With the recent news of Tumblr’s acquisition by Yahoo!, I have moved up the date on which I had planned to release this post. The fact is that while Tumblr may not have all the features I need and may make its money through advertising, I have come to a general understanding of how to bend the platform to my will. I have created two blogs on Tumblr and each one has provided me with ease of use that I have not seen elsewhere. I believe that the news from this weekend will only strengthen what Tumblr and Yahoo! already have in these terms.
In addition, I would also like to take this opportunity to point out that I have now reopened my previous blogging space. Once known as “The Jay Ray” at thejayray.tumblr.com, it is now an extension of Engineered Eloquence such that the two may coexist. One as a Link List site (jayray.engineeredeloquence.com) and one (this one) as the main site for all of my long-form writing and thoughts moving forward. I made a mistake last week in attempting to share a couple links and quotes on this site. That type of sharing is not what I designed this space for, so their appearance here seemed forced and incongruous. However, the nice thing that Tumblr has allowed me to do is have archives and RSS feeds for both sites without too much hassle. In other words, those who are only interested in my long-form writing can subscribe to that feed and, separately, can subscribe to the link list feed if they are interested in items on the Internet that I would like to share. I am, of course, using Tumblr unconventionally and therefore my setup is unique and generally speaking unruly on the backend, which brings me to the meat of this post: why Tumblr is a good and bad blogging platform and, marginally, why the Yahoo! acquisition is not automatically a bad thing in my mind.
It would be difficult to list all of the pros and cons regarding my use of Tumblr as my publishing platform. As some of my readers know, I have gone back and forth about moving my blog to another service, although no other service seems to offer a good balance of the options I need and the price I desire (namely, free). As I attempt to push Tumblr beyond the limits of what it is meant for, I continue to run up against obstacles that provide me with a headache and more desire to move to a paid service, so that I might have more control over the space. All in all, however, I am always brought back to the fact that I only care as far as I can throw ethereal inanimate objects: not at all. In the hope that someone can help in the future or someone from Tumblr (now Yahoo!) gets a clue, I have listed a few of these items below; I will add to the list in the future as necessary.
First things first: content uploads not meant for posting. In the attempt to better present this space to all people who could possibly visit, I have created and published a logo of sorts: a red rook or castle. The icon is uploaded through Tumblr, as a PNG file with a transparent background to allow for the best look when viewed through a standards-based browser that uses favicons. However, this icon looked hideous when viewed as an iPhone home screen icon. In order to rectify the situation, I created an alternative icon with a background that matches the colors on the site. I assume you are thinking, “Nice thought, Jay!” However, Tumblr does not allow content uploads that are not post-based, so the workaround is a published copy of the icon, so that I may copy the direct URL link and place it in the HTML of the Tumblr site. Again, this is just a workaround, and one that will break should that blog or the post that houses the content ever be removed.
Second: custom 404 pages=impossible. A few of the blogs that I follow around the web have unique URL styles, so when I attempt to logically create a URL string to a page that doesn’t exist, I am brought to a custom 404 page, which I believe to be a great sign of attention to detail and care for the overall site. Unfortunately, there is no way to do this with a Tumblr site and there are not even workarounds to speak of. Even more unfortunate is the fact that the 404 pages are based on the specific blog’s theme and show up in the “Post” style of that theme; this is horrendous looking with the modifications I have made to make my site look how I desire.
Third: extra or sub-pages have a clunky interface. At one point in my process of setting up Engineered Eloquence, I had wanted to create a subpage, as a link list site. While I have now decided on a better method for this type of activity (see above discussion of jayray.engineeredeloquence.com), in creating a secondary page I realized that the interface is clunky and rather disjointed. Static pages only need apply for this Tumblr “feature” and who wants a static page that isn’t an “About” page on a blog?
Fourth: Tumblr is not built for text (at all). If nothing else, the methods for text entry and the subsequent tasks that go into writing a blog post of this length are laughable at best. For what I understand, there is moderate support for Markdown, which eases the pain of writing blog posts without having to revert to pure HTML or, God forbid, the rich-text editor that is severely lacking in many ways. Currently, I write out posts in iA Writer, copy the text into the rich-text editor, switch to the HTML-editor to add formatting, and preview the final product; sounds like fun, doesn’t it?
In addition to its ineptitude in handling text entry, the fact is that even if you know how to program, there is little ability to utilize these skills with Tumblr. As I state on my About page, I have created this site by heavily modifying an existing theme, called Easy Reader 2, which does the trick for what I need and has quite a bit of flexibility in the areas I wanted. However, without access to the file system, the ability to upload non-post-based content, or the ability to create dynamic subpages, I am left with a lot of ideas that are difficult to execute on.
Perhaps in the future, I will continue to look into what other services have to offer in addition to what I currently get from Tumblr. The acquisition by Yahoo! of the platform, though, does not carry any portent with it for me, as Yahoo! has not made any missteps in my opinion since the hiring of Marissa Mayer as CEO. I believe the possibility exists that the Tumblr brand will fit in well with the other Yahoo! brands and will continue to thrive with its new home. And who knows, maybe some of my complaints above will be addressed in the future, as Yahoo! seeks to be more social and therefore more appealing to a younger generation.
Did the Internet community peak at bookmarks? Asked in a different and perhaps more complete way: just as technologies like RSS and email in their purest forms are hard to beat even as technology marches forward, what better technology exists to keep track of information on the ever-expanding Internet than bookmarks? Taken a step further, what better way to share the bookmarked information than a site of your own? As such, I‘ve been reading, which is why I write now.
Working in and having a passion for libraries, I am struck by the fact that the way bookmarks work in the physical world is not directly analogous to bookmarks in the digital world. Bookmarks in the digital world are instead like dog-eared pages or highlighted passages; if you think of the Internet as a single tome, that is. In any case, anything that moves you to deface a book should probably be shared or become immortalized in some other way than just a reference for a future version of yourself.