I’ve had a tumblr blog since 2007—well before it was cool :)—but never really used it. As I got more into ds106 and creating stuff on the web the design culture coming out of tumblr kept coming on my radar through blogs I follow, links on twitter, student work, etc. Not to mention the PSU blog creation crew of Brak Kozlek and Cole Camplese went all-in on tumblr, seeing WordPress as a bit bloated for quickly posting lifebits.
I think Bryan Alexander turned me onto a blogger on tumblr called Sarkos who is exceptionally good, with constant flow of compelling and interesting stuff. And of course the amazing De La Soul’s First Serve tumblr. Long story short, I recently starting using tumblr as a space where I post images, video, animated GIFs that I see on the web and want to save somewhere. And while my uses is somewhat pedestrian, I love how the dashboard is designed to simply show you what the people you follow post. That’s a feature that I think would be amazing for a course, especially if the aggregation was that seamlessly filtered and streamlined. In fact, streamlining syndicating is one of the course elements to making aggregation models like this smoother when approaching faculty and students.
But all that said the problem with tumblr—or maybe its the genius, I don’t know—is the context. You never really know who posted what, who re-blogged what, who is sharing what. I love this platform for promotion, but it gets tricky for attribution. What’s more, the simplified interface makes adding titles, tags, categories and other assorted metadata less likely. I imported 60 posts from my Tumblr blog into a WordPress blog on UMW Blogs to see how that works (the Stumblr theme is nice, thanks D’Arcy!), and it’s interesting how there’s no information available about any of the posts in the WP interface. Take a look at the last 20 posts I imported:
Absolutely nothing to search for or organize by when I import it from tumblr, which is distressing. Add to that, at least on UMW Blogs, the video links get lost in the import, leaving me with about 10 dead posts with no trace of the original YouTube link. I like a lot of things about tumblr—particularly the way it creates loose community and allows for quick promotion—but I also feel like my stuff is so fragile there, just like the thousands of links languishing on my Delicious account. After almost seven years of intensive blogging it really doesn’t make sense for me to go down a tumblr hole—it’s not open source, the importer is only decent at best, and the quick and easy nature may prove more work over time when it comes to archiving. That said, I would love to start thinking about how we might design an aggregation hub/space that allows people to follow, promote, and feature recent work like what’s going on in tumblr. I don’t necessarily want to put my data there, I just want something I can use to read, subscribe, discover, and promote stuff in a more compelling way than through an RSS reader. And for me this is kind of where the culture around RSS has been kinda lame, there haven’t been easy and creative ways to aggregate, explore and reframe the various feeds to make them attractive, accessible, and discoverable.