The New Who Thing

TumblrThe micro-blogging service Tumblr is among the most impressive startups I’ve seen rise in popularity over the past few years and yet when I look at it, I’m filled with ambivalence. On the one hand, it makes me mad as heck because I feel a sense of personal failure for not having thought of it. Its essential formula is so obvious as to be nearly banal: make the act of blogging absurdly simple. Not ‘make the act of blogging simpler,’ or even ‘much, much simpler,’ but rather ‘make the act of blogging as absurdly simple as it can possibly be made.’

And in the execution of this idea, there is great beauty. Throughout, Tumblr is intoxicatingly easy to use, to peruse and to participate in. A surprisingly high percentage of its templates are uncommonly attractive, thoughtfully assembled and worthwhile. And the gentle, effortless satisfaction of its “reblog” feature is a milestone in interaction design. In fact, I’d go so far as to say Tumblr’s central innovation is its design. The technology is relatively mundane, with seemingly very little of it being particularly new or interesting. Nevertheless, it weaves these pieces together into a transcendently superb user experience. More than nearly any other new venture in recent memory, Tumblr seems like one of the great new design companies.


Identity Crisis

As much as I admire it, though, I can’t bring myself to use it. Partly this is because one of its key ideas, the conspicuous omission of comments, is a deal breaker for me. I really value the comments that I get here on Subtraction.com and can’t imagine blogging without the continually rewarding intimacy of that feedback loop. I also have some dispute with the way Tumblr handles image-only posts, repeating the text in the body of the post as its title — my RSS reader is riddled with these kinds of duplicative entries from image-heavy Tumblr blogs.

Those are relatively minor quibbles though. My biggest complaint, by far, has bothered me for some time but has taken me only until recently to put my finger on. Tumblr discourages identity. Or, to be more specific, it promotes shallow identity. Moreso than other blogging systems like WordPress or ExpressionEngine, Tumblr blogs frequently offer only scant few details about their authors. I can’t recall how many Tumblr sites I’ve visited where it wasn’t clear who was behind the posts, what their background was, or what their intent was. Many of these sites are artful, well designed and are actually quite engaging, but I guess I’m old fashioned in that I like to know who’s behind them.

Who Did This?

Everyone praises the power of anonymity that the Internet makes possible, and I’m firmly in that camp. At the same time, I prefer it when people use their real identities. It just makes for a better experience. When you post or contribute anything online and you use your real name, and you provide authentic details about your station in life or your passions, it works as a multiplier of the value of your contribution — and for the richness of the network, too.

That’s what was so compelling, I think, about the first few waves of blogs. By and large, they weren’t just venues for the publication of content. They also served as outposts for your identity, a representation of who you were on the World Wide Web. By contrast, Tumblr blogs often seem more like something dishonest — well, dishonest is too strong a word. But when I browse through many of these tumblelogs, they feel as if their authors are trying to get away with something, trying to sneak something past somebody. There’s a sense of evasiveness, or vagueness, of no one really standing behind what’s been published, or no one being sufficiently committed to the content to offer up their name.

Before readers here post vociferous defenses of this approach, let me clear, I don’t think that Tumblr’s dynamic of shallow identity is wrong. In fact, in the grand scheme of things, the highly fungible nature of identity that Tumblr makes possible is a welcome ballast against the deeper identity dynamic that Facebook makes possible — or that Facebook makes inevitable, depending on how you look at it. The Tumblr approach is much more tolerant of ambiguity, of irony and artfulness, and that’s a good thing. I only wish that particular quality was also a bit more conducive to its users putting forward their real identities. Still, that doesn’t mean I’m still not jealous as heck I didn’t come up with the whole thing.

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  1. agree with all your points, across the board. i came from the world of wordpress and now run my blog on tumblr. their expert design restraint helped me actually move past the block that, i believe, wp’s ui contributed to. half-finished drafts became posts and life moved forward.

    as the platform and user-base matures, i hope we’ll see them address the issues you outline, but, maybe we won’t. they don’t make it conducive to enable comments (i.e. disqus) or identity out-of-the-box but it’s there. for the people, like us, that want to make those changes – the additions are easy for our “level” of expertise. i think that omission on tumblr’s part caters to the varying types of users they have. folks who aren’t comfortable with identity or managing comments – literally this being their first blog, to folks like us who go pro all the time. platforms like wordpress level the playing field for all users but – to your point – that isn’t always a good thing when most users don’t know how to play.

