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Comparing Tumblr to Wordpress - Bijan Sabet

bijan:

Yesterday, I received a few emails linking to this post on Pingdom that describes the growth of Wordpress and the faster growth of Tumblr (disclosure: I’m a board member and investor in Tumblr).

But comparing Tumblr to Wordpress is like comparing apples and oranges. They are completely different things. 

Wordpress is a publishing platform. You can host it yourself or Wordpress it will host it for you. And yes, some people use Tumblr in this use case. 

But the vast majority of the Tumblr engagement (traffic, page views, liking, reblogs, follows, etc), is on the Tumblr Dashboard which is their unique & native version of a social newsfeed. The Tumblr Dashboard is where you follow other Tumblr users and traffic inside the Tumblr Dashboard far exceeds (understatement) traffic to the aggregate page views to Tumblr powered sites.  

I think this is a misunderstood thing with people that dont use Tumblr or haven’t started following enough people. It’s not a tool.

Tumblr is a social network and the best place for creative self expression. 

I wrote a piece a while back, when I was first getting excited about Tumblr, where I describe the inside and outside view of Tumblr:

The Outside View — When Tumblr users are looking at other Tumblr-hosted blogs, they see several controls that are not visible to non-users. Along with the blog content, they see ‘like’, ‘reblog’, ‘follow’ and ‘dashboard’ icons, like this:


The ‘like’ button (the heart) is a way to create a haptic gesture that winds up on the post’s ‘notes’ list, a history of all the ways that the post has been touched by others.

The ‘reblog’ button makes a copy of the post on the user’s blog, and adds that action to the original post’s notes history.

Clicking the ‘follow’ adds the blog to the user’s list of followed blogs, which is a perfect segue to the second view in the poststream model.

The Inside View — When the user logs into Tumblr (or when they click on ‘dashboard’ after being logged in), they are presented their Tumblr dashboard, which aggregates posts from all the blogs that the user is following, plus posts from their own blog, and notes that other users’ actions have left on posts. Here’s the third page of my Tumblr dashboard from this morning (I wanted to show a note and the page controls):


The ‘like’ and ‘reblog’ controls are displayed on all the posts in the poststream, and work in the same way as described.

You can see that wakeupfromthedramscene has started following my UnderpaidGenius blog. Other notes also are displayed, although their are none in this page of my poststream:  reblogs, likes, and answers to questions (any text post that ends with a question mark allows for answers to questions to be accumulated).

Bijan makes the case that this inside view — the Tumblr Dashboard — is a social network while Wordpress is just a blogging platform: all outside view, and no inside. Note, however, that the piece I quoted above was about Wordpress releasing new social features — specifically, ‘like’ and ‘reblog’ — in an effort to become better social plumbing.

So I don’t go along with the notion that these are two discrete and different things. Wordpress, Tumblr, Typepad, Squarespace — they are all social tools with a strong publishing orientation, but all support social networks of people reading and writing, just with different appraoches to supporting those connections.

Tumblr is the technology that has gone the farthest down the path toward a new social paradigm, where all involved can become full participants in the explicit social network that Tumblr supports. People can opt to be plain old readers if they want, but they will never get wise to the social streaming in the inside view until they sign up for their own account, and jump into social curation: leaving plain old reading behind.

(via underpaidgenius)

MSN Spaces Closing, Becomes WordPress.com →

cameronmoll:

Matt Mullenweg:

As just announced on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt, Windows Live (formerly MSN) Spaces is shutting down and migrating their 30m+ users to WordPress.com. Four years ago I was fairly worried as every internet giant (Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo, Google) had a hosted blogging service. Now only Blogger remains, and is firmly in our sights.

Blogger, no doubt, has the lion’s share of everyday bloggers. But if I were Matt, I might be more concerned about Tumblr as the most credible (and future) threat to WordPress.com.

my two cents

Yes, Cameron is right. The threat to Wordpress is not Blogger, Six Apart (who was purchased by VideoEgg last week), or other old school blogging tools. The competitive challenge will come from Tumblr and other more social stream media. Of course,  Wordpress could adopt an open follower model for users to internally follow blogs, a la Tumblr, like Typepad did last year with the Micro release.

