Finally Getting Tumblr [en]

[fr] Un tumblelog, c'est un blog réduit à sa plus simple expression: des articles, des liens permanents, un fil RSS. Pas de commentaires, pas de gadgets, pas de tags, pas de catégories. Un bookmarklet permet de facilement choisir entre six sortes de billets prédéfinis (texte, citation, lien, photo, chat, vidéo) et devine même pour vous si vous le cliquez depuis une page web.

C'est un lieu idéal pour bloguer en passant, au fil des lectures. Noter une idée en vitesse. Mettre en valeur une photo ou une vidéo qu'on a appréciée. Prendre des notes sous forme de citation lorsque l'on lit.

I’ve had a tumblelog since February of this year, but it’s taken me a long time to figure out where it fit into my online presence.

I first tried importing everything into it, but that was a mess. Jaiku is better when it comes to lifestreaming, for the moment. (Wow, just checked, and Suprglu’s still alive — head there if you want the “fuller” version of my lifestream… with the lag, though.)

Anyway. This is what I publish on it nowadays: comments from other blogs, screenshots, quotes, and passing thoughts.

Let’s take a closer look.

What on Earth is This Tumblelog Thing?

A tumblelog is a blog stripped of all the non-essential stuff: no categories, no comments, no monthly archives, no fancy layouts, widgets. What is left? Posts, permalinks, RSS feeds… and a simple, no-nonsense layout.


Back in 2000 when I started blogging, the revolutionary thing about blogging tools (which at the time meant Blogger, there weren’t that many others) was that they made it dead easy to publish things online.

Tumblr has focused on that. Make it simple. Remove everything that gets in the way. Make the act of blogging so effortless that it can really become a true backup brain.

It’s a place for passing thoughts, interesting links, a video here or there. No time lost for anything else than the act of posting. Whatever you do, don’t think before posting.

A tumblelog is really a “me first!” thing. Stuff for me, first. Maybe you’ll find it interesting too — but if you don’t, no heat.

What I’m Importing

Tumblr Feed Settings

At the beginning, as I said, I imported everything into my Tumblr. But then, I wanted to import my Tumblr into my lifestream on Jaiku, and I ended up with duplicate content.

I decided to remove all my imports from Tumblr except for comments — through coComment. Comments on other people’s blogs are an important part of my online activity, and they deserve to be “kept” somewhere. CoComment does that, of course, but not in a really comfortable way for readers (the RSS feed is fine, and included on my blog, but it’s only the last comments). Reminds me that I never wrote that post about the disastrous launch of the 2.0 version, btw. Oh, well.

So, my comments go in my Tumblr.

During my stay in San Francisco this summer, I was converted (quite easily) to Skitch by Mr. Messina, and since then, my flickr photostream has seen the arrival of a great many screenshots. I feel like I finally have a camera to take photographs of my online life — as soon as I see something of note or bump into a problem, Skitch allows me [](effortlessly upload a screenshot).

These screenshots are a narrative of my online wanderings, and as such, deserve to be displayed in a timeline separate from my thousands of photographs.

In the Tumblr they go.

What I’m Posting

So far, I’ve found two really important uses to Tumblr: quotes and thoughts. The Tumblr bookmarklet is smart enough that it recognizes that I want to post a quote if I select some text on the page before clicking it:

Posting a Quote to Tumblr

This makes posting quotes dead easy. It’s suddenly made my online reading way more valuable: I’ve always read books taking notes on what I was reading, copying quotes so I had them handy in the future — and when a lot of my reading shifted online, I lost that. With Tumblr, I’ve found it again. (Finding the quotes will be trickier, I hope Google’s indexing of the Tumblr will be sufficient.)

The Tumblr Dashboard has six pre-set types of posts: text, photo, quote, link, chat, video.

Tumblr Dashboard

These pre-set post types offer different formatting and posting forms.

I’ve started to use the text post type to jot down random thoughts that occur to me