  2. I’m using Tumblr, and I have comments through DISQUS and I actually prefer it now, especially since I now experience far less spam comments. Also it makes it fairly easy for people to respond to your post through twitter.

    I have used wordpress some, and blogger. So far I am really enjoying blogging with Tumblr the best. At the same time it is because it perfectly suites the way I use the internet.

  3. The identity crisis is certainly the biggest problem with Tumblr in my opinion. Just because many of us had already owned blogs and websites before the platform came along.

    It is more than a blogging platform, so you feel compelled to join in and post stuff. I have just switched over to Tumblr completely as a way of fixing this, but I agree with many of your points.

  4. It’s an interesting observation about the identity crisis issue. The first thing I do on any blog is check the “about” info, and you’re absolutely right that very few Tumblogs have any identification at all.

    But I’ve been seeing more and more professional-type uses of tumblr, complete with designs that incorporate more ‘about’-type info. The best example of which that I can think of off the top of my head is Dan Cederholm’s: link.

  5. The best blogs I read are still non-Tumblr. Most of the tumblogs are fun to read, but that’s the thing: they are fun. Period. They are not about deep analysis of stuff, they are just randomly reblogged funny stuff from elsewhere. That’s cool – but that’s not what makes me evolve as a human being. Self-hosted blogs are maintained by people who are willing to give their true identity, who are willing to deeply think before pressing the Publish button. Which is kinda rare these days.

  6. “Tumblr discourages identity. Or, to be more specific, it promotes shallow identity”

    I agree. I guess the trick is to embrace that shallowness rather than be a curmudgeon. At least if you want to figure out how you can use the web service to read the moment…

    My partner and I had a tumblr that we used from fall 2007 through this spring and we just kind of lost interest in the platform. In my opinion the site has marginally more depth than FFFFOUND!, and the fosters the same cavalier attitude towards attribution. The reblog button is genius, but it is not that different then the “dumb grunt” of the Facebook ‘like’ button. Also, what could be more banal of a list of “_____ liked this” underneath a post?

    Don’t get me wrong, there are neat people doing interesting things on tumblr — I’m just wondering if the limited functionality imposes a low ceiling on users. My peer Nav is quite into tumblr for nurturing obtuse blogging projects that parse/scan high and low culture. He gave a talk on the service to a class that I’m teaching last week and most of his talk was about irony. I’m not really sure what to think though — but I’ll definitely keep paying attention.

  7. Really interesting take, especially the “shallow identity” part. I think that hooks into your argument of “design is their innovation” too.

    What you see as a turn-off about Tumblr users’ “shallowness” of identity as expressed on their blogs, I see as a design feature. Tumblrs to me are more transparently about the sensual/aesthetic appeal of their content than about the personality or bonafides of their creators, which all too often (in my experience) quickly becomes a CULT of personality. What little overt representation of the “identity” behind the Tumblr there is, is usually expressed most prominently through the design and content… which I find preferable. If a person’s character is primarily the aggregate of their actions (or in online terms, the things they deem worthy of their attention by Tumbl-ing), I think Tumblrs can often be a MORE transparent portrait of the author than a blog.

    Tumblrs show you a thin slice of a personality, expressed transparently through content and design — it’s more vivid than the more smeared-out-and-holistic-but-fuzzier “portrait” of a person through a traditional blog. Or another analogy: a blog is like getting to know a person at a party they’re hosting, by talking to them with a group; a Tumblr is like getting to know that person by looking at their bookshelf, or record collection, or how they decorate their apartment. I often find the latter more illuminating, or at least more interesting.

  8. Interesting post – I’ve only just really come across Tumblr in the sense that I knew it existed but only have recently started to explore it.

    I think that its simplicity is beneficial, I’m in the process of setting it up as a simple portfolio, and it does have its restrictions, but like your post mentioned, Tumblr is a good way of creating a (temporary) identity albeit a shallow one.

    Just with regards to your comments about lack of identity, I see where you are coming from, but Tumblr has the ability now (and has for a while) to add static pages, which give the viewer a chance to view the blogger/contributors profile. Whether static pages are set up though is obviously at the contributors discretion. I think the lack of creating an ‘about’ page is at the bloggers/contributors own peril.

  9. I think John Mayer, of all people, said it best:

    “I love reading other Tumblr users replies, because they’re thoughtful by virtue of the fact that if they’re not, they’ll bring the intellectual property value of their own blog down, and that’s a commodity on Tumblr.”

