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Thursday, January 20, 2011

To Tumblr or Not to Tumblr?

Posted By on Thu, Jan 20, 2011 at 8:26 AM


Now that I finally got my blog going, everyone's telling me to get a Tumblr. I don't even know what that is and feel bombarded by all these social media programs! What are the benefits of Tumblr? Do I really need one?


What do any of us really need, Annoyd, besides food, water, shelter, and prescription drugs? I know what you mean though. Just when I finally choose a favorite Pussycat Doll to fantasize about making turkey baster mistake-babies with, she's replaced by somebody new!

Since Facebook is full of marketing scams, and Twitter might land you in jail, all the cool kids are signing up for Tumblrs. Even Snooki has one. Why though? "The answer is obvious," says SF Weekly Web Editor Andy Wright. "It's where you find all your vintage gay porn."

For the uninitiated, Tumblr is a free microblogging/social media platform that allows you to share links, photos, videos, and yes, even your riveting anecdotes on Joy Behar's pleated pantsuits with the internetz-at-large. It doesn't have all the snazzy functionality that, say, Wordpress does, like widgets and search fields and archives and the ubiquitous Facebook "like" button, but Tumblr blogs do tend to do most of the things you'd expect from a blogging/sharing platform.

The big draw for Tumblr is probably how incredibly fast and easy it is to use. You can create content in pretty much one click. You can even email, text, or drunk dial-in a blog post and Tumblr will record the audio and post it to your site, which is great for John Mayer, but not so great for humanity. You can also subscribe to RSS feeds that will automatically update your site with content from other blogs/websites you like; you can set it up to auto-tweet your posts and auto-Facebook; and you can point your Tumblr blog to your own domain name if you have one. If you're fame whorey (and who isn't), the more sites you have pointing to each other, the higher the value you'll have in Google search engine rankings, even if they are social media sites, since all those links create your own little incestuous SEO (search engine optimization) bubble of sluttery. 

That said, there are some drawbacks. Tumblr's ideal for short-form blogging, not for your dissertation. For instance, your thesis on the mating habits of Pygmy owls = blog. Pictures of hungover owls = Tumblr. If your blog's content is heavy on, well, content, then Tumblr's probably not the best platform for you. You can't really message or converse with other  Tumblrs either, unless you do so publicly. And you can't import your old content from another blog onto Tumblr like you can with other content management systems. Also, while it's not as bad as Twitter when it comes to fail-whaling us, Tumblr's servers can only handle so much traffic, and the more popular it becomes, the more it'll be overloaded, then this happens, except minus the amusing references to Ghostbusters

One friend who Tumbls for a major national magazine noted that, "If you're just a random person and not a big-name publication, it's damn near impossible to build a following as quickly and as easily as you can with Twitter or Facebook. And technically, it's got major issues. Down time sucks, especially when you're in the middle of a post and it gets lost. Recommending blogs on Tumblr Tuesdays is pretty much a big pain in the butt, as is searching through keywords and hashtags."

There you have it, folks. Hopefully now you feel empowered to make an informed decision regarding which platform is best to share the topless picture of Teddy Roosevelt you just came across.  

Social-media mistress Anna Pulley likes to give advice about how to play well with others on the internets. If you have a question about etiquette involving technology, shoot her a question at

Follow us on Twitter: @annapulley and @SFWeekly 

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