Aaron Davis (@mrkrndvs on Twitter) is presenting somewhere on blogging platforms. He asked about Tumblr on Twitter and I tweeted a few things.
It is such a good question though, I often ask myself why use it. So, I thought I would reflect out loud here and it may be of use for Aaron’s presentation. It also serves as the ideal displacement activity for avoiding grading papers.
First thing: Always use the ‘keep reading tag’. People forget that the Dashboard on Tumblr is designed for media other than words and long text posts are utterly annoying on the Dashboard.
I use many different platforms, I try all I can and have the capacity to because I am often asked to advice people on developing their digital presence – often academics or therapists. I always recommend WordPress.
So why U use Tumblr?
One big reason is their archive link. I have not found any other platform that allows me to view my work in such an aesthetically pleasing manner without me having to do anything except type in a URL. Try it now for this blog. Awesome, no?
If Tumblr disappeared tomorrow, I would be heartbroken to lose my archive.
Staying on the use side of it, once upon a time I also loved the editor and its simplicity. It was easy to learn HTML as you could access it easily and customise Tumblr themes with no hassle. If you did not know something the Tumblr community always had a post or a response to help out with a quick search. They have now gone ‘all medium’ on us. I think the editor is not nearly as good as it once was. And the HTML option for viewing your posts is not very user friendly anymore – I guess the majority of users just post media other than text so the editor caters more for that now.
Because it is designed for showing photos, animated gifs and video – what you can do with that here is better than on any other platform. Check out the photo gallery options. It is easy to make things look good on Tumblr.
Then, there is the Dashboard. If you curate your follows well, there is nothing I like more than settling of an evening to view the Tumblr Dashboard. For me it is like an art exhibition in my lounge. Its main use case is for those interested in digital art, I would say. Young ones use it for confessional blogs too. If you go to certain spaces you are likely to be surprised and/or shocked but what can be found here. Yet, to me that is one of the attractions; it is unpredictable and it challenges me more than other platform – no cozy echo chamber of like minded folk.
And yet, there is also a great sense of community here. I have never had a problem with my theme that I have not been able to solve, there are so many themes to choose from and these are so easily customisable that one can be creative in ways that other platforms do not allow. Or rather, other platforms do not allow with as much ease. There is no assumption of technical know how in Tumblr land – people want an output and find a way to do it with the help of others who try things out.
I do not reblog stuff, but many people do. I like the idea that in doing this, young people can discover their own sense of aesthetics as @ryanseslow often says. I can see that there are many other platforms that offer more technically, my attachment to Tumblr is more emotional than technical. It is a friendly space and it makes it easy for me to do stuff.
Who is it good for? I would say that artists and people who are interested in art. It is also good for people who want to learn about digital trends – Tumblr attracts people who like to play and experiment with the digital, sometimes in ways that I find quite unexpected. But to find all of this you need to invest time searching and curating your sources carefully.
Would I use it if I was starting now? No. I think that with the adverts and suggestions of who to follow on the Dashboard my ‘art gallery’ experience is diminished. I would pay for no adverts or suggestions, but this is not the way of the world.
Also, I love gifs and I love the constraints that Tumblr puts on size of what can be uploaded. It helps me hone my technical skills. The tension between the aesthetics of a gif and the number of frames or colours used is one of the joys in making gifs for me. I learnt about all of that thanks to Tumblr – I wanted to post gifs on my blog and I had to learn how to make it work. This is the essence of what makes me like it: it pushes me to experiment with stuff to get an output.
Some more downsides: there are many many ways to view stuff (the archive, the dashboard, your blog, your post, etc.) You need to learn how it all works or there will be a view that will look bad if you do not update it. It takes time to get how the community side of things works if this is something that attracts you. If there is a topic that interests you or that you want to be known for – be sure to study the hashtags used. A lot of what works on Tumblr is about the tags.
It is quirky, it is easy, it is experimental, it is the only place on the web where I feel free to futz. But that may be just me.