    Link

    I interpret this as meaning that the *content* of a tumblelog–what a person decides to share–is really the best hint at their identify. This isn’t always true, but for people like us (you and your audience) who are using our blogs as mental outlets, it’s certainly more useful than the usual book jacket copy.

    Tumblr is like Twitter in that regard–on Twitter you get a photo and a 160-character “Bio” to set the scene, and all the rest comes from what you’re actually saying. In fact, describing Tumblr as sort of a stretched-out Twitter wouldn’t be inaccurate at all, I think.

  10. That’s so interesting John, because I don’t see Twitter and Tumblr being particularly similar to one another at all. Of course they both represent the democratization of blogging; they’re significantly easier than the first stage of blogging represented by WordPress, Blogger, Movable Type, etc., and so more people can do them.

    But it’s kind of hard to be create any kind of sustained following on Twitter unless you project a clear worldview. Granted, you don’t necessarily need to be using your real identity, and many successful Twitter users work under pen names. But even in those cases, people follow them because they project a clear, consistent worldview. It’s not just an aggregation of random bits of content, it’s a consistent voice that followers understand and derive some value from. Almost all Twitter accounts are explicit about their intentions, even if they don’t use their real identities.

    For me, that just doesn’t seem to be the case with Tumblr, in the ways that I describe in my post. That said, one thing I didn’t include in my post is the fact that plenty of people do in fact use Tumblr to project clear, consistent worldviews — and they use their real identities. John Mayer being one of them. I still don’t really like his music, though.

  11. Being a WordPress user for quite some time, I’ve come to love Tumblr as a high-quality blogging service. Their main kicker for me, is their social backdrop, the whole idea of being able to follow blogs in a simple way, unlike WordPress where blogs are made to fend for themselves — likely to cause a trickle of content viewers.

  12. You make some great points, Khoi. And thank you for the kind words about Tumblr. I ask that you consider two things:

    First, Tumblr as a publishing platform is very different from Tumblr’s community features. Many people use one, but not the other, because they both stand strongly on their own (in my admittedly biased opinion). It sounds like you’re choosing not to use the publishing platform because you disagree with some of our choices for the community features, which doesn’t necessarily need to impact your use of Tumblr.

    Second, Tumblr is very big and contains many small and large communities, but there is no single unified or dominant “Tumblr community”. People sometimes misattribute the behaviors or trends in one relatively small group of users to a perceived singular Tumblr community because that’s the group that they’ve found first or chosen to follow. We still have a lot of potential for improving discovery (and we are), so I can’t blame anyone for making this mistake. But keep it in mind.

    To your core point, there are a lot of people who don’t use real identities on Tumblr, but that’s true of the internet at large. Most internet users still don’t publish on their own sites. Many are still understandably uncomfortable having their names and thoughts published to the world and archived in search engines indefinitely. And there are a lot more of those people than the few, like you and me, who are willing to accept the risks and attach our names to what we do.

    I’d rather have someone on Tumblr anonymously than not blogging at all.

    And I don’t think anyone else’s anonymity needs to affect our use under our real names.

    Thanks again for the post. I’m curious to read your thoughts on this if you get the time.

  13. I don’t know, most of the negatives in this article I see as a plus. The personal reason I chose tumblr over wordpress was how incredibly easy it is to skin and customize your blog. I don’t have to go out and buy a book or read the forever long doc articles over at wordpress to build a basic page. All you need to know is html & css and how to implement any special javascript functionality (plugins, scripts, etc).

    And as far as identity, like a previous commenter said, you have the ability to create static pages based off your template design or entirely custom. I mean, I’m not saying the possibilities are endless, but for that specific case, you can do what you want. Also You can just write it into your page design or use their description box in the customize admin panel. Branding yourself, revealing your identity and any personal information is entirely dependent upon the user. So maybe that says more about the people using tumblr than the limitations of the platform itself. I dunno. That would just seem like a general complaint about types of bloggers instead of just tumblr bloggers.

    Also, the question of the dashboard. Yes, I agree there are attribution issues, and a lot of light, shallow blogs. But there are a lot of original content/resource/article driven blogs as well. Tumblr has the versatility for us to choose how we use it. Once again, WE decide how we’re speaking to our audience. I follow the goofy blogs and the article driven blogs on tumblr. I don’t have a problem going over the content in my dashboard. I read a lot more content than I would if I were bookmarking each of these blogs individually or using an rss reader. I have no qualms with the dashboard. It’s seriously the first thing I check every morning: the latest web design tutorial, article discussing film makers hatred of 3D movies, new typefaces that are out, latest jquery plugins, critiques of blogging platforms (that’s how I found this article).

