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)