Six Apart Acquired By VideoEgg: Old School Blogging Is Dead

Six Apart has had a strange history. Started by the starry-eyed Ben and Mena Trott, the early Six Apart (named after the number of days between the two founders’ birthdays) was like an earlier version of the WordPress story. The Movable Type publishing platform was the premier blogging platform of the mid ’00s, but the company divided its energies, building Typepad as a hosted blogging solution sort of based on Movable Type, but as an independent code base. The company also pissed off it most ardent users with an extremely inartful change in the licensing agreement, leading to the mass defection of the developer community to the then-fledgling Wordpress.

Not content with those diversion, the Six Apart team tried to grow through acquisitions, buying Loic LeMeur’s Ublog company and then LiveJournal, which was sold off years later.

Somewhere in there, they found time to squander their attention by building a fourth blogging platform, Vox, which was an attempt to fuse social networking with blogging, a sort of proto-Tumblr, but it never took off.

In recent years, Six Apart had grown into a services firm and advertising network, supporting larger publishers and dropping its efforts to grow its base of individual bloggers. This was partly a response to the dominance of Wordpress in old school blogging, and the rise of Tumblr, Posterous, and other innovative blogging solutions, but the elephant in the room has been the rise of social networks, like Twitter and Facebook, and the defection of the individual blogger to these social tools instead of blogging.

The acquisition of Six Apart by VideoEgg might represent a kind of end of the enthusiastic, communitarian era of blogging. Matt Sanchez, CEO of the combined company, which will be called Say Media, had this to say:

Mathew Ingram, Six Apart Deal With VideoEgg Marks the End of an Era

The VideoEgg CEO said that the new company would offer “content creators” of all kinds — individual bloggers, video creators, game developers and corporations — a single platform for their content and a way to build their brand through social media, but it’s clear that the point of the merger is to focus on corporations rather than the individual blogger, something Six Apart had been trying to do even before the deal was announced. SAY Media’s marketing presentation says “it’s not just about the amateurs anymore,” and that for brands, “engagement media is where your passionate customers are.”

It’s not social media, but engagement media, note: don’t want to scare off the big publishers with all that social malarkey. And, in case you are wondering, ‘it’s not just about the amateurs anymore.’

I have written a lot about media companies — who were once threatened by the rise of early social media — turning around and repurposing the tools of social media for their purposes. In several presentations and posts in recent years, I’ve made the case that we need to reconsider what the media companies are doing and out participation in it. They are creating ‘media sprawl’ — just like chain stores creating urban sprawl: 

New Spatialism: Reclaiming The Social Space In Web Media

Looking back on ten years of blogging, I think we have arrived at a turning point, where we have to reclaim the social space in web media.


Sprawl, originally uploaded by Stowe Boyd.

Ten years ago, when I started blogging, it wasn’t called blogging yet. I thought I was writing an ‘e-zine’ although it had all the characteristics of a blog: reverse chronological entries, categories, and so on.

We were like pioneers, fooling around out in the wilderness, cutting crude roads, building villages.

Relatively soon, however, this personal publishing by the fringe lunatics became big business and old media arrived. Now the leading ‘blogs’ are either run by old media giants, or bloggers who have become new media giants. Social media has been strip-malled. The funky soulfulness of the early days has been replaced by SEO, ad networks, and ersatz earnestness.

The reality is that so-called social media — even in its earlier, Birkenstock and granola days — wasn’t very social. We didn’t call it that until much later, anyway. We thought of it as personal publishing, and it adopted the basic dynamics of publishing. Most notably, there was a publisher or author and then there were readers. It seemed more egalitarian since anyone could be a publisher, but still there was a broadcast media dynamic despite the fact that anyone could argue or agree with someone else’s posts on their own blog. Then for a few years, we just called it blogging. Rhymes with slogging, because, in the final analysis, most people didn’t blog: too hard, too much work, not rewarding enough.

But the format is perfect for publishing companies, which is why the largest ‘blogs’ now are generally corporate media machinery. And as the blogosphere has become an increasingly corporate neighborhood, people are moving out.

