Posted on 3 June 2010
***EDIT on February 24 2011***
How naive I was. I use Tumblr everyday now. I prefer it to Twitter. It’s a great way for sharing things. Community is still a bit low, but I think that’s just because my community hasn’t migrated there yet (or I haven’t found it). Comments have pseudo been implemented with “replies” on the dsahboard. But once I started using it is a digital scrapbook, everything changed. It’s NOT a blog. It’s NOT Twitter. And it’s not competing with them. You can read this if you want, but I recommend you sign up, follow some accounts, and start being creative.
I realize that a while ago I promised I would be reviewing the various social media forms out there and what I thought of them. Well, today, I figured I would officially kick things of with Tumblr.
The Best Free Blogging Service Out There
Despite what the title of this post may indicate, I like Tumblr. I really do. It is now the number one platform I recommend to new bloggers. It is, in my opinion, the best free blogging platform out there. A lot of it has to do with the fact that I like to a) customize my designs and b) have /pages on my blogs (ie. “andrewkurjata.ca/blog”; “andrewkurjata.ca/about” rather than something like “andrewkurjata.ca/20100903&p=iz110”). These two areas are where Tumblr shines. Yes, Blogger is customizable, but it lacks the pages (I don’t count that “/p/” thing), and Tumblr theme garden eclipses Bloggers default choices by many, many miles. Sure, you can do just about anything you want with Blogger, as I have in the past, but if I’m looking to quickly and easily make a visually appealing sight, I’m going to Tumblr.
But… at this point in time I’m not looking for a free blogging option. I just bought this domain. And that means I can use the WordPress.org software. So, for my purposes, what does an individual Tumblr account offer me?
Microblogging… whatever that is
While you can really use it for anything you want, Tumblr as an experience is sold as being a microblogging service, meaning everything too big for a Tweet and too short for a blog goes there. Think of it as Twitter, except instead of linking to pictures, videos, and songs, you actually get to see the pictures, videos and songs right there. My issue is that after a few months of using it, I just don’t feel like the service is serving a niche that I need filled. If I want to save a link, I’ve got Google Reader or Delicious, I can put photos on Flickr, I can save music to my playlists CBC Radio 3 or the Hype Machine (where I can actually manipulate playlists), and all these thing and more that I want to share I can put on Twitter, Facebook, or this blog. It’s a generalized service competing against single-use services that beat it every time.
A Lack of Cohesive Community
The one thing that could get me to stay, if it were there, is community. But I’m just not seeing it. When I joined Twitter, I immediately found myself communicating with other people working in a similar field to my own, all across the country, who were sharing ideas and advice. The same goes for different areas of interest that I have. This is a network that I feel benefits me in a professional and personal capacity. On Tumblr, that’s yet to happen– I find myself hesitant to follow anyone, and when I do I often stop following soon afterwards. If I want to look at a bunch of random photos and links, I have Facebook, where I at least know the people. And any Tumblr blogs that I DO think are worth following are more often traditional blogs, in which case I prefer to read them linearly in Google reader, rather than mixed and matched with a bunch of other random shots.
A Lack of Commenting Makes for A Lack of Conversation
In Tumblr, like Twitter, you “follow” people and they can follow you, at which point each other’s posts will appear in your dashboard. But you know how people complain about Twitter users who have too many @replies or retweets? In Tumblr, the default is to not have comments on your posts, but instead, reblogs. Which means if you put up a picture with a comment and I feel like commenting on it, I have to “reblog” the photo and add my own comment to my own stream. Which is OK, but then if you wanted to reply to MY comment, you would reblog your own photo, along with both sets of comments, with your comment at the bottom. To use Facebook as a comparison, imagine if rather than your news feed saying “7 people commented on so-and-so-‘s post” with the ability to expand and read the full comments, you actually received, in order, 7 separate status updates, each saying the exact same thing minus the later comments. That’s Tumblr.
But That’s Just Me
The only other person I know in real life who has gotten really into Tumblr has had a really good go of it. He very wisely saw what Tumblr excelled at (niche blogs) and started an origami-themed Tumblr that has garnered hundreds of followers and a great community. He uses it as a personal blogging platform and for his band, as well. I imagine I could dig deeper and find a great community of Tumblr users with similar interests, but the fact is I’m not looking for a new network anymore– I’m quite happy with my exisiting ones.
The Bottom Line
Tumblr is great for blogging. No questions asked. If you are a not-for-profit, a business, a band, or just a person wanting to see what blogging is all about, I direct you there. But I already have a personal blog and I don’t need another.
So Will I Continue Using It?
Yes. But not in a highly personal way. I have a few blogs on different subjects that I may or may not pursue, and they are all being hosted on Tumblr, because of its ease of use. As for my personal account, I don’t see myself spending much time creating original content there. I’ve set it up to automatically import my favourite Flickr photos, shared items on Google Reader, songs, and links from this blog, giving it sort of an automated lifestream feel that I can supplement whenever I find a picture or video I want to share but don’t want to put on this blog. In those instances, Tumblr will be acting as a giant Twitter client, since you can send posts to Twitter as well. I don’t expect a lot of followers, but it’s there for people who want to use it and gives me a nice visual layout of what I’ve been doing with very little effort.
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