December 5, 2014
When last we met, I wrote “Blogging About Blogging, Part 1”, which is available here. Part one of this series discussed the fact that I moved and redesigned my site. Part two was supposed to go on and discuss the process by which I searched for and subsequently found an alternative to my long-time host, Tumblr. However, this is not that post; this post is a rant about my now former (and still moderately well-liked) host.
A couple of years ago, I created multiple blogs that made up Engineered Eloquence in the attempt to create categories-style layout, much like that which I have created in the sidebar to the left (or top bar if you are reading this on mobile). In other words, I wanted people to be able to see all posts on the homepage and each different type of post in its own category. As you may or may not know, this type of setup is nearly impossible using Tumblr.1 However, I had already created these URLs and the content in each silo. So, in the attempt to move forward, I set HTML redirects in the Tumblr code of each silo to the original webpage and subsequently moved all content over, which is still housed at thejayray.tumblr.com. Since I never heard anything from Tumblr for the literal years during which these redirects were in place, I naturally began to believe that this type of setup was OK with them.
Then comes a day a couple weeks ago when I officially moved Engineered Eloquence to GitHub Pages. I set the Tumblr HTML redirect like the others and went about my business. I found an old, broken link randomly the other day and much to my dismay, I received the “No Tumblog Here” message when I followed it. Huh. I logged into my account and got a “This account has been terminated” message. Huh. I reached out to support to ask what happened to my account and received a response a day later that said (emphasis mine):
Sorry about that!
Your account has been fully restored but as automatic redirections to external sites aren’t allowed on Tumblr I’ve had to revert your blog theme to the Default one. Please be aware that adding the redirection back will trigger an automatic termination of your account.
Huh. Who knew?! Actually, I’ll be honest, I assume that somewhere in their terms of service, Tumblr states that external site redirect behavior will blah blah blah, but without warning or notification seems to me to be just bad manners and bad business. It adds one more thing to a long list of reasons why I moved away from Tumblr. What are those reasons, you ask? Don’t mind if I do.
I may have been the only person on Tumblr who had a problem with this, but I got to a point where I no longer felt that I was the owner of my own content. I was churning out blog posts, driving readers to Tumblr, and dealing with the social side of the service (that has recently become much more intrusive) without the ability to access any of said content outside of Tumblr’s, admittedly maturing, interfaces.
While Marco Arment was at Tumblr, he was able to hack together a backup application that allowed Tumblr’s users to get at their content or at least back it up. Since then, the only way to export one’s content was to go through third parties that built their own Tumblr scraping applications. I have a feeling that the locked down nature of Tumblr is only going to get worse as time moves forward due to Yahoo’s modus operandi for trying to keep as much information it can to itself (not to mention sell their user’s content for profit). Thankfully, with the help of Wordpress and Jekyll, I was able to download and easily reformat all of my content.
The social network that is Tumblr and the blogging service that is Tumblr don’t jive well in my mind. I should not have to worry that the account that just liked my blog post has an expletive in its name nor should I have to deal with the social features if I don’t want to. Once my blog became about writing and not about interacting, I had to give some serious thought to who I was following and who was following me in return. I am happy to have shed that cruft.
Tumblr is, by its very defintion, a place for people to be able to create simple blogs to share things on the Internet. This means that the capabilities of the website and, in turn, each hosted blog are hampered by the mission to ease its use for non-technical people. I know that I am in the minority of people that intend to use Tumblr as a Wordpress/Squarespace-style equivalent blogging/web-hosting service, but the fact that I had to workaround some of the technical limitations always grated on me.
As one might expect, my new hosting situation at GitHub takes care of these worries (and others I didn’t even know I had) by allowing me to play with my site’s code and content to my heart’s content. And just as it is the nature of Tumblr (or Twitter or Facebook for that matter) to reach as big an audience as it can and increasingly marginalize the more technically inclined of us, playing with code is simply the nature of GitHub.
This series is to be continued in Part 3, in which I intend to discuss the available blog-hosting options on the web today.
I say “nearly impossible” because one can create links to tag pages on Tumblr, which works similarly, but the tag must be the same on all posts to be included in those pages and all the posts must be on a single Tumblr site. Also, it is not immediately apparent how to do this—I worked it out through trial and error—and the order of tag pages doesn’t work properly when backdating content.↩