem?

A : We have some tools to ad­dress it on the front end and the back end. In the app, if you are in a dark set­ting, we will turn on the auto-flash set­ting for you. Then we also have back-end de­tec­tion, where we will de­tect whether an im­age is blurry or dark and then ba­si­cally show a (no­ti­fi­ca­tion), telling you we can’t see in the dark or ask you to stay still. We have im­age de­tec­tion that will tell you our re­sults aren’t go­ing to be great be­cause you’re mov­ing around too much or your im­age is too dark.

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