Thursday, December 19, 2013

Web Browser Comparison

Today, there are a variety of ways for us to surf the web on both personal computers and mobile devices. A browser is the software that allows us to view web pages (when coupled with an internet connection). The major browsers today are generally (with some exceptions) cross-platform programs that will run on most operating systems, and can perform a variety of tasks from displaying diverse content types to debugging web pages. Becoming familiar with your browser is important for a safe and efficient web experience.

Organizing Whitmail with Filters

Filters are powerful tools to keep e-mail accounts tidy and organized. The purpose of filters is to allow users to manage incoming messages by automatically labelling, archiving, deleting, starring, or forwarding them using rules that they create. Whitmail utilizes Google’s e-mail service, which has a variety of simple yet impressive options for filters.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Dual Booting: Use Boot Camp to Run Windows on Your Mac

Dual Booting: Use Boot Camp to Run Windows on Your Mac

This is for all you Mac-owners out there: do you ever wish you could use Windows on your computer, without giving up Mac OS X? If you've ever wanted to have both operating systems on one computer, there is a solution for you: dual booting. Boot Camp, which comes on Macs running OS 10.5 (Leopard), allows you to utilize dual booting to run either Windows or OS X on your computer. Switching back and forth is easy--just choose which operating system you want with a simple restart.

You don't have to be a computer whiz to use Boot Camp--as long as you have some basic knowledge and free time, it's simple to set up dual booting on your Mac. All it takes is a Mac with OS 10.5 or newer, a working printer, at least 10 GB of free space on your hard drive, and a copy of Windows. After clearing some space on your hard drive, the next step is to open Boot Camp, which will prompt you to print the handy user guide. Boot Camp will then help you partition your hard drive into separate Mac and Windows portions, depending on how much space you want for each operating system. Once you've made a decision, it's time to insert your Windows disk and start the installation. When it's finished and you're booted into Windows, the last step is to eject the disk, insert your Mac OS 10.5 installation disk, and follow the instructions. This will install the drivers for your Mac devices so that Windows will recognize them. When you're done, you will be able to select which operating system you want--Mac or Windows--each time you restart your computer! For more detailed step-by-step instructions on using Boot Camp, check out this LifeHacker post

So, are there any downsides to dual booting? Possibly, depending on what your particular needs are. With dual booting, you can only use one operating system at a time, and if you want to switch, you have to restart your computer. However, dual booting is excellent if you will be spending long stints in one operating system--maybe playing games, using a particular software for school, or editing video. Because you're only running one operating system at a time, your computer won't be slowed down in any way, which is important for games and software that use more power. 

If you've always wanted the benefits of Windows on your Mac, be sure to give dual booting a try!

Report those Phishing Emails!


Ever get sick of getting sketchy emails? *Note: we will NEVER ask you to change your password via email* Help us stop them in the future!

Click on the email and then on the triangle pointing downwards to the right of the date received. Click “Show Original”

A new tab will open up with information of the path the email took to get from the sender to you. Copy that (+A and +C on Macs or Ctrl A + Ctrl C on PCs to select all and copy)


Go back to the message, paste the information at the top (+V on Macs or Ctrl+V) and forward it to

Why can’t we just forward the email on?

If the Phishy folks clicked the email forwarded on and got the original information, it would only have the information of how the email you forwarded on got to phishy and not how you got it in the first place. They need the original information of how you got the email to block spam in the future.

For information on how to identify phishing emails:

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

HDD vs. SDD: Which do I pick?

HDD vs. SSD: Which do I pick?