    Anyway, I wasn’t seeing enough of a defense for tumblr’s side & the people who generally use it so I thought I would say something. Great article by the way. Creates an awesome dialogue. And for the record there are some points I agree on, but obviously I have some disagreements on the general point of the article. This platform most definitely need improvements in multiple areas, such as attribution in the dashboard, their likes system (can be buggy), and their reply & commenting (or lack thereof ) implementations. But it is a powerful blogging platform with a light interface that give the user more control without the pain of using third party plugins. But that’s my 2 cents.

  14. In case it helps: Tumblr’s Customize area, where you can change your site’s settings and pick a theme, offers a “description” box for the typical profile information. Some themes are not designed to display this description area, but I believe the vast majority are. If people are not filling this information in, that’s probably more of a decision on the blogger’s part.

    Tumblr also supports comments via Disqus, which I’m personally pretty happy with (you just add your Disqus site name in the Customize panel). Granted, it’s an external, third-party service, and not all Tumblr themes are designed to incorporate it. But I actually prefer Disqus over the built-in comment systems for most incumbents like WordPress and Blogger because they offer much better community self-policing and praise features. You can allow users to sign in with things like their Twitter, Facebook, or OpenID profiles, and customize a good handful of moderation features so that users can help police the bad apples out of the discussion.

  15. Yea David, good point. I forgot to mention the disqus thing. I prefer it too. Also it’s free. That’s kinda a biggie. You don’t have to pay extra to have access to editing the css/html.

    One negative thing though I forgot to talk about too however is the limited rich text editor. I would like about 10 times the functionality than it has now. And an option on every post type for uploading photos from your computer, not just the text post. But seriously that is really my ONLY major complaint.

  16. I joined Tumblr a long time ago, but I had the same thoughts and never used it seriously. After Authentic Boredom and SimpleBits changed to using Tumblr, I decided to give it another shot. I had given up blogging before, because it simply wasn’t as easy as I’d like it to be. I have used various CMSs like WordPress, Textpattern, Symphony, but Tumblr is amazingly easy. The different post types makes it so much easier to template (and there’s only 1 template page) and the bookmarklet makes posting a breeze. I actually don’t follow anyone except a couple of my real-life friends. I just see it as a good hosted blog solution.

    The like/reblog feature is nice, but I still don’t feel that much of a community. It’s not that intuitive or easy to find other blogs on Tumblr. I would like to see Tumblr offer suggestions for high quality blogs based off of what you yourself post.

    BTW your comment form refuses to work in Safari. Had to post this from Firefox.

  17. Interesting take. I see your point, but it’s something I hadn’t thought much about simply because I *do* see my Tumblr-powered blog as a projection of (parts of) who I am. I post links and even the occasional photo, but–for better or worse–the style is pretty much in my voice, and it’s not very anonymous at all.

    I think what makes Tumblr nearly unique is that it’s so easy to get going that it’s very easy for someone to remain anonymous there–a few clicks and you’re immediately ready to start throwing crap on the web. No other full-featured blogging service really comes close to that. I think that’s the main way that Tumblr is like Twitter, by the by: they’re both as close to “pick a name and start sharing” as you can probably get.

  18. In a sense, the platform is designed to let people control their public-facing online identities very quickly. I’m pretty sure that this was one of the early intents of the site: allowing people to quickly set up a blog that highlights their own self-contructed personalities via simple-to-create content. Sure, this isn’t the deep facebookish sort of identity or an identity constructed by content created by others, but there is something refreshing about this element of aesthetic control.

    I’m always surprised by the comments about Tumblr’s lack of attribution. The bookmarklet features almost always pre-includes a link to the original source and reblogging typically keeps the chain of creation intact through links.

    It’s also worth mentioning that I don’t think that you’ve really given Tumblr a chance if you haven’t signed up for an account and followed your favorite blogs through the Dashboard. Once you’re “behind the scenes” the identity issues change a lot. It’s a beautiful publishing solution regardless, but the interactions behind the scenes add a lot of stickiness to the community.

