Because I spend my time thinking and writing about today’s online media, I have a fairly significant web presence. I write this blog. I have a web site and a PSU web page. I use Twitter and Flickr. I’m on Facebook, Linked In, and My Space. I use a variety of Web 2.0 tools, some of them often, some not so often. I have been experimenting with a variety of tools, looking for something that will consolidate the content I create in one place. Ideally, this tool will allow me to easily customize the look of the page that my followers will see. I’ve tried a number of tools and have not found any that I really like (for reasons that I will explain in a future post) but, based on a tip from Ann, I recently came across Tumblr, which has some of the features that I want but contains some annoyances and is based on a mental model that means it really won’t do exactly what I want it to do.
What is Tumblr? It is a micro-blogging platform, similar to Twitter, Plurk and so on. These sites allow users to create short content and share it with their followers. Since I’m already a Twitter user, the micro-blogging aspect of the platform was not what I was excited about. Instead, I was excited about the fact that Tumblr makes it really easy to share content of all types, not just text. In addition, Tumblr has a feature which allows the sharing of RSS feeds, that is, content from other sites. So I thought that perhaps Tumblr might be the simple solution to the problem that I’ve been trying to solve for a while now–how to aggregate all of the web content that I create into one site. Here‘s my tumblelog (yes, that’s what Tumblr sites are called and yes, it’s dorky).
There are a couple of annoyances that come with using Tumblr. It is indeed easy to set your site up so that it reposts feeds from other sites. So, for starters, I set mine up to automatically repost anything I put on this blog, my Twitter feed or my Flickr photostream. The first annoyance is that there is no way to force Tumblr to go out to your feeds to determine whether there is anything on them that should be posted to your tumblelog. The documentation says that when Tumblr searches your feeds, it will automatically repost anything that is less than two days old. So I have a fair amount of content on these sites that should be showing up already on my tumblelog. But only the content from this blog is currently showing there (I hope that changes by the time you’re reading this post). When I first set up the feeds, Tumblr told me they would be updated in an hour. But that hour counted down on the site and no update occurred. Further research suggests that perhaps these feeds will be updated soon–one source said it sometimes takes 12 hours–but I’ll just have to wait and see. That leads me to the second annoyance of using Tumblr: there is no way to test how your feeds will look on your tumblelog. I can test out how each media type will look but I can’t test an actual feed because there is no way to force an update from that feed. This seems as though it would be a simple coding change from the folks at Tumblr so I’m putting in my request right now.
Beyond these annoyances, Tumblr still doesn’t solve the problem that I want solved because there is a fundamental mental model behind the way Tumblr works that is an obstacle to solving my problem. I’ve encountered this mental model and its limitations in the past–actually, I encounter it just about every time I try out a new Web 2.0 tool. I’ll write more about that in my next post.
I am currently Professor of Digital Media at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, NH. I am also the current Coordinator of General Education at the University. I am interested in astrophotography, game studies, digital literacies, open pedagogies, and generally how technology impacts our culture.