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#1 du Garbandier

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Posted 07 June 2009 - 08:00 PM

I've been using Tumblr for over two years now and have been happy with it. I use it as a simple online commonplace book of sorts. I also enjoy following a small number of other Tumblelogs, most of which are also used as commonplace books. I would not quite describe myself as an introvert but more like a "reticent," someone who will comment on blogs and boards but only occasionally, and in general prefers to remain, well, interested-yet-reticent. As for my own blogging I am not really interested in prolonged combox discussions, and Tumblr's default lack of comments suits me perfectly. Nor do I have to deal with an ongoing stream of status updates or complicated Facebook-style etiquette. (Let me note that I have nothing against either Facebook or Twitter--in fact I use the former.) Instead, there is only a stream of items--quotations, photos, texts, music--deemed interesting by people I find interesting, all with minimal extraneous comment.

Altogether, Tumblr has been entirely sufficient for my purposes and interests--until recently. Tumblr has instituted something called "Tumblarity," which as the portmanteau suggests is basically a metric of your Tumblelog's popularity. I don't know all the details but as far as I can tell, one's tumblarity is a ranking based on the number of times other Tumblr users "reblog" (i.e., repost) and "like" (i.e., click a little heart next to your item) your posts, how many followers you have, etc. This ranking is constantly shifting.

Here is a screenshot of a Tumblarity page (not mine):

Posted Image


The statistics at the top are somewhat interesting on the level of mere curiosity. But perhaps you can see how the socially competitive philosophy behind Tumblarity "top blogs" utterly clashes with my own desire to maintain a humble commonplace book. And what's more, Tumblr has made the Tumblarity number always visible on one's dashboard (the central page of all one's Tumblr activity). So you can't get away from it. There is no disable option (I have emailed Tumblr about this possibility but they have not responded). Well, actually you CAN get away if you use Firefox and install a certain Greasemonkey script. But what troubles me is that Tumblarity seems to indicate a desire on Tumblr's part to alienate introverts and reticents like me: the company simply assumes that everyone wants to be ranked. It is incredibly frustrating to see my commonplace book enlisted in a popularity contest. If they continue down this road I may have to abandon ship (if I may mix metaphors). Others of the same mind are already considering that option.

Follower counts, the infernal Tumblarity, Favrd: is there a place for the introverted blogger? Are there more uses for Tumblr than are dreamt of in this social networking philosophy? Or must the appetite for social competition devour everything?

Edited by du Garbandier, 12 August 2010 - 10:57 AM.


#2 opus

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Posted 07 June 2009 - 09:26 PM

I don't think Tumblr's doing anything bad here -- though personally it feels a little on the gimmicky side -- and I wouldn't be surprised if a sizable majority of Tumblr's users love this feature, just like many of my clients love tools like Google Analytics that let them drill down into all facets of their website activity (regardless of whether the information they find is of any real benefit to them).

But like you, I find myself paralyzed sometimes by information like this, which is one of the reasons why I don't check my website stats all that much. I want to write about this or that, but then I get to thinking about all of the people who might potentially read what I've written, and then compare what I have to say about the topic at hand with what's already been said by so many others. My mindset is such that if I keep brooding on it, rather than simply write, as truthfully as possible, what's on my heart and mind and leave it at that.

Of course, if I choose not to write, or to throw away a perfectly good post, then ultimately, I only have myself to blame. But still...

Edited by opus, 07 June 2009 - 09:27 PM.


#3 du Garbandier

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Posted 07 June 2009 - 10:27 PM

Yes, it does seem possible that many Tumblr users like Tumblarity. But from what I can tell there is a substantial minority of those who do not, and I am troubled by Tumblr's apparent unwillingness to consider or even acknowledge them. Any major change in the way a popular tool or application functions is probably bound to turn off a number of those who were attracted to the earlier incarnations. But I suppose a large part of my irritation is that in some ways Tumblarity cuts against the very grain of what Tumblr is suited--even best-suited--to do very well; it seems to signal a radical change in Tumblr's philosophy. As a well-designed microblogging tool, Tumblr splendidly facilitates the sort of reticient and casual "commonplace blogging" that I (and any number of others) find so appealing. It seems to offer the ideal tool for 1.) quickly and easily collecting whatever catches my interest without having to write or say anything and 2.) silently tracking the interests of those who interest me. But Tumblarity seems to disregard these aspects of the pleasures of Tumblr, as well as my desire to preserve those pleasures, which I regard as a shame. And they don't even give me the option to shut the thing off! They just assume that social ranking and competition--and that is what separates Tumblarity from say, Google Analytics--is a universal good for all Tumblr users. They might say, well, just ignore it. But it is very hard to ignore that fluctuating number.

