I have had a Tumblr site for a long time but never knew what to do with it. What is Tumblr exactly? Is it a hosted blog? Is it a hosted blog for hipsters? Is it a social network? Why should I put content into Tumblr?
I have this blog, but I barely use it. I don’t have a Facebook page, because I don’t trust Facebook and how it repeatedly changed and confused privacy settings and after college, I rarely found that Facebook was a net positive in my life. Recently I crossed 1000 followers on Twitter.
I like the sense of control offered by owning where I put content. But the barrier to posting a blog post has always felt high to me. A blog feels somewhat permanent. It’s something I want my current and future employers and friends to read it. It’s a record of ideas that felt worthy of memorializing. I have tried over and over again to lower this perceived barrier to blogging and failed.
At the same time, I find the quick ability to favorite/like, retweet/re-broadcast, and respond on Twitter to be addicting. It is so easy to give feedback and join a conversation. As a result, I’ve probably written more, 140 characters at a time, on Twitter than I ever have on this blog.
For me, Twitter is an ephemeral medium. It is about instant conversation and access. What I dump into Twitter doesn’t have any lasting power, which is why it’s so easy to toss out thoughts. Twitter is my new IRC, not a microblog.
Writing on Twitter in 140 characters often seems to attract the worst in people. It’s not just #gamergate, it’s me. My ideas are more sarcastic, more acerbic, and less well considered because Twitter feels like an off the cuff conversation among friends. But it’s not a conversation among friends. It’s not really even a conversation. It’s a bunch of people shouting at each other in the same room. Twitter is less a late night dorm room debate and more the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Which brings me to Tumblr, a service I think I finally understand. Tumblr is Twitter, but for people who take a breath before shouting. It has the same rich post types that Twitter has implemented through Cards. It has the same ability to magnify posts I find interesting through its reblogging feature. It also has the same ability to send a bit of encouragement and acknowledgement through its hearts. But Tumblr also doesn’t have the limitation of 140 characters, so I can spread my thoughts out just a bit further. And Tumblr does have a reply/conversation mechanism, but it’s just slightly “heavier” feeling than a Twitter reply so I’m less likely to just shoot off my mouth with the first thoughts that come to mind. Though Tumblr is a hosted service, it also has a fairly good API that can be used to export posts and the ability to use a custom URL. I could generate more post types on my Pelican blog, but a self-hosted blog lacks some of the social features that are just fun. And the truth is, do I really want to just put a link to a song I’m listening to right now on my blog? Is that kind of ephemera really worthy of a blog post? Maybe, but that’s not the kind of blog I want.
So I am going back to Tumblr. I have been experimenting for a couple of days and I really like having a place to dump a link or a funny picture. I don’t want Tumblr to host my blog, but I do want Tumblr to eat into some of my Twitter posting. I can easily syndicate Tumblr posts over to Twitter, so why not take a little more space and breathe before deciding it is worth sharing something.
Please follow me on Tumblr. I think it’s going to be really fun.