I noticed a few years ago that comments seemed to be moving from blogs into faster paced social tools, like Facebook and then streaming apps like Twitter. (Twitter has become so popular that most of the competitors have closed shop). People are moving to where things are more social, where the author/audience divide is less sharp, and where the scale of interaction is human-sized. This is the new loft district: social networks.

Social networks are truly social, where web media isn’t, very.

Social networks are really about individuals and their personal relationships with others. So, if web media is to really become social — which it isn’t at present — we need to take what we have learned from other, more social tools, and take another run at social media.


New Urbanism, originally uploaded by Stowe Boyd.

Using an analogy from city planning and architecture, we need a rethinking of the basics: something like the New Urbanism movement, that tried to reclaim shared urban space in a way that matches human needs, and moved away from gigantic and dehumanizing cityscapes of the mid and late twentieth century, where garbage trucks seemed more at home than a teenage girl walking a dog.

So, we need a New Spatialism movement, to rethink web media and reclaim the social space that is supposed to be central to so-called social media. Some web media may just remain what it is, like an industrial district at the edge of town. But at least some parts of web media should be reconceptualized, and reconstructed to get back to human scale. Just as New Urbanism is about organizing streets, sidewalks, and plazas to support the growth of social capital, New Spatialism would help us channel interactions on line to increase sociality, and thereby increase the growth of social capital.

New Spatialism is based on the idea that our primary motivations for being online are extra-market drivers: we are not online for money, principally. We have created the web to happen to ourselves: to shape a new culture and build a better, more resilient world. And we need better media tools than we have at present, to make that a reality.

Zemanta Integrated With Wordpress.com

Zemanta has announced a partnership with Wordpress.com, so that bloggers using that platform will have direct access to Zemanta’s technology.

I have been using Zemanta on my various blogs (stoweboyd.com, underpaidgenius.com) and it is a great support. In my case, Zemanta is a Firefox plug-in that does a lexical analysis of your post in the editor mode, and recommends related articles and photos based on the topics you discuss.

Here’s the plug-in’s recommendations for a recent post of mine:

By simply clicking on Zamanta’s recommendations, members of my reading community will see links to supporting information. It’s very easy for the author, and provides more context for the reader.

Zemanta has relationships with SixApart’s Movable Type, Blogger.com and Scribefire. I use it with Tumblr, although that is not a business relationship: it just works. Zemanta reaches far more than 30% of the blogging population now.

[I just wish I could use it other types of Tumblr posts: at the moment it is limited to ‘Text’ posts, like this one. I especially would like it to work with link posts, but there is no reason that Zemanta’s great dev team can’t figure it out.]

Tumblr’s Media Direction: Mark Coatney Joins

Mark Coatney leaves his Newsweek gig as a senior editor and joins Tumblr as ‘media evangelist’, working to get media companies more involved in the service:

Jenna Wortham, Tumblr, a New Spin in the Flurry of Social Media

Mr. Coatney, a 43-year-old journalist, is the latest hire at Tumblr, a fast-growing blogging service based in New York that says it has 6.6 million users.

Until last month, Mr. Coatney was a senior editor at Newsweek, where as a side project he headed up the magazine’s social efforts on Twitter and Facebook. Last year he decided to add Tumblr to his repertoire.

“I saw it as an opportunity to talk to our audience in a new way,” he said. On Twitter, he said, “the main feedback comes mostly from retweeting,” or retransmitting an interesting message. On Tumblr, “the tone is a lot more conversational.”

Mr. Coatney quickly cultivated a following on Tumblr for his thought-provoking, quick-witted posts. Often they included commentary that was funny and bordering on acerbic — something he was able to get away with largely because “no one at Newsweek really knew what I was doing,” he said.

The credibility he established among Tumblr users, and the fact that Newsweek was one of the first big publishers to sign on, cemented Tumblr’s decision to hire him, company executives said.

Over the last few months, other media outlets have caught wind of Tumblr, which is free to use. The newest recruits include The Atlantic, Rolling Stone, BlackBook Media Corporation, National Public Radio, The Paris Review, The Huffington Post, Life magazine and The New York Times.

But many of those outlets have done little more than set up a placeholder page. In his new job as a “media evangelist,” Mr. Coatney’s role, and in some ways his challenge, is to help them figure out what to do next.

