Monday, January 31, 2011

I Got a Tumblr

You might have noticed that I created a Tumblr a few months ago. If not, the new Tumblr widget makes the existence of a Mr. Destructo Tumblr somewhat more obvious. You might also ask why one exists, and in this respect you and I would happen to have a lot in common. I don't really understand the purpose of a Tumblr. After using it for some months, I even looked up their article on Wikipedia just to make sure I wasn't missing anything.

Wikipedia says* it's a microblogging site, but of course so is Twitter. Given the paucity of per-article content most people toss up on their pages, Blogger probably counts for one as well, although I'm sure most people don't see it that way. Microblogging seems to definitionally reside on the intent side of behavior. Your average person running "" might only be able to burp out 250 words at once, but the company providing her webspace had a grander intention at one point in time.

Twitter and Tumblr both seem to succeed at least in part because their business plan suggests to users that aiming lower is what they should be doing. Not only does it inspire confidence and savvy in users' dishing out quips, but it dovetails with the sense that we don't have time for ponderous expression. In this world, if someone can only finish reading one blog post during a session on the toilet, they had better be the most efficiently regular person in existence; otherwise, they ought to be blowing through half a dozen blog updates at a time.

* — Ahh, an encyclopedia citation, the universal signal that somebody has nothing to say about something either out of ignorance or for want of any data. The mind just recoils at this low-level of research, even if it's a person's only option. No matter their good intentions or the topic's thin documentary history, hearing someone resort to reference works is like hearing a best man rise and begin his wedding toast with, "Webster's New International Dictionary defines 'marriage' as a union..."

All this sounds like a bunch of bunk to me — reasonable bunk, but bunk all the same. So far as I can tell, Tumblr's primary use is to tell jokes too long for Twitter and with too many media/links/embeds to be put on something like this site's Facebook page, but not enough of any of the preceding to qualify for a single article on this site itself. It's like a repository for shit that isn't offhand enough or is too stupid to think about for more than a paragraph.

Naturally, this wasn't how the service was sold to me by this site's Mysterious Benefactor, someone who, when it comes to the internet, Knows Things. No, MB's pitch was that lots of people use it, and it virally spreads popularity for creative endeavors. To prove this point, MB sent me a picture of some silly photoshop that had been reblogged about 175 times, leading to something like this phone conversation:
MB: Look how many shares this stuff is getting. You could be sharing your stuff with a lot more people.
ME: I dunno. I'm looking around, and this seems like a vector for more efficiently sharing cat macros with people you already know. Can't I just type "monetize my blog" into Twitter again and get another 35 followers?
MB: You wouldn't put whole articles on there, just excerpts, like the paragraph you think is the funniest or the best teaser for a whole article. That way, more people read the short paragraph and then want to read more and click over.
ME: Yeah, I'm not really seeing a whole lot of text on here that isn't in Impact font and related to things people may or may not can haz. (sudden clatter from my office)
MB: What was that noise?
ME: I had a kind of makeshift tower of honorary doctorates that had a Jericho moment, I guess.
MB: Clearly none of them were doctorates in engineering.
ME: Well, if they were, they were honorary anyway.
MB: What did you get them for?
ME: Blogging.
MB: Probably a step up from when Earlham gave you that official recognition as the World's Greatest Lover.
ME: That wasn't so bad. It was when places like Grinnell and Oberlin and Reed started upping the ante and giving me school honors for performance.
MB: What title did they settle on?
ME: "World's Greatest Fuck Machine."
MB: Ugh. It could be worse. I can't believe Antioch gives out a scholarship to men and women who prove that your words can rape people.
ME: I know, right?
MB: Fuck Antioch.
ME: All right, I set this Tumblr thing up, but I'm going to blame you if it fails.
Obviously it has, which is why I've had to resort to using a longer blog entry on this site to advertise a microblogging site where I'll use smaller entries to advertise this one. Later, I'll probably tweet a link to these words and to a summary of them on Tumblr redirecting back here.

That said, I was also planning on going back and copy-editing older posts and removing errors that weren't obvious when proofreading in the dead of night just minutes after finishing, standardizing the formatting, fixing screwed-up images and trying to make things just work better visually. When I do that, I imagine I'll post teaser paragraphs to the Tumblr page, rather than here.

So if you want to take a directed trip back through the archives — you know, back when we all wrote about serious things for grownups — follow the Tumblr page, and I imagine that there'll be one or two posts per week fitting that bill. And, of course, there will also be all the crass jokes that can't fit in Twitter, or need crass pictures, or that would be too offensive for the Facebook page.