Data storage technology is a rapidly diversifying and expanding field, and there are very few better examples of this than the development of personal computers. With the onset of tablets and tablet PCs, producers have had to come up with new and innovative features to draw customer attention. A new piece of hardware that’s begun to crop up on the PC market is SSD hard drives.
            The phrase ‘SSD hard drive’ itself is a little bit of an oxymoron, as SSD stands for ‘solid state drive’, whereas a hard drive is another type of hardware entirely. Both, however, accomplish approximately the same purpose: storage and processing of data in computers. The aim of this article is to elucidate some of the differences between the two and whether or not it is worth it to make the upgrade to an SSD.
            The main difference between an HDD and an SSD is the price, and this is most likely what draws people away from SSDs and towards HDDs. SSDs can cost around $1 per GB, whereas HDDs cost just a few cents per GB. This means that for the price of an average sized SSD, around 250GB, you could get an HDD with over 1TB worth of storage. (Some have pointed out that the average computer user wouldn’t even come close to filling up 1TB worth of storage, which makes it worth it to purchase an SSD just for the performance upgrade). There are also hybrid drives, which combine aspects of the two, and are also much cheaper than SSDs, around fourteen cents per GB.
            Beyond price, then, what is the difference between the two? As this video shows, the performance of an SSD is vastly superior to an HDD, as indicated by bootup and application startup times. This is due to the fact that the data storage mechanism is digital, like a USB drive, rather than mechanical. This also lends another interesting advantage: hard drives contain a platter that holds the data, which must spin at very high speeds to be read. In contrast, there are no moving parts in an SSD, which means that it cannot be damaged as readily. HDDs can fail completely if bumped or jarred extensively, whereas SSDs are a lot more hardy and can withstand more bumps and bruises due to their lack of mechanics (think about what punishment your USB thumb drive probably goes through, and still works fine!)
            In addition, SSDs draw much less power, average between 2-3 watts, while HDDs draw between 6-7 watts. This means that with the exact same computer, using an SSD will extend your battery life by about 30 minutes, and produce less heat in the process.
            It seems like SSDs are superior from most angles, but they are also lacking in some areas. Due to their relatively recent appearance on the market, there aren’t many options available for those who do want to upgrade. The most popular SSDs have capacities of about 120GB to 256GB, whereas HDDs nowadays can go up to 1TB and beyond. If you wanted an SSD with that kind of capacity, you would have shell out quite a lot more money. SSDs also suffer from the same issues of longevity that HDDs suffer from – slowing down as their memory fills up and as they get older. They also have the added disadvantage of very little to no warning signs before shutting down completely, whereas hard drives tend to have a few failsafes and warning signals built in, to allow you to transfer your data before it’s too late.
            There are a few myths about SSDs, including the claim that SSDs wear out much more quickly than HDDs. This might have been true fifteen or twenty years ago, but nowadays, thanks to TRIM technology build into SSDs that optimize read/write cycles, you’re probably more likely to purchase a new computer or hard drive as an upgrade before you start running into errors and crashes.
            So what’s the general consensus? It seems that overall, SSDs are definitely making their mark on the PC market in a significant way. Although I personally do not own an SSD computer myself, I would highly consider purchasing one when I feel I need an upgrade, as the performance and physical superiorities far outweigh the disadvantages of using an SSD over an HDD. I, as an average computer user, do not use that much memory, and I value performance over most other features, and the SSD certainly delivers that.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What is DPI and Image Resolution?

DPI and Image Resolution

Image Resolution

Image resolution for printing is generally measured in dpi: Dots per Inch. The standard size for printing is 300 dpi. (That is, every square inch would be filled with 300 by 300 pixels.) At this size, the human eye cannot easily pick out the blurredness and imperfection of the image; from a normal viewing distance, it looks like a proper scene. Other outfits might recommend 220 dpi, which would be an absolute bare minimum. Anything lower than that would immediately appear blocky—also known as pixelated.


Images get pixilated when they are expanded past a certain threshold, where it is easily spotted with the naked eye. All images are composed of pixels, but when people are viewing an image, they don’t want to be overly reminded of this fact.
It is important to know what the viewing distance will be of the image. Images intended to be viewed further away—like a large poster, hung up on the side of a building, let’s say—can get away with more pixelation than an image intended to be seen up close. As a note about the MDL specifically: most people come in intending their posters to be placed immediately before the viewer, meaning the less pixelation, the better.