Mr. Coatney describes Tumblr as “a space in between Twitter and Facebook.” The site allows users to upload images, videos, audio clips and quotes to their pages, in addition to bursts of text.

As on Twitter, users can follow other users, whose posts appear in a chronological stream on a central home page known as the dashboard. Users can indicate that they like an item by clicking on a red heart next to it or “reblogging” it.

Commentators never seem to get down to the core difference between Tumblr and other blogging solutions. As a result, they miss the rich social dimension that Tumblr offers.

I recently characterized this as having both an ‘inside’ and an ‘outside’ view:

Stowe Boyd, WordPress Releases ‘Like’ And ‘Reblog’: We Need TumbleBacks, People!

The Outside View — When Tumblr users are looking at other Tumblr-hosted blogs, they see several controls that are not visible to non-users. Along with the blog content, they see ‘like’, ‘reblog’, ‘follow’ and ‘dashboard’ icons, like this:


The ‘like’ button (the heart) is a way to create a haptic gesture that winds up on the post’s ‘notes’ list, a history of all the ways that the post has been touched by others.

The ‘reblog’ button makes a copy of the post on the user’s blog, and adds that action to the original post’s notes history.

Clicking the ‘follow’ adds the blog to the user’s list of followed blogs, which is a perfect segue to the second view in the poststream model.

The Inside View — When the user logs into Tumblr (or when they clink on ‘dashboard’ after being logged in), they are presented their Tumblr dashboard, which aggregates posts from all the blogs that the user is following, plus posts from their own blog, and notes that other users’ actions have left on posts. Here’s the third page of my Tumblr dashboard from this morning (I wanted to show a note and the page controls):


The ‘like’ and ‘reblog’ controls are displayed on all the posts in the poststream, and work in the same way as described.

You can see that wakeupfromthedramscene has started following my UnderpaidGenius blog. Other notes also are displayed, although their are none in this page of my poststream:  reblogs, likes, and answers to questions (any text post that ends with a question mark allows for answers to questions to be accumulated).

So, I think Coatney is right to see Tumblr as sitting somewhere better Twitter and blogging. The inside view is based on an open follower model, and social gestures like ‘likes’, ‘reblogs’ and ‘asks’ fill in for much of the communication that Twitter supports so readily. But Tumblr’s rich media — images, videos, audio, and various sorts of text-based posts — make it a more literary, or interests-based medium, especially at first glance.

As a direct result, communities of people with similar interests quickly aggregate, and connect through ‘following’ relationships, in a way parallel to Twitter, but using other parts of the head since it is not an endless stream of text-based tweets and links.

Perhaps because of this media richness, and the media-oriented communities that form within Tumblr, partnerships with media firms seems a natural course to take, especially highly focused publications with tight communities. Consider groups like young parents, avid sports enthusiasts, gadget heads, or social activists: these would be natural communities that could benefit from participation of cornerstone media companies investing in a slightly more advanced infrastructure than comes off the shelf with Tumblr.

For example, a cycling magazine might build a Tumblr-based website (called Wheels) that includes pages dedicated to specific interests, like new bikes, performance training, leisurely cruising, and bike-based holidays. Members of the Wheels community could follow Wheels, and be followed back in turn. Any posts that the community members tagged appropriately would be streamed through these pages, and the best and most interesting might be featured or highlighted on the Wheels topics pages.

At any rate, it would be a straightforward prospect to develop this sort of componentry to offer media companies, and to allow them a means to use the follower model to sharpen their connection to communities, and to do so without becoming yet another Facebook colony.

Note that Wordpress and Typepad have been moving steadily in the direction of Tumblr’s innovation, adopting social gestures (‘like’ and ‘reblog’) and in the case of Typepad, even developing an inside view modeled directly after Tumblr’s.

I recently moved this blog to Tumblr (see Moving To Tumblr Manually: I Must Be Nuts), and I have used the platform for several years on my underpaidgenius.com blog. I have some complaints, but they are actually minor relative to the upside offered by this rich social interaction. I just wish I could convince more of the community that follows my writing here to sign up for a Tumblr account, and experience the rich world behind the outside view that you are probably experiencing now.

Moving To Tumblr, Manually: I Must Be Nuts

A few weeks ago I decided that I really wanted to move the /Message blog off of Squarespace, which I had been using since early 2010 as my blogging platform.

