Reblogging: WordPress.com versus Tumblr

Posted on November 11, 2010

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Many and varied are the praises of WordPress.com, and which I have sung many times. And few and spare are the praises of Tumblr, which can be chanted here:

  • it’s a very useful scrapbooking service, as I’ve pointed out before.
  • it’s easy to use. In fact, if I were to teach blogging to someone who had no original thoughts, and who was both violently OCD and mentally dim, I’d put him on Tumblr without a second thought, and he’d love it. “Look at me, I’m just like a real blogger!” Yes, Timmy. Now shut up and reblog me.
  • Did I say “reblog?”

Reblogging is the function which allows one to automatically quote a snippet of someone’s blog post, with or without image, but WITH attribution. Automatically. How many times have you been toodling around the internet and seen something that sparked a post within you, from which you wanted to take a nice blockquote, image, audio, or video? Plenty, if you’ve been around the internet with your brain turned on for any length of time. Reblogging makes it easy, and ensures you don’t forget to give credit to the site from whence you got the raw material.

Tumblr has, as far as I know, incorporated Reblogging into its platform from the very beginning. At the top of your Tumblr dashboard are your reblogging options:

Tumblr Dashboard, featuring reblogging features at the top, blogs you follow below

Tumblr Dashboard, featuring reblogging features at the top, blogs you follow below

You can (as you can see) reblog text from a post, a photo itself, a quote within a post, a simple link with title, a chat transcript, an audiofile, or video. It’s right there in your face on your dashboard, and there is NO escape. As well, they supply a little Post on Tumblr button for your browser so you can use the features even while surfing around the web. Below, you see all the Tumblr blogs you’re Following, laid out all ready to be reblogged, as you can see with the handy-dandy REBLOG link in the corner. Everything about Tumblr encourages reblogging, and while reblogging Tumblrs is obviously completely optimized, all those various functions are also available anywhere on the web through the Post on Tumblr browser button.

On WordPress.com, the situation is quite different. First of all, the company doesn’t put notices on your dashboard in anything like the in-your-face way Tumblr does, so most bloggers missed or ignored the announcement that reblogging was now possible. Among those who did notice, and cared to read, the option was not initially popular, to say the least.

Matt Himself (I think on WP.com you always have to refer to him as “Matt Himself”) had to close the original thread, which was as pernicious a nest of paranoia as I’ve ever seen on WP.com outside of Poppy’s blog. There were others:

http://en.forums.wordpress.com/topic/reblogging-round-2?replies=38

http://en.forums.wordpress.com/topic/need-help-in-copying-all-my-content?replies=15

http://en.forums.wordpress.com/topic/we-all-like-to-reblog?replies=14

and the long and short of it is, I have no doubt whatsoever that the total number of comments of complaint about the very idea of reblogging outnumbers the number of reblogs on Wp.com by an order of magnitude.

Why hasn’t reblogging caught on here, as opposed to Tumblr? Several reasons, all of them pretty simple.

  1. Few people really know it is even possible.
  2. Several leading thinkers in the forum fell into the “OMG THEFT” camp, possibly because they have more experience with blog scrapers than reblogging; they are for the most part bloggers whose posts are wholly original, not even taking block quotes.
  3. WordPress.com itself has been antithecal to all scraper technology like embedding RSS feeds, and at first glance reblogging looks like a betrayal of that, so the shockwaves were significant.
  4. Before you can Reblog something on WP.com, first you have to Like it, something which wasn’t clarified well in the original announcement; thus, only people who’ve clicked Like will ever even see the option to reblog. In order to see it, they first have to Like a post, which they can only do from their admin bar (thus, it only works on WP.com itself) and then they have to go back to their admin bar and click on Reblog in the dropdown menu. This is non-intuitive, to say the least. One stat I remember is that every time you put something behind a clickthrough, you lose 80% of your people, and everything in my personal experience bears that out.

How can I be so sure that reblogging hasn’t caught on at Wp.com? Well, that’s easy: I tested it.

I blogged this image at Tumblr. It’s a cool image. It’s funny. It’s clever. It’s perfect reblog material (and, in fact, I reblogged it from Pharyngula, who never seems to attribute a damn thing, but that’s a different rant).

To date, it has been reblogged and/or Liked at Tumblr 1798 times in one week.

I reblogged it at WordPress.com, on a blog that gets about 1000 hits a day now (oh, Google, you and me are gonna have it out in a back alley some day). Note that my Tumblr blog is only Followed, ie read by, 130 people, Tumblr having zero SEO. My Tumblr simply NEVER shows up on searches.

To date, it has been reblogged and/or Liked on WordPress.com … once.

Now, theoretically it’s possible that every single WordPress.com blogger saw it on Pharyngula already, but somehow I doubt that.

Conclusion: the reblogging function on WordPress.com is so poorly implemented that its user-unfriendliness virtually assures it will never become popular, much less contribute to knitting the community more tightly together, as was presumably its intended social function.

Suggestions:

  • Remove the requirement to Like a post first. You’re just trying to pump up your Like numbers.
  • Include Reblog On WordPress in the Share options, and in the ShareDaddy plugin
  • Include more features, such as reblogging videos or highlighted portions of posts, rather than just the first 75 words. That is insufficiently customizable to be useful.
  • Make it visible from the Blog Surfer part of the dashboard, right there beside the New Post button.
  • Ditto all of the above for the Press This Bookmarklet, whose primitive nature is almost laughable in the face of what Tumblr’s button can do. Come on, it’s 2010, let’s update the damn thing!