  19. It’s not just that Tumblr doesn’t have comments—it’s that the list of likes and reblogs essentially sends the message “oh, we’re only interested in what other Tumblr users have to say. No one else counts.” Which is rather different from just not having comments at all. It’s quite cliquish—and I think the comment from Joshua Bis supports that; he’s essentially saying you’ll appreciate it more from within the clique.

    Although, Mr Vinh, I would urge you to separate real names from your notion of deep identity. A segment of the academic blogosphere has a strong tradition of pseudonymity, in which people provide many many authentic details about their position and their passions. They may be personas disconnected from a real name, but people do stand behind what they post. If anything, google-proofing a blog enables one to be more authentic.

    To the other commenters—Wordpress.com is pretty much pick a name and start blogging in 5 minutes, and doesn’t require knowing any html or css or anything. I haven’t tried Tumblr, but so far, no one has offered any details that make me think WP.com is any more complicated. However, it does create an About page for all blogs, and I think that default expectation that the blogger use an About page makes a difference.

  20. The first time I took a serious look at Tumblr was when I learned that Dan Cederholm, had ported his site, simplebits.com from WordPress to Tumblr.

    In his post explaining why he was switching to Tumblr he stated that he no longer had the time to regularly redesign his site, that he disliked comments and that he no longer had the passion or time for the “long form” writing of a traditional weblog.

    Andy Budd said something similiar about switching to Tumblr. In his case he felt that web designers had less to rail about online now that table-less, standards based design is more the norm now. He stated that short posts with links and videos was what he was interested in now.

    Reading these two reasons for switching to Tumblr was like learning that a famous artist was going to stop producing new works and start teaching art appreciation classes instead – because it was more time efficient.

    Tumblr’s emphasis on superficiality and anonymity has a potentially corrupting effect on those transitioning from more traditional weblogs. What we need is good content not links linking to other links.

  21. The idea is to curate and be keep a record. I like Tumblr, and use it, but it’s setup in this weird way that you can look at a lot of people, but not talk to them directly. It’s very psychological if you buy into the culture.

  22. A thought-provoking read, Khoi.

    I agree that including information about the author of a piece of online content adds to its value. I wrote my own piece on online identity and anonymity a few months back, in which I’m really making the same point you are when you talk about “no one being sufficiently committed to the content to offer up their name.”

    I find a lot of great stuff on Tumblr—like you, through various RSS feeds and some general browsing—but at the same time those feeds seem almost throwaway; like they could have been published by an automated service or bot. There’s no sense of uniqueness, because the vast majority of posters don’t even attempt to stamp their personality on the posts by adding any personal commentary on the subject.

    Some commenters above have said that they feel their Tumblr is an extension of their personality, but I find it impossible to connect with that personality without at least some idea of who the author is.

  23. In the dozen years that I’ve been blogging, I moved from manual updates to Blogger to WordPress to Tumblr.

    I can make a WP instance just as anonymous as any Tumblr. The thing keeping people from doing this is the relative complexity of the task (and, perhaps even more so, the complexity of the WP back-end itself).

    So I don’t think WordPress discourages anonymous blogging — it discourages blogging period. WP has a higher barrier to entry, and on the internet you might as well replace ‘higher barrier to entry’ with ‘game over.’

  24. Khoi, when you say that early blogs “weren’t just venues for the publication of content”, but “outposts for your identity, a representation of who you were on the World Wide Web”, I think you’re being a bit loose with the history.

    If you look at Rebecca Blood’s archive for August 1999, it’s much more Tumblr-esque than what most people consider a “traditional” blog these days. (The distinction is between original and shared content, not text and images.) Likewise, Robot Wisdom, Bifurcated Rivets and many others on this list. A curatorial voice is present, but heavily muted. There’s no place to leave comments.

    What distinguished those early blogs from the sites that immediately preceded them — Derek Powazek’s Fray, the late Leslie Harpold’s work, etc. — was that they were considerably less personal in nature, by having that emphasis on links, with self-expression primarily in relation to those links.

    So I’m going to play contrarian on this. Tumblr has a definite attraction for people on the other side of the blogging curve, either ratcheting back the amount of themselves that’s wrapped up in their online presence or unconcerned with establishing such a thing. It’s for playing with the stuff of the web.

    I don’t regard Tumblr sites as evasive or deceptive, nor do I think their typical mode superficial or corrupting — rather, they seem to me more in keeping with the historic spirit of the web than having one’s “online outpost” on Facebook or some other mainstream SNS. Tumblr’s muted voice has precedent, and that precedent is the weblog itself.

