I didn’t really get Tumblr for the longest time. I originally signed up for it who-knows-how-long-ago, but never really started making use of it. I didn’t think of it as anything more than an odd blogging platform with an overfriendly interface.
A big factor is certainly my reluctance to use a service I don’t myself host or have complete control over. This comes from my background in Open Source – or at least my interest in it over the years. And I still think it’s a fabulous philosophy. But lately, I’ve been more and more interested in “cloud services,” meaning stuff that other people keep up and running, updated and tuned, so that I can just make use of it. It leaves time for me to do more work that I enjoy, plain and simple.
Tumblr is often called a “micro-blogging” platform, and it’s easy to see why that is so. It’s very easy to get started, and choosing what “type” of post you’re going to add beforehand – photo or video or quote or text or whatever – often makes more sense. The interface you see when you’re posting something can be much simpler. If, for example, we know you’re just writing a text post, we don’t need to show you the whole user interface for uploading graphics, separate text areas for different bits of information, and so on. This also encourages shorter bits of writing, somewhere in-between Twitter and a full-fledged blog.
But add in to that the fact that it’s a “community,” and you can follow and favorite other blogs, which is very reminiscent of Twitter. And you can easily set up basic sharing with Twitter and Facebook, which is kind of like a social network. And you can actually write lengthy and complex posts or even full pages, which covers the ground most blogging platforms work with quite nicely.
And there’s more. The ability to revise and schedule posts is something I appreciate and have grown quite accustomed to, but add in the ability to set up a “queue” of posts, to be sent out at regular intervals, and you have a much looser and nicer way of keeping your content going out at a good pace. The interface for all of these features is nice.
There’s a lot missing. You can’t “comment” per se, on a post, but you can set up Disqus, a third party solution, to accomplish much the same thing. You can’t set up “categories” but you can use tags. You can’t customize the post types, as with newer versions of WordPress. Uploading files that aren’t for use as pictures or videos is mystifyingly cumbersome.
But perhaps my favorite Tumblr feature is just that it’s simple. It’s effortless to get your idea down quickly. And this encourages me to draft more posts, and just leave them in there as reminders to be finished. Most other blogging platforms do this fine, but none make the whole process so simple. And unless it’s as simple as it can possibly be, I just won’t do it. There’s too much inertia.
Already, using Tumblr has encouraged me to write a lot more. Because it encourages simple, short posts, rather than lengthier essays, it’s less intimidating. I see other peoples’ posts right along with mine when I first log in, so I feel like I’m writing in a community, with built-in audience members. It’s a completely different feeling from logging into a control panel for blogging software, even the more social ones out there.
If you’re not already using Tumblr, I suggest you get started. You can just start drafting a few ideas, without having to make anything public until you’re ready to. And it will give you a chance to grab the username you want before anybody else does. A good thing to think about, with up-and-coming social services.