Various Resolutions and Their Sizes

Images come naturally in numerous pixel dimensions. All of them have their place in image work. Here are some examples, of rough image sizes and file sizes:

Size at 220 dpi
Size at 300 dpi
File size
640 x 480
2.9” x 2.2”
2.1” x 1.6”
1024 x 768
4.7” x 3.5”
3.4” x 2.6”
1600 x 1200
7.3” x 5.5”
5.3” x 4”
2272 x 1704
10.3” x 7.5”
7.6” 5.7”
Very large

These dimensions are not hard-and-fast rules about image size; for a less formal poster, some pixelation could be acceptable. Stretching far beyond the dimensions listed under 200 dpi, though, will make the individual pixels of the image very noticeable, and thus it is cautioned against.

File size depends a lot on image compression and like factors which computers do automatically; determining any definite file size range is thus difficult.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Making Gifs in Photoshop

Let's Make Gifs!

I figured I would follow up my previous post about tumblr with one of its most essential parts: gifs.

.GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format, and is essentially a very short video made out a minimal amount of frames.  Gifs are usually quick and simple--it is not a video, but rather a series of images that are shown one after another to create the illusion of movement.  On tumblr gifs are typically used as reaction images, but they are also used by artists to tell a story that would be impossible in a single frame.

In these days, gifs are SO EASY to make.  They can be created in software like Photoshop or Flash, and even be made online at sites likeMake A Gif.

Making Gifs in Photoshop

The tutorial here is for Photoshop CS6.  CS5 has a slightly different process.


First off, go to File > Scripts >Load Files into Stacks.

This will open the following window.  Here you can browse for the files you want to use, and then arrange them in the order you prefer.  I arranged the images ahead of time and added numbers to make things easier.

At this point you want to make sure the Timeline window is open by going to Window > Timeline.  (If you are using CS5, this window will be called "Animation".)

Now that the Timeline window is open, let's covert the images into frames.  This can be done by clicking the button in the upper right corner and selecting Make Frames From Layers.

Now that all the layers are frames you can change the time that each frame will occur for.  Though there is always value in having different times for each frame, it's also handy to know that if you want to select all the frames at once, you can click the same button in the top right corner, and choose Select All Frames.  

You can preview the gif by clicking on the arrow keys at the bottom of the Timeline window.  It's important to remember that gifs loop, so if your first image and your last image don't link well, you will want to make the last frame a bit longer so there is some pause between the beginning and the end.  You can even add a black frame if you want to.

When your gif is ready, make sure to click File > Save for Web.  Simply saving the file will not do the trick.

In this final window you can make final changes with your gif.  The first thing you want to make sure is that Photoshop is saving the file as a gif (yellow arrow).  Next you can chose the size you want to export the file as--gifs are best smaller for easy web use, so make sure you're exporting a reasonable size (green circle).  You can also edit Looping Options and preview your gif (red circle).


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

How To Make Your Logo POP!

How to Make Your Logo POP!


Designing a strong, memorable logo, whether it be for personal use, or to represent a business, or to give a face to your club or organization, only one thing matters: the final product. That what that means is that designing a logo can be an ugly, ugly process. Remember: THAT'S OK. All that matters is that the final product is what you or your client wants.

        1) SKETCH- Start by sketching out on scratch paper whatever comes to mind. None of these doodles have to look good in the slightest. This doesn't have to be Mona Lisa quality work, this is more like throwing up thoughts onto a page. But trust me when I say sometimes just getting 10 or 12 ideas on paper can do wonders in helping you figure out which direction to go.

        2) COLLABORATE- Work with other people! Get ideas from the person you're working for. Get a friend to help with ideas. Two, three, four heads, they are all better than one! It becomes a million times easier to come up with an awesome idea for your logo when you're constantly bouncing ideas off someone else and visa versa.

       3) SHOP AROUND- Know what works, both through guidelines and inspiration. The best designers choose their colors, styles, fonts, and symbols deliberately every time, so look around! If you know a few of the basic rules of design, you are much more likely to come up with something that accurately conveys the feelings that you want to get from your logo. Also consider what logos do YOU like. Why? Are there stylistic elements that you could potentially use in your work? (Without plagiarizing of course!)

