Tumble-blogging at Subtraction.com

For the past week or so, I’ve been playing with a slightly different kind of content here at Subtraction.com. This is something I talked about in a recent post in which I rambled on about the state of several different blog tools; I’m now experimenting with Tumblr-style image blogging that in most cases is purely about the image, with only a short line of additional text, if any. Here’s one example. (There are still some kinks to be worked out, so bear with me.)

This might seem unremarkable to regular readers since I already publish short, image-heavy, posts with just a bit of text. On the back-end though, it’s quite different, or at least meaningfully different. With the help of my friend Adam Khan, we’ve customized an ExpressionEngine ‘channel’ that presents a much more succinct publishing interface than the one I normally use. In essence, there are fewer fields to fill out and the fields themselves are physically smaller, which dissuades me from writing at any great length. On top of that, we’ve cooked up a bookmarklet that drives a simple script for grabbing images and auto-populating the forms, so creating a new post when I come across something I like only takes a few clicks.

None of this is novel in the least, as plenty of Web apps already do this much better than what we cooked up in an ad hoc fashion. But it’s long been a struggle for me to post here as regularly as I’d like, especially as my schedule just keeps getting busier and busier, so anything that makes it easier for me is something worth experimenting with. It’s also a useful reminder that interface design does matter — having a simpler, more concise publishing U.I. directly influences the kind of content that gets produced.

To be clear, this does not mean I’m giving up on posting longer pieces of real writing here. I still enjoy that a great deal; it’s just a matter of finding the time. Hopefully this supplemental style of blogging will help fill the void, but if you have any thoughts on how successful — or unsuccessful — it is, please let me know in the comments.



  1. could you give us some context, or themes that you will be posting images about.

    it might help readers decide weather to continue to follow you or not, or even categorize your feed..

    also, you might want to provide separate feeds for photos/writings/both..

  2. I can’t say that I care for them. What I like about Subtraction is the thoughtful writing, and if you can’t produce them on a daily schedule, well, quality can’t be rushed and all good things come to those who wait. I much prefer infrequently updated blogs with high signal to noise ratios.

    You could tag them as tumble pieces or something equivalent, so those who don’t like them can filter them out in their RSS readers.

  3. It’s interesting how the current trends of the web have trained us how to ingest content. Content like the content you have been posting this week works better for me on Tumblr because I have been trained to engage with it differently than I do content on a long-form blog. On Tumblr, I can easily like it and repost it. Here, I just look and move on. It all depends on what you want out of the experience of making these type of posts. Are you interested in sharing this and just leaving it at that? Blog it. Or do you want to share so that others might want to share it too? Put it on Tumblr.

    I miss the days when all we had to worry about was checking Bloglines for what was new. Now we have so many channels that when you cross the streams, it feels weird and clunky.

    At the end of the day, it’s your stream. Do as you see fit. Anyone who stops following you because you want to share some pictures without any the standard long-form commentary that we are all used to is making a mistake.

  4. Tom, Fazal, Spencer: Thanks for the feedback. I have to admit, I’m not entirely comfortable with these new kinds of posts yet. What I’ve been trying to do with them is just add things that strike my fancy and seem to fit comfortably with the Subtraction.com ‘aesthetic,’ whatever that is. My goal is to post more freely, without having to think too much about what is and isn’t appropriate or expected. I just want it to be more fun for myself.

    However, I find that in practice I haven’t been able to post as freely as I do on my Posterous blog. As much as I would like to, I can’t get away from the idea that I’ve created a certain expectation with the content I’ve posted here over the past many years, and to suddenly just turn Subtraction.com into a kind of image bin for anything I like, without squaring it with the editorial approach I’ve used in the past, is… weird.

    Anyway, I’m going to keep fooling with it a bit to see if I get more accustomed to it. We’ll see how it works out. Thanks for bearing with me as I figure this out.

  5. I would just make sure you are not posting the shorter items out of guilt for the lack of longer items, but rather because the shorter items are just a poignant as the longer items.

    Going dark on a blog is harder on the author than it is on the reader.

  6. I’d like to start by saying thank you for all the great writing. I’ve been following your blog for a number of years. I would have to say I visit your site mainly for your “article style” posts on interaction design, the internet, and technology. I find it very insightful and it’s been both a source of inspiration and education for me.

    The shorter Tumbler type posts are nice, but I’m usually looking forward to your longer essays because of the interesting discussions that they generate in the comments and for your take on a topics that I myself am trying to learn about. So in short, I’m not a big fan of your tumblr posts yet.

    Your book on grids for digital design was great by the way, but more on that in a more relevant forum.

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