I have been using Tumblr for several years for my other blog, Underpaid Genius (formerly Ambivalence), and I had become sold on the Tumblr model of social blogging (see WordPress Releases ‘Like’ And ‘Reblog’: We Need TumbleBacks, People). As a result, I decided to push ahead with porting to Tumblr, even though there is no automated way to do it. These are a few comments about the experience.

Tumblr does allow mapping a domain name to a Tumblr hosted blog, and that simply works as advertised. In this case I mapped ‘www.stoweboyd.com’ to ‘stoweboyd.tumblr.com’ and was off and running.

Tumblr does not allow someone porting to their platform any sort of automated help, and in particular this means that simply cutting and pasting entires from Suqarespace and posting them to Tumblr would work for the contents of the posts, but all the links that people in the outside world might have pointing to my writings would be broken. For example, if the old URL of an entry posted on Squarespace was

www.stoweboyd.com/message/demonizing-twitter-fear-of-the-future.html

and the new Tumblr URL would be

http://www.stoweboyd.com/post/764983011/demonizing-twitter-fear-of-the-future

and there isn’t anyway in Tumblr to create the former over again.

Since I was going to potentially break everything, I decided this would be the best possible time to change the name of my blog from /Message (www.stoweboyd.com/message) to Stowe Boyd (www.stoweboyd.com), which is something i have wanted to do for a year or so.

It turns out that Tumblr does support a redirection capability, however, which is buried in the mechanism for creating Tumblr ‘pages’. So I was able to use that to map the old Squarespace URLs to the new Tumblr URLs:

And this redirection, like the reposting, has to be done manually. But at least it is possible. There seems to be no way to automate this at present: I was informed by a friend that there are no API calls in Tumblr for creating redirect pages.

This is also made more complex by the archival URLs in Squarespace. A single post can be referred to by several URLs:

www.stoweboyd.com/message/example

www.stoweboyd.com/message/2010/example
www.stoweboyd.com/message/2010/03/example
www.stoweboyd.com/message/2010/03/28/example

and a link from the outside world might be any of these. In general, I settled for just the first, except in a few instance where someone like the NY Times had used an archival URL.

You might wonder at this point if I had lost my mind, taking on so much manual work. But the truth is I outsourced it to a college student, Blake Harrison, once I had figured out how to do it.

There were several other major pains in the porting.

One pain is links that I have in my posts to other /Message posts. The redirection approach works in general, but we are only creating redirects for 2010 posts, or a selection of popular posts from earlier years. I expect I will be fixing those links for months — if not years — to come.

Another has to do with images. On Squarespace, I had often uploaded images onto their server, so the references to those were local. And I plan to shut down that account as soon as the porting is finished, in the next few weeks. So we had to download the images and then reupload them to Tumblr. This also helped a great deal with image presentation, since Tumblr scales photos to one of several dimensions, which match the Tumblr template model much better than a stray link to an image hosted elsewhere. I am sure we missed some. (I also discovered a nasty bug in Squarespace during this. Apparently, uploading an image file called ‘slide 1’ when there is an existing ‘slide 1’ did not lead to renaming of the second file to, for instance, ‘slide 1-1’: it led to a replacement of the image. So whenever I had uploaded images from presentations, I was inadvertently overwriting all previous presentation images.)

Both systems support tags, and we simply retyped them.

Tumblr supports setting a date for a post in the past, which we did, trying to conserve the sequence of posts. However, since Tumblr does not provide a link to the post in the editor or dashboard views, there is no simple way to browse to the page after saving to see the actual layout and to capture the actual URL (necessary for redirects). The editor preview mode doesn’t show the actual URL anywhere. Therefore, after saving a post, we would have to use the Tumblr archival URL for the date, like

www.stoweboyd.com/day/2010/03/28

which browses to a page of posts from March 3, 2010. Then we click on the specific post permalink to get the actual URL. A lot of work.

All this postdating of posts led to the discovery of a pernicious bug in Tumblr. It seems that when templates take advantage of Tumblr capabilities for moving from a given page to a previous or next page, the determination of the ordering is based on when the pages are created, not the date set in the date field. As a result, I have to avoid the use of next or previous page navigation. Hopefully, Tumblr will fix this bug in the future.