Once you have some idea of what direction you might want to head, you need to take a few other things into consideration before you have something you can be proud of.

Choosing a good color scheme:

       Think about what different colors represent. Here are a few common words that describe a few colors, and examples of where they are used.
Blue: Calm, Professional, Liberal, Smart, Progressive, Corporate, Freedom

Red: Passion, Love, Sex, Anger, Rebellion, Power, Radical, Bold

Orange: Warm, Fun, Retro, Friendly, Inviting, Fall, Summer

Yellow: Happy, Fun, Exciting, Friendly, Sun, Energetic, Young

Green: Natural, Calm, Trust, Money, Earthly, Organic

Purple: Royal, Mystical, Feminine, Decadent, Elegant, Romantic, Eclectic

Brown: Rustic, Trustworthy, Earthy, Warm, Romantic, Colonial, Respected

Choose a color that says what YOU want to say. Are you organizing a group that does tons of fun things for its members? Choose fun colors to use, like oranges, yellows, and reds! Maybe you are putting together a formalized study group. Choose colors for a logo that suggest calmness and productivity like blue, green, and brown. Even if someone only looks at your logo for just a moment, the color of that logo can make them feel SOMETHING in that brief second or two, and that may be enough to make them take a second, longer look.

Once you have an idea of what colors to use, consider what symbology you want to use. This is where the rules start to get pretty loose. There are too many symbols out there to count. Here is where you need to do a bit of research. Do you want to be direct, or subtle? Is a direct graphic representation of what your club or organization does adequate, or do you want to use a metaphorical representation to embody some quality ABOUT that organization? It's really up to you, and comes down to personal preference. Look around! What kinds of symbols do people use to represent something similar? Add to your potential sketches at this point before you choose on which one you want to go with.

Digitizing Your Logo:
By this point, you should have a pretty good idea of what you think you want your logo to look like. There is only one rule when it comes to making a logo. It MUST be made as a vector image. This means that it must be resizable without looking pixelated. This means you can enlarge it to the size of a building, or shrink it to the size of a pinhead and there will be no change in image quality. As such, when you are making a logo in the computer, use a program like Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw. If you have never used either of these programs before, you can find a few Illustrator tutorials to get you started here. You will especially need to be familiar with the pen tool in Illustrator if you want to make your logo look sharp on the computer.

There are people that spend their whole lives designing, looking at, and fussing over fonts. The typeface you use in your logo can often times be just as important as the logo itself. In my eyes, there are three main points to consider when choosing a font. Those things are:

Legibility/Readability- How legible is your font choice? Can you tell which letters are which? Show someone your logo and see if they can read what it says clearly and easily.

Aesthetics- This is the most obvious one. It should look good! Choose a font that is clean, not too busy or frilly, and gets the point across. Stock fonts that come with your computer are boring and unoriginal, so download some new ones! Check out for tons of options, for free!

Mood- This is where it comes down to what you are actually trying to say with your logo. What mood are you trying to create? A font with clean, sharp lines is more likely to come off as professional, while a rounded or "hand-drawn" font has the potential to be more informal or playful. There are thousands of font choices out there. Make sure the one you choose doesn't only say what you want in writing, but in feeling as well. Here are a few stock fonts that make me feel different things.

Put it All Together:
Once you have all this down, you are well on your way to making a logo that is striking, thoughtful, and memorable. Practice makes perfect. Even the most practiced graphic designer will pump out tons of versions of the same logo before they get something they are happy with. This was a fairly general overview of the process of creating a logo, so for more specific resources and tutorials, I have provided some links down below. Go create something!

Learn More About Copyright Laws/Plagiarism

Inspiration/Logo Examples:

How to choose a typeface:

Illustrator Tutorials:

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Vector graphics vs. Raster graphics

Vector Graphics vs. Raster Graphics


What are they?
A vector graphic is composed of points connected by curves or lines (called “paths”) determined by angles. They can be colored within the closed shapes formed by paths.

