Tumblr Reconsidered

Posted on March 4, 2009




Tumblr is unquestionably the easiest-to-use blogging platform, but it is as limited as it is easy: comments, widgets, and other basic blogging features cannot be added without editing the blog code, which essentially nullifies the easy-to-useness. Consequently, I couldn’t think of a use for Tumblr except as a very basic introduction to blogging for people with anger management issues (no comments = no drama) and OCD (no ability to tweak means no obsessing about making the periods rounder). I did register http://raincoaster.tumblr.com, at first as a fitness diary, later as a place to cross-post Lolebrity, but basically allowed it to gather dust for the past few months.

That’s all changed. I’ve found a new reason to use Tumblr, considerably outside its original purpose, which was basically a Livejournal for hipsters in the NYC media circle. Social media platforms seem not to come into their own until the public adapts them for purposes their inventors never anticipated; Twitter is the best example of this. It simply didn’t achieve any heat outside techie circles until it became a platform for conversations, which was not something in the original plan at all. And what’s the use I’ve found for Tumblr?

Tumblr is the world’s best web scrapbooking service.

That may not sound like much, but it’s huge. We all have things we’d like to get back to sometime, just not right now. If you’re on the web and you use the Share on Tumblr button that Tumblr provides as a Firefox add-on, you can instantly bookmark the site you’re looking at, adding comments if you wish. Over time, your tumblr becomes a repository of notes on a particular theme or group of themes, adding an additional dimension to your online presence. Academics may use this to bookmark papers, entertainers to bookmark venues or gigs, bloggers to corral blog fodder for future reuse.

While there are many existing bookmarking services, del.icio.us being the best-known, Tumblr’s great advantage is its accessibility, both in terms of reading and writing. A Tumblr is itself a kind of blog, and so it makes sense to the reader as a web browsing experience in and of itself, which other bookmarking sites do not.

Having given the Wiki a turn around the block, I have to say that unless you’re running a site for a specific, and emotionally invested, group, a Tumblr may be a better addition than a Wiki to collect resources. It’s far easier to post to, and easier to read as well.