Anyone who desires to be ranked according to any number of social metrics can surely look to any of the billions--billions I say!--of social networking options out there already. Why must Tumblr be vampirized?

According to Tumblr, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of a good tumblelog must be in want of a lot of followers.

But it ain't so.



QUOTE (opus @ Jun 7 2009, 10:26 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I don't think Tumblr's doing anything bad here -- though personally it feels a little on the gimmicky side -- and I wouldn't be surprised if a sizable majority of Tumblr's users love this feature, just like many of my clients love tools like Google Analytics that let them drill down into all facets of their website activity (regardless of whether the information they find is of any real benefit to them).

But like you, I find myself paralyzed sometimes by information like this, which is one of the reasons why I don't check my website stats all that much. I want to write about this or that, but then I get to thinking about all of the people who might potentially read what I've written, and then compare what I have to say about the topic at hand with what's already been said by so many others. My mindset is such that if I keep brooding on it, rather than simply write, as truthfully as possible, what's on my heart and mind and leave it at that.

Of course, if I choose not to write, or to throw away a perfectly good post, then ultimately, I only have myself to blame. But still...


#4 Overstreet

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Posted 24 June 2010 - 07:25 PM

I'm wading into the waters. Who else here is on Tumblr?

#5 du Garbandier

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Posted 24 June 2010 - 09:45 PM

DG, I dislike those kinds of stat breakdowns myself - a lot of them don't mean much (if anything, cf. Google Analytics), .and i rarely check them on my music blog. OTOH, I'm fascinated by the stats on my music server, because they actually have useful (and often humorous) info. - who'da thunk that The Carolina Chocolate Drops would be "popular" in São Paulo, Brazil? (And so on... ;))


Well, the trouble with Tumblarity was the way it ranked your blog against other blogs according to how much attention you garnered. Thus it tacitly encouraged posting things that would make you more popular. Whereas my only interest in using Tumblr was--and still is--simply to create a handy record of whatever interests me, including the interests of others whose interests interest me. How interesting!

But I'm glad to say that Tumblarity vanished some months ago, and Tumblr remains a useful, enjoyable tool.

#6 Cunningham

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Posted 04 July 2010 - 04:25 PM

I've got one, btw. http://2ndstory.tumblr.com

#7 Darryl A. Armstrong

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Posted 12 August 2010 - 12:39 AM

Here I am: http://formulafree.tumblr.com/

#8 du Garbandier

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Posted 12 August 2010 - 10:59 AM

I've changed the title of this thread to a more general one, since the Tumblarity issue is long resolved.

#9 Joel C

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Posted 15 September 2010 - 02:22 PM

Wow. Just started using this (as usual, late to the game), and am really enjoying it. It's everything I wanted twitter to be, and nothing of what I don't like about twitter. It's like a blog without boundaries, which is really appealing to me, especially considering the layout and tools involved. None of the over-saturation of twitter, just simple "likes" and "reposts".

For the record, I find Tumblr to be the perfect hipster online paradigm. It's iconoclastic while still being part of the system, and it appeals to that particular hipster aesthetic. It makes me feel set apart the lowbrow ( ;) ) twitter people, with a faux sense of sophistication. Exactly what I (as a person who classically rejects the hipster label) am looking for.

Just trying to permeate the entire forum with hipster discussion. :)

Edited by Joel C, 15 September 2010 - 03:06 PM.


#10 NBooth

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 08:17 AM

The Millions: Tumblr as a Commonplace Book:

In the case of the commonplace book at least, we have been operating under the assumption that the accumulation of knowledge is a noble enterprise, almost beyond reproach. Nietzsche, naturally, presents the dissenting voice. In “On the Use and Abuse of History for Life,” he writes that information only serves to weigh us down. “In the end modern man drags an immense amount of indigestible knowledge stones around with him, which on occasion rattle around in his belly, as the fairy tale has it.” Within the sphere of Tumblr, this question rears its head as well — do we really need to refresh our Dashboard again to see if Zooey Deschanel or our ex-boyfriend has posted something new? From this Nietzschean point of view, the acquisition of knowledge doesn’t only fail to improve our lives — it makes them more difficult.


[EDIT: I should note that, obviously--if you see the link in my sig--I have no axe to grind against Tumblr. I'm actually more interested in the broader comparison made by the article than in its specific critiques]

Edited by NBooth, 21 March 2012 - 08:22 AM.