On Squarespace, I had relied on the company’s inbuilt commenting system. On Tumblr I am using Disqus, so we have cut and pasted the old comments into Disqus.

I haven’t said much about Tumblr templates, but the flexibility they offer — in comparison with Squarespace — is one of the reasons I wanted to move. I am now using Lynx created by Andrew Stichbury, and had fooled with a number of others, too.

Status And Conclusions

Blake originally was working from the past to the present, but I stopped him somewhere in 2009 to work on 2010. He’s now working backwards from the present, and is working on April posts at present. I hope he will have moved everything in the next few weeks, before going back to college.

If you have a link that doesn’t resolve, let me know in the comments to this post, and we will fix it.

The process has turned out to be workable, even with thousands of posts, although very time consuming. The redirect capability is a godsend, and solves a mazillion headaches, such as serving up RSS feeds.

I am extremely happy with using Tumblr for both of my principle blogs, and an upcoming blog project called 20onetwenty, a site that will be dedicated to my search for a place to live within 120 minutes by train of New York City.

Having multiple Tumblr blogs causes some headaches, though. Tumblr supports multiple blogs on a single account, but certain capabilities are restricted to the main (initial) blog created in that account. So I now have two Tumblr accounts, one for stoweboyd.com and the other for underpaidgenius.com (and soon, another for 20onetwenty.com). This means I have to logout and login many times a day, and this complicates the use of Tumblr’s bookmarklet. I have created a bookmark on my Firefox toolbar that links to the logout page at Tumblr, and that resolves to a login page, so the result is more or less like selecting which blog I would like to start posting to. However, it would be better if that could be integrated into the Tumblr bookmarklet, itself.

A Call For Interoperable Tumbling: Tumbleback

In an earlier post today, regarding Typepad’s release of Micro, a new ‘micro blogging’ implementation on the Typepad platform, I called for interoperable tumbling between blog platforms:

[via www.stoweboyd.com]

Reblog is not built in to every blog, so even if I am an active Typepad Micro user, I can’t reblog every post of every Typepad blog. It requires the blog’s owner to change to a Micro template, like Chroma. This is a major problem, and will slow the adoption of Micro. At the very least Six Apart should add a reblog capability to the bookmarklet, so that users can reblog all Typepad blog posts. This might even be extended to support reblogging of other blogging platforms’ posts, like Tumblr, Moveable Type, and Wordpress, for example. Ultimately, interoperable reblogging and favoriting are going to be demanded by users. It is a social good for interoperability of this sort to exist. In fact, I am going to kick off a project in Microsyntax.org calling for conventions to be considered that will support this.

I would like to expand briefly on what I think is called for.


  1. A convention — like trackbacks — needs to be established, so that a message can be sent by one platform, like Typepad, to another, like Tumblr, on behalf of an author. I propose we call this ‘tumbleback’, plural ‘tumblebacks’.

  2. Let’s say I want to reblog a post from a Tumblr blog on my Typepad blog. I might use a Typepad bookmarklet that is Tumblr-aware. When I select a post on a Tumblr blog, and use the reblog capability in the bookmarklet, it would a/ post the reblog on my Typepad blog, and b/ send a message to Tumblr, indicating the reblog.

  3. The cross-platform reblog would look much like a regular, within a single platform reblog, with the name and URL of the source blog displayed.

  4. The message sent from Typepad on my behalf would be received by Typepad, and the fact that I reblogged the post could be included on the ‘notes’ history associated with the source blog post. This means that readers of the original post would see that I had reblogged it.

  5. Tumblr might send a message back to Typepad including information that would allow Typepad to display the notes history of the source blog on the post I created. Alternatively, this could be provided by an API. Likewise, as other Typepad users reblog my post Typepad could pass these notes along. In this way the full reblog history (and favorites or likes, as well) could be maintained at the original source post, and shared by everyone.

  6. I think some new microsyntax is called for, that would indicate the platform, author, and other metadata associated with these cross-platform trails. More to follow on that.

  7. The addition of downstream reblogs and likes/favorites could be added to the streams of participants by the various services.