  25. With a bit of knowledge, you can add identity information in easily. You can easily make pages that are linked into the main navigation, so there’s no reason not to have a page with your whole life history, pictures of your kids and social security number. If you wanted. I much prefer this to the Facebook approach of practically demanding personal information.

    I think your image post/title problem can be fixed by tweaking the template. Most image blogs probably do this deliberately for a SEO boost.

  26. With respect to identity I disagree about a readers need to know the blogger.

    Do you enjoy the content of the tumblr blogs you read?

    Content is king.

    How is stated marital status, pets, geographical location, political views, or favorite color relevant? I form my own opinions based on what is written by the blogger, not how they describe themselves. Period.

  27. I think we know that Tumblr is on to something when others start putting it down for what it doesn’t do – or attempt to do – rather than recognize why it fits in the current social platform offering. Much akin to “Twitter ONLY let’s you write in 140 characters” as if that was a flaw in the early days of the platform’s life.

    I used Twitter actively for a year, and have been fairly quiet with my tweets in the last year. Even today, I try to jump in and out of the stream and see if the conversation is evolving but it’s not. It’s still all about personal branding and an unusual amount of self-promotion of blog posts that take the liberty to throw around words like “MUST”, “BEST”, “EVERY”, “AUTHORITY”, and other intimidating adjectives in their title by faceless self-aggrandizing bloggers.

    Tumblr rids us of that. It’s not about followers or friends – only you can see how many people follow you. It’s about creating or at least finding/displaying good content. Sometimes that’s fun, sometimes it’s insightful, sometimes it blows me away… and when it does I usually follow that person. Over time I get to know them, or at least know they’re voice and their interests, through the content that they put out.

    If you want to put a face to the name go to a Tumblr meetup or ask that person a question (a Tumblr feature). Once in a while the community will filter someone up to the top, so much so that they’re getting book, tv shows, or even jobs because of they’re efforts.

    It’s nice to have Tumblr to find content that you feel connected to. On Facebook I have my friends, who simply don’t always like what I like and say the most mundane things as status updates. On Twitter I get a whole bunch of links and only once in a while come across a gem. Most of the time, Tweets feel like they’re shouting at me – that every word is trying to make me feel that I need to be doing something I’m not already doing and that the Tweeter is the one I should be listening to.

    Tumblr’s nicer than that. It’s calm and lazy, relationships occur over time, everyone you relate to is like minded, and it’s simply fun. I couldn’t careless about the identity of the person behind the Tumblr – then I’d have to judge them like all their Twitter and Facebook friends do.

  28. Some people have mentioned Disqus already, and no, it’s not the easiest thing to integrate manually, but there are themes available which try to make this as easy as possible, just set your Disqus name and there it is.

    (Note: I haven’t read through all the other comments made so I may touch on the same points. For reference, I used to host my own WordPress site before I migrated to Tumblr)

    As for what you said about identity, I find you can get as much anonymity and user ambiguity with Tumblr as you can with WordPress, LiveJournal or any other free and hosted blogging service. Some sites on platforms which have ‘about’ info are as bare as ones that don’t offer it.

    On the other hand, people who host their own blogging platform are probably also less likely to hide behind some avatar or alternate persona. The easier it is for people to jack into whatever new flavour of web that comes along, the more likely you’re going to get trolls or faceless voices because it’s just more accessible. The same goes for most things in society really.

    As you say, this isn’t necessarily all negative, but it isn’t unique to Tumblr either.

    Added note, I also understand wanting to know more about people whose contributions you read, to understand their context and whatnot. I feel that way too. Then again, this is coming from a person posting a comment not with their full real name, though it is a name I will answer to in real life.

    But as someone else has said, my identity is in my posts. It may not be 100% original content, but I think it is an accurate representation of who I am, the kinds of things that interest me and what I am passionate about. Just because my legal name isn’t on the blog doesn’t mean it isn’t me (hm potential existential dilemma). I think the same thing goes for many other bloggers regardless of the platform.

    Also, the ‘like’ button might be banal, but for those who don’t enable comments or replies it a provides a basic level of communication which, for me, represents the following: Link.

  29. Yeah, I find Tumblr very superficial and a very poor platform. For starters, the anti-comments portion always pisses me off. Greg J. Smith brought up a good point- only the tumblr uses can “like” a post. No discussion about the content. No opposite views. Sites without comments restrict the world view of the author and the reader. I’ve pretty much stopped reading any site without comments, including Marco and Derek, (except for Gruber because his content is so good it overrides the lack of comments).