(Image credit:
The heart is formed by connecting points with paths, and once it is a closed shape, it is filled with a single color.

Pros: The best thing about vectors is that because they rely on angles and ratios of distance between points which can be consistently applied, no matter how big or small you resize your vector image to be, it will always maintain that same perfect degree of crispness, clarity, and smoothness. This makes vectors the ideal choice for logos, which often must be repurposed at a range of sizes and which tend to be smooth and simple, with fine detail less of a stylistic imperative. Vectors also take up smaller file sizes than your “regular” (raster) image, as the computer only has to remember the endpoints which form lines, not all the data actually in between them. In programs that support vectors, vectors are easily edited by moving around the points that determine the paths, and the image’s colors (which are solid colors within closed shapes) can be easily changed.

Prime example: Text!
a a
Many people are unaware that text is made up of vectors—thus, the smooth lines at any size.

Cons: Because vector images are essentially lines and the solid colors in between them, they lend themselves better to more simplistic designs and color schemes. Solid colors can only be used within the defined spaces of closed shapes, so minute detail and rich shading are better left to another medium (that of raster images). Image manipulations of the awesome, exquisite Photoshop sort are curtailed by the more restrained palette and scope of the vector. Vectors are also compatible with fewer programs (in non-compatible programs they must first be rasterized).

Program of choice: Adobe Illustrator is designed for vectors.

Tip: Aside from text, vectors are most commonly and aptly used for logos: that is, relatively simple designs with smooth lines that will need to be reproduced in a variety of sizes.
(image credit:

Common file formats: AI, PDF, and EPS.


What are they?
Raster graphics, also known as bitmap graphics, are composed of a grid of square pixels of color.

Pros: Most images out there, and certainly types of images like photographs and paintings, are rasters. Images with fine shading, a rich range of colors, and detail that can’t be reduced to simple, smooth lines are characteristic of raster images, since raster images are made up of thousands of individual pixels, each of which can be colored differently. This allows you to have total control in image manipulation to an exquisite degree of detail. Raster graphics are also compatible with the most amount of programs (even all the way down the line to Paint).

Prime example: Photographs!

(Image credit:
This kind of image detail and nuance of shading wouldn’t be possible with vectors.

Cons: Raster images are fine at their original size and smaller, but when enlarged their pixels will become stretched, which translates to a blurry and, well, pixilated image. And because rasters images have to record all the information (the individual pixels) that makes up a line and what is inside of it (vectors memorize just the endpoints of paths, with a solid color inside), they have much larger file sizes than vectors.

Program of choice: Adobe Photoshop.

Tip: When you’re looking for images to use in a project, it’s always a good idea to try to use images that are originally large. (To more easily find these, when running a Google image search, click “Search Tools” and select “Size” à “Large.”) It’s no problem to size raster images down, but sizing a smaller image up will make it blurrier and more pixilated: better to just start with something bigger.  

Common file formats: PSD, PNG, TIFF, JPEG, BMP, and GIF.

A note: While Adobe Illustrator is designed for vectors, and Adobe Photoshop is designed for rasters, you can go between the two programs and formats. It is easier to convert a vector (which is simpler and composed of less data) to a raster in Photoshop, and can be convenient if you want to blend or add special effects to your graphic which aren’t well-supported by vectors. When importing a vector into Photoshop, a pop-up will ask if you want to rasterize the vector; or you always have the option of rasterization (even of text) by right-clicking on the vector layer and selecting “Rasterize layer.”

Less successful, though still quite doable, is converting rasters to vectors, either by drawing paths (via the pen tool) within your image by hand, or selecting within Paths à Make Work Path, which will render the lines of your image as vector paths for you. You will be able to capture the generalities of the image in its basic outlines, but the inner colors and patterning richness will not translate the other way around.