I will be contacting representatives of Typepad, Tumblr, and perhaps other tumble blog companies to discuss these ideas, and invite them to participate in a Microsyntax initiative to define conventions (and perhaps de facto standards) to allow such interoperability to work.

As I said, this would clearly be in the public interest. We should not have a divided world between various emerging tumbling platforms, despite near-term business interests of the competing companies. I saw this happen in the instant messaging world, and the resulting fragmentation benefited no one, not even the vendors who refused to do the right thing.

Typepad Goes After Tumblr

Six Apart has made an announcement of new capabilities for Typepad:

[via Announcing TypePad Micro]

As part of our ongoing rollout of the NEW TypePad we are pleased to
announce new social blogging features and the launch of TypePad Micro:
a completely free level of TypePad focused on easy sharing of text,
photos, and videos.

A new form of blogging is emerging — somewhere between the status
updates of Facebook and Twitter and the full-length posts of classic
blogs — focused on being easy, fun, and connected. Think of this middle
category as a bridge between blogs and social networks, tapping into
the connectedness of networks with the freedom, control, and
independence of blogs.

TypePad Micro is built for this growing form of blogging, making it
easy for people to curate compelling content from the web — be it text,
photos, or videos — and share it in real-time with people on their blog
and to Facebook and Twitter. We very much see this form of blogging as
a complement to, not a competitor of, these services. Many bloggers
have friends and followers on these great networks but often want to
post more than 140 characters, or share photos and videos, with their
own narrative and their own design.

TypePad Micro comes with a beautiful new theme, Chroma, custom built for this streamlined form of blogging and a new feature: Reblog,
which makes it easy for your blog’s readers to re-post items from your
blog on a blog of their own (think of it as the blogging equivalent of
the “retweet”).

This micro release of Micro is an effort to go after Tumblr, to catch up to it’s phenomenal growth. And in part, it does so.

The inclusion of the ‘reblog’ social gesture (or function, if you are a functional thinker) is perhaps the single most important aspect of this release. The ‘reblog’ and the ‘like’ gestures are two minimal touches that make Tumblr what it is. Mostly the impact of these social gestures are invisible to people who don’t have their own Tumblr accounts, because behind the open public face of tumbler is second open public sphere, but only seen by Tumblr users. I refer to this as ‘behind the veil’, since it also public, but occluded.

In this social plane of Tumblr, I receive a torrent of posts from those Tumblr blogs I am following, and I can see the social gestures related to the posts I have created. Whenever someone reblogs a post of mine, or ‘likes’ it, that appears as a message in the stream.

As a result of this social stream behind the Tumblr veil is a rich world, where a Tumblr user may spend a great deal of time, reading, examining pictures, seeing reblog notitfications, and so on. Here’s my stream for my /Ambivalence Tumblr blog, leaving out the posts from those I am following:

  

This is the principal user experience of Tumblr, bathing in the stream of images, text, links, and social gestures flowing from those you follow.

To have it work, you need the ‘reblog’ and ‘like’ social touches (or the Micro ‘favorite’ I guess), as well as a stream view behind the veil. Typepad implemented the stream view sometime ago, and has now closed the loop.

It seems, though, at present only the new Chroma template supports reblogging, which seems odd. Why can’t I just add reblog to my existing Typepad blogs? My sense is that Six Apart are maintaining a conceptual distinction between micro blogging — which Chroma is designed for — and macro or long format blogging. I think this is a meaningless distinction, and that the important thing is the stream behind the veil, for any sort of blog. It represents a new and richer social dimension to the blogging experience.

Here’s a Chroma blog that I created:

 

It took only a minute to change an existing blog to the Chroma template, and it offered the very cool feature of offering me three color schemes based on the tones in the photo I uploaded as the banner image.  You can see the ‘Reblog It’ button at the bottom of the first post.

Note that this post was created in what I consider the most common fashion for ‘tumbling’. I went to my /Ambivalence blog selected a picture I posted there, and I used a Typepad bookmarklet to select that image to post in the /Edgewards blog on Typepad. This is how most Tumblr blog posts are made, aside from reblogging existing Tumblr posts.

I used Typepad’s bookmarklet:

 
And that works pretty much the same as the previous bookmarklet.

