Employees of Pinterest clone Pinspire are allegedly altering the personal accounts of users by deleting, hiding and removing pins, 'likes', comments, re-pins and also 'pinpoints', the system on which they base giveaways and contests. In addition TechCrunch has found evidence of people with Pinspire email addresses astro-turfing blogs asking for coverage in return for cash payments and gifts of iPads. We've reached out to Rocket Internet, the Berlin-based incubator run by the Samwer brothers for comment, but at the time of going to press there was no response forthcoming.
Today 70 staff have allegedly been cut from the company, with a ten-person skeleton team left behind to pick up the pieces. The Samwers have a noted aversion to social networks, preferring to stick to e-commerce. Could this be the end of their flirtation with Pinterest? It may well be.
Certainly most of the interest in Pinspire to date appears to have been generated by the company itself. A search for "Pinspire" on Twitter reveals that the vast majority of mentions for the site were by Pinspire-run Twitter accounts.
One Pinspire user we spoke to says that Pinspire ignored their email complaining that pins they'd created had been hidden or deleted without their permission, until they started complaining on Twitter. It was only after this that they received an email stating "..we just flipped all these hidden pins to visible."
There also appears to be a great deal of odd-looking accounts on Pinspire such as AlexandraAda5325, KirstenHantke6824, RosyikahUlhaq989.
Whereas Pinterest, on which Pinspire is heavily based, remains invitation-only and has seen viral growth off the charts, Pinterest appears to have some accounts which create over 5,000 categories or re-pin the same content multiple times in a row, repeatedly. The question has to be asked, are these real people?
One source we spoke to said they began recognizing these odd accounts in early March. Until then they had been considered a "top contributor" but they were alarmed when Pinspire appeared to start hiding their contributions and but filling the site with - what appeared to be - dummy accounts.
Indeed, every category was filled with these accounts, pinning anything and everything visible in the feed at a miraculously fast speed.
One "Mark Ungerer", who has since disappeared from Pinspire (Google cache) told one user via email that "Pinspire has some automated rules to protect our community. One of these included not allowing 1 account to upload too many pins per day – this was necessary to protect against spam and maintain a nice balanced experience for all users...Some users will abuse the system to promote their own causes, not to share their style and inspirations with others..."
However these rules appeared not to have affected any pseudo-accounts, while the accounts of genuine users who had pinned over the course of months - not a single day - appeared to be having their pins hidden when the fake accounts started appearing.
Additionally, Pinspire draws consumers to their site by offering giveaways.
The giveaways posted on Facebook don't seem to alert actual winners.
Pinspire is pretty zealous at contacting bloggers, offering incentives to feature Pinspire giveaways on their blogs. If a Blogger shares the "Pinspire iPod Giveaway promo" on their blog and gets a minimum of 100 participants they qualify for an automatic payout of $100 or a 16G iPad when they reach 1,000 participants.
Even the zealous "Sasha" from Pinspire has been posting Pinspire promos on blog posts such as "Guess Who’s Behind World Trade Center Bombing?… The Jews" (See Comment #115)
You can do a search on email@example.com to find more such astro-turfing.
The sites are also getting incredibly low traffic.
With Pinterest garnering enormous amounts of hype and interest, it looks like Pinspire is destined to be an also-ran, limping on in the wake of its original p-inspiration.