In summary: Vectors are good for lines. Rasters are good for what lies inside those lines. The choice is yours.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Gender in Gaming Culture

Gender in Gaming Culture

If you’re anyone who’s spent a little bit of time on the more social side of the internet (and I do mean Reddit, 4chan, Tumblr, and other such sites, not just Facebook and Twitter) you’ll have heard of the term “gamer girl”. Honestly these days it’s not used as much as it has been, and perhaps for good reason.

At first glance, it’s actually quite difficult to pin down what it means to be a ‘gamer girl’. We can’t simply include all females that play games, as this also might include that person who procrastinates by playing solitaire. A statistic floating around is that women comprise of 47% of gamers as of 2012, but are still viewed as a distinct minority. I will generally say that a girl gamer is a female who plays games on a regular basis, either for fun or for sport, and feels that she has her own niche in the gaming community.

Unsurprisingly, the term “gamer girl” has a lot of negative connotation associated with it. Some claim that it originated from male gamers who have their own distinct views about females who are gamers. The fact that it’s more of a negative term comes from the idea that serious male gamers, by and large, are also stereotyped in a negative way by society in general, and that they need to blow their frustrations and their feelings of being misunderstood off on someone else. Use of the descriptive ‘girl’ accomplishes two things: one, solidifies women as the minority because it has to be specified that they’re not actual gamers, they’re girls. Two, it glosses over the difference between younger women
and women over 30, both of which do participate in the gaming community.

This negative connotation is reflected in females’ own opinion of it. Many, when asked, preferred to not be called a “girl gamer” – yes, they are girls and they like to play games, but the term itself makes them uncomfortable and separates them out from those whom they consider to be equals.

Image by
At the same time, though, many gamers also disapprove with the idea that female gamers must be, in essence, male gamers that just happen to have female body parts. Criticism of each other simply leads to tearing apart of what female gaming communities do exist, which is kind of the opposite of what needs to happen. For example, if you play Sims as a female, no matter how passionately you feel about it or how long you spend playing it, you’ll probably be grouped in with the gamers on the left because Sims isn’t a “real” game.

One of the prevailing schools of thought amongst female gamers is that it shouldn’t matter what they have in their pants: they like to play games, and that’s it. Hence, they dislike the term “girl gamer” because it specifies something about them that they don’t feel should make a difference. This again goes back to trying to eliminate the idea that female gamers are a minority in the gaming community, despite the fact that the actual ratio of male to female gamers is about equal. Oftentimes people with this opinion say that the most important thing is whether or not the person is actually good at playing: their sex is irrelevant. One unfortunate side effect of this, however, is that sometimes female gamers find it prudent to hide their genders from their fellow gamers to avoid unwanted attention or negative reactions.

I don’t want to blame this problem on male gamers, but at the same time I do. There’s a subsection of Reddit specifically for girl gamers that’s just chock full of examples of girl gamers getting insulted and discriminated against on account simply of being female. It’s become a norm to get a few “get back in the kitchen” comments thrown at you as a female gamer, which would certainly deter a lot of people from participating in games that are male-dominated.

This leads to a fundamental problem with the video game industry in general: that games are, in general, directed towards the male audience. Take a look at Grand Theft Auto V, possibly the year’s most anticipated release. Although GTA has always been known for its misogynistic portrayal of women, as Johnny Chiodini says in his video, “That’s not an excuse.” Just because it’s a game known to be incredibly sexist and not in general geared towards women does not give it the right to be glossed over in discussions such as these. He goes on to say that if the gaming community in general wants to be acknowledged as a serious art form and pastime, it needs to include consideration of the politics involved in making games, which includes serious thought given towards the 47% of gamers that are women.