Perhaps this is the only place where Typepad Micro doesn’t operate like a tumblr blog: the posts aren’t typed. In Tumblr, image posts are different from video, audio, quotes, links, and text. Typepad posts, even in Micro’s Chroma template are all the same. In Tumblr, if you descend down into the guts of the template language (a subject too technical and detailed for this post), each of these post types can be managed differently, with different fonts, styling, and layout. Although I have not tried to dive down into Chroma’s template, it doesn’t seem like the system is typed. I predict that Typepad will have to be extended to meet the sophistication available to designers in Tumblr.

Six Apart has added some of the small touches that make Tumblr a rich experience externally, like the ability to create a gallery in photos in a single post, by uploading a series of photos or URLs:

 

Conclusions

At first inspection, Typepad Micro might add up to something very similar to the internal social experience of Tumblr. The combination of a streaming experience for logged in users and the ‘reblog’ and ‘favorite’ gestures could lead to an experience nearly as rich as Tumblr. However, there are some serious caveats:


  1. Posts aren’t typed — this will provide a lower lever of design sophistication, even if people can get at the Chroma template’s innards, which I have yet to explore.

  2. Reblog is not built in to every blog, so even if I am an active Typepad Micro user, I can’t reblog every post of every Typepad blog. It requires the blog’s owner to change to a Micro template, like Chroma. This is a major problem, and will slow the adoption of Micro. At the very least Six Apart should add a reblog capability to the bookmarklet, so that users can reblog all Typepad blog posts. This might even be extended to support reblogging of other blogging platforms’ posts, like Tumblr, Moveable Type, and Wordpress, for example. Ultimately, interoperable reblogging and favoriting are going to be demanded by users. It is a social good for interoperability of this sort to exist. In fact, I am going to kick off a project in Microsyntax.org calling for conventions to be considered that will support this.

  3. The limitation of a single template supporting Micro is dumb. I already had an issue with the limited number of templates in Typepad, and the fact that they were all so similar. This is due to the fractured model of templates that exists below the hood in Typepad. Better to shift to an open model of templates, with one large text file containing the entire template, instead of a structured model. Again, this is a bit too technical for this forum, but I wanted to include it in my list.


[Update: I learned that Six Apart has in fact set things up so that every blog can have reblog enabled. I have turned this on for /Message, too.]

Six Apart has a long way to go to provide an experience as rich and social as that offered by the much younger Tumblr. But I have to say, they have given me hope that I won’t have to port my /Message blog to Tumblr in order to ultimately have the same depth of experience surrounding my tech blogging as I do on /Ambivalence, where I tumble everything else. Note I don’t say that I blog on /Ambivalence, because the experience is so different, so much more compelling and deep, that it is really something completely different.

I dream of logging into Typepad to have a cascade of other tech writers’ thoughts and commentaries stream past, being able to reblog and comment on these posts in a one step fashion. To be in the stream is just a better experience than wandering around, or reading from RSS tools. Six Apart might be on the way to get me there. I hope so.

I plan — as you might expect — to convert this blog over to Chroma, or something like it, just as soon as I explore the implications in a bit more depth.

Moved to Wordpress

I am going to be dramatically revamping my Typepad set-up for /Message over the next week or so. Pardon my dust as I am futzing around.

The motivating cause is my desire to get Sphere working on the blog, which has proven to be a real headache. The nice people at Wordpress — solicited by Tony Conrad of Sphere — discussed moving me over to Workpress, but that soon started to look like a real major headache: partly because I have three blogs at Typepad, now, but just because I don’t want any breakage. Then the nice people at Six Apart offered to help me, but it rapidly became clear that I know just as much about Typepad’s vagaries as many of the Six Apart staff, if not more.

So, expect a template that looks something like this one, but with only one sidebar, on the right, new logo, no banner ad along the top, and a reduction in clutter of various sorts.

More to follow.

June 27: A Day That Shall Live In Infamy, Typepad!

I don’t know what happened at Typepad’s blogging service on the 27th, but the spam filters must have been all the way down. I have deleted nearly a thousand spam comments, all from that day.

I am sorry to say that Capcha is now up at /Message, at least until Typepad tells me I can drop it.