  30. Tumblr’s dashboard should be what Lookwork.com is, but currently it’s hideous, and I avoid using it. Otherwise, I enjoy using Tumblr for two blogs.

    Speaking of, thanks for posting about Field Mic. It’s greatly appreciated.

  31. I’ve read through all the comments here and find this discussion very interesting.

    I have two blogs on two different subjects: one that started in WordPress and then migrated to self-hosting and another that is on Tumblr. The Tumblr blog is only a month old and I’m enjoying the platform. Posting is so much faster and quicker than WordPress, and I like that there is a built-in community. I can post about a topic and then search all of Tumblr for other posts on the topic, thereby easily connecting with others who share the same interests as me.

    The downsides of Tumblr have been mentioned here. Anonymity is a downside for me, as I prefer to connect with bloggers I follow on a more personal level. For example, I’m much more likely to read a blog consistently if the author publishes pictures of her or himself. Another downside is the lack of comments built-in. Comments are the most exciting part of on my self-hosted blog.

    Some here mentioned that content is king, and therefore personal anonymity is not a problem. In my experience, the anonymity issue is also a content issue. So many Tumblr blogs I come across consist almost entirely of re-blogs. That’s really boring and I get excited when I find the rare user who posts her own photos or writes substantive posts.

    All of these issues are easy to get around for those who want to create a more sophisticated blog using Tumblr. I put my identity out there in the sidebar and in a separate “About” page. I only post my own original content and never “reblog.” I easily inserted Disqus onto my site. However, it’s odd how that creates a separation between Tumblr users and non-Tumbler users: the former are listed above the Disqus comments, with their “likes,” “reblogs” and “replies.” I think Tumblr will keep improving as more people – adults – begin using the platform to create substantive blogs. The potential is there.

  32. I agree with Tumblr’s lack of easy commenting (without bulky plug-ins like Disqus) to be a considerable deal breaker for me, too. While I’m sure you’ve had to deal with nonsense commenting at times, you’ve mentioned in this post that you value our feedback. There have been so many times that I’ve wanted to comment on Liz’s blog, but am unable to because Bobulate is on Tumblr.

  33. I’m a geek and even so, tumblr wins hands down for getting a blog up and running, fast.

    You sound like the guys who complained that blogs ruined the “community feel” of BBS’.

    “Knowing who someone is” matters if you’re a politico blogger. Otherwise, I just don’t care. Maybe that makes me “new-fashioned.”

    I have professional and personal reasons for not wanting my personal blogs and my other web stuff linked easily, and loathe Facebook for just that reason. But I’m sure I’m not the only one. Ex., law enforcement and other types are routinely advised NOT to put recognizable identity stuff online.

    If you want to do a content-heavy site, you can. If the blogger wants comment functionality, they can have it.
    I just don’t understand the problem, I guess.

  34. About the shallow identity issue:

    I see many people on Tumblr post things that are much more personal and intimate than what more mainstream bloggers write about. The audience is really only intended to be for friends, and these friends generally know the identity of the author.

  35. I think Tumblr works precisely because it’s easy, elegant and focused on content. The content that people post on Tumblr is remarkably personal and tells you much more about the personality or preferences of the blogger than a Name or profile photo can. It links people together intrinsically where other platforms cannot; with Likes and Reblogs. Tumblr is about context. People reblog and add comments to content to thread conversations or simply add their own take while maintaining attention to the original subject (art, photos, quotes, videos) and promoting these in a viral way. Adding a discussion layer with Disqus, friendfeed or formspring unleashes conversations, giving the author and audience a potentially unique way to connect about content they both care about.

  36. In short, Tumblr is a throw-back to what blogging should be. A web journal designed by the author for some community about ______. Tumblr enables this beautifully with it’s what you need and none of what you don’t want approach. I recently helped a non-tech blue-collar friend start a blog. He wanted to create an extremely personal blog but remain anonymous. He wanted to connect to others like him but carefully build his “web identity” as we blog nerds call it. I laid out the pros and cons of WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr and others. Guess which one he chose?

  37. I quite like Tumblr’s usability. When I started a wordpress blog, it took me some time to find out where the options were but on the other hand Tumblr UI was much simpler and elegant. The best part of tumblr is the ease of management using a phone.
    The only issue I see with Tumblr is that archiving is very troublesome