So where do we stand? It’s hard to definitively take a side because this issue is so muddled and confusing. I think it’s easy to say that most of the general public would say this is an issue, but there will always be the die-hards who say that gaming is a man’s realm and that women aren’t as interested in it anyway, so why should we care if our significant other is running over prostitutes in some stupid game? Maybe we shouldn’t. But I think this is an issue worth considering, and I’ll simply end with a challenge: think of a game that has a female protagonist that is not sexualized or bearing the typical “damsel in distress” label in some way that is popular with both genders. Now think of a game with the same requirements, but with a male protagonist. I would guess that it’s a lot harder with females, and although there are some (Metroid comes to mind, as well as Tomb Raider, although it can be argued that even Samus, under all that armor, is just another sexy female video game character) it’s clear that there’s a large disconnect. At the same time, the success of these games show that it’s also possible to appeal to all types of gamers with a female protagonist and that it might be something worth looking into in the future. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Is tumblr just for hipsters and instragram?

 Is it just for hipsters and instagram pics? A look into the world of microblogging
By Maryanne Bowen

I saw this question and laughed, because it is no doubt the stereotype about blogging site better known as "tumblr".  Though it would be easy to launch into my own views on this matter, since I have been using tumblr for the past three or more years, I figure it would be better to start with some real information.

First off, let's start with the basics:

Wiki says: "Tumblr is a blogging platform that allows users to post text, images, videos, links, quotes and audio to their tumblelog, a short-form blog. Users can follow other users, or choose to make their tumblelog private. The service emphasizes ease of use."

It goes on to add that tumblr was founded by a man named David Karp in 2007, there are 175 employees, it has its headquarters in New York, and "hosts over 130.5 million blogs." It was also bought about by Yahoo! June of 2013, something which caused much upset in the community, but we'll save that for later.

So just what is tumblr?

Essentially, it's a "short-form blogging" site, where users can upload large quantities of small posts and share them with their "followers."  The main interface is called the dashboard, where users see their own posts, and all the posts of the people whose blogs they "follow." Posts can include everything from images, to text to links, to short video clips, and can be tagged (#just like twitter) which allows other users to search for them.  Posts can also be queued, so you can delay your posts to a certain time or day.  Finally, the user's actual blog can very easily be edited with HTML, which allows for a wide variety of customization and creativity. Below are a few screencaps from my own tumblr.

ABOVE: the top of the dashboard, which shows the ease at which a post can be made as well as how posts can be managed. On the right site, blog stats are posted, included the number of posts, followers, activity, a list of blogs the user follows, and also the liked posts.  Tags can also be accessed from here.

ABOVE: An example of what the dashboard can look like as the user scrolls down.

Let's Talk Tags

Aside from the dashboard, tags are the primary way that users find content on tumblr.  All a user has to do is go to the top right corner, and type what they want into the "Search tags & blogs" box, and BAM, all the posts that were tagged with whatever you searched.  They show up with the most recent posts first, and can be searched back to what is presumably the beginning of tumblr.  While this sounds like a great database for all the information you could ever need, with over "130.5 million blogs" the sheer amount of posts one will find in a tag makes it difficult to impossible to weed through all the "junk posts" to get to anything real.  Take the tag "Syria" for instance.  Right now it's full of home videos from political activists, anti-Obama slogans, opinions, and of course the occasional link to a news article. Switch to a tag like "cats" though, and you get cellphone photographs, memes, paintings, and of course gifs.  

It would be a little easier to sort for the tags though if users could look for more than one tag at a time, for example #syria, #news; or #cats, #gif.  But unfortunately, such a thing is not yet possible, making tumblr's tags impossible to dig through unless the user has quite a lot of time on their hands.

So Who Uses tumblr?

Here comes our second big question--what sort of audience does tumblr cater towards?  According to an article in the Economist, tumblr is the most popular site on the internet for those aged 13-25.  Now this does not at all mean that tumblr's users fall entirely within this age category, but the younger demographic definitely dominates this site.  

Probably what makes tumblr so appealing is the ease with which original posts can be created and shared.  Users can generate a network of followers to share anything and everything, and in doing so, talk opinions, or post art and photography.  In this case, it is like a "stealthy angry" facebook--it operates almost like a social networking site that you don't have to worry about your boss finding. 

Some articles that offer interesting opinions about tumblr:
The Economist
TechCrunch (definitely worth a read)