Making Something into Something It Isn’t

So, we’re having a discussion over on Tumblr about what Tumblr is and what it isn’t.

I’ve been largely frustrated with Tumblr because the time I’ve put into it hasn’t in my view been worth it.  I’ve gained some friendships, sure, but I should be further along in Tumblr than what I currently am now, particularly for something that I spend 36 hours per week doing.  I’ve been there for a solid six months, doing everything I should:

  • I’ve “hearted” nearly 4,000 posts;
  • I’ve posted 629 posts of varying size and composition as of this writing (that’s an average of 3 posts a day, for those keeping track);
  • I’ve replied to nearly as many posts as I’ve hearted.

The net result of my efforts?  59 followers (though Tumblr swears that I have 66), and many of these I’m sure are spam; phishing scams; virus-carriers; or accounts that apparently were created, followed me, and disappeared.  I think out of the 59 followers, 20 of them are active.

Twenty people for six months of full-time work.  Whoopdy-fricking-shit.

I’m reminded of a chess game I observed once many years ago.  It was between a low-intermediate player (I think his rating was about an 1150) and a beginner.  The beginner was getting frustrated because his strategy had failed to take into account the bishop’s movements, and he would get caught by the bishop every time.  I felt like screaming, “Either learn the rules of the game or quit, because you’re just making a fool of yourself.”

That applies here: I don’t like how Tumblr behaves (that is, the rules of the game “Tumblr”), so I should just quit it.

It’s not that easy, though: Tumblr is more of a social place, kind of like a pub.  People gather there to joke, drink, and carouse.  Then there’s nerdy Tom sitting in the back corner, sipping his latte, trying to read his poetry to everyone within ear-shot, but nobody’s listening to him because fuck that guy.

Jesus Christ, it’s like high school all over again.


6 thoughts on “Making Something into Something It Isn’t

  1. Dana says:

    So, I’m a little confused. I mean, I know why you went to tumblr, but were you thinking tumblr would be your only tool? I happen to be part of the editorial staff of a very successful blog. The owner of the blog has a volunteer staff of 50? Maybe 60? people who use various tools to promote the website. tumblr is just one of those tools. Quite frankly? Of all the social media tools, tumblr is probably the one that has the least impact on readership of the site. Twitter and facebook are the biggies.

    Successful writing on the internet is much more than a full-time job … MUCH more …


    • Yeah, actually, I did at first think that Tumblr was going to be it. It wasn’t immediately obvious to me what Tumblr was at first. I knew some people that had transported some rather successful blogs over to Tumblr (I Heart Chaos being a prime example of this that I can think of off the top of my head), so I was under the impression that Tumblr was more like WordPress or LiveJournal than it turned out to be. My initial successes on Tumblr have since stalled (I’m not a part of the cool crowd, evidently), and I’m just getting a little frustrated with the whole experience.

      Yes, I’ll agree that successful writing is more than a full-time job. I’m willing to give that to it, but it has to give something back to me, too.


  2. Dana says:

    Oh Tom … I think you might be expecting a little much 🙂 I cannot tell you how many YEARS the successful internet writers I know have been working without it giving them anything back. Seriously. I’ve been in this “industry” for over 4 years (although I have a blog, my intent was NEVER to be a paid writer) more on the business side of things. First, let me tell you that internet “fame” is more often than not a fluke (I Heart Chaos appears to be a prime example of this).

    It may not be that you are not part of the cool crowd, but rather you are in the wrong neighborhood. You might want to spend some time exploring the geekier writing crowd on tumblr. They are out there – I promise!

    And don’t get frustrated! KEEP WRITING!! Even if you have 3 readers KEEP WRITING!! You know I share your same frustration with the tumblr platform. It’s too social for me and I don’t do it well. Find a place you want to land. If you are going to do the REAL blogging thing, start searching for Wordpess and blogger blogs you enjoy reading. Put them in Google Reader. Read and comment daily. The REAL blogging community is far more reciprocal with their loyalty.

    One more (series of )question(s) … Why do you write? Do you write for the love of writing? Do you write to make money? Do you write for the social interaction? Why you write is often far more important that what you write.


    • Oh Tom … I think you might be expecting a little much

      Perhaps. But that’s the story of my life. My epitaph will read “Expected a little much, looked in the wrong place to get it.”

      And don’t get frustrated! KEEP WRITING!! Even if you have 3 readers KEEP WRITING!!

      I fully intend on it. There were just a few things I needed to get off my chest about my experience on Tumblr.


      • Jonathan says:

        See – this is the great thing about a “true” blog platform such as WordPress… it allows this dialogue to happen. Tumblr is really no more than a trumped up Twitter, and the speed and level of pollution in the firehose is such that nothing is really ever looked at.

        If you go look at the blogroll on you’ll find some good blogs to get you started… people who write, and comment.


      • And I have to say, the Blackberry app for WordPress is around 20x more robust than the Tumblr app, which hasn’t been updated since I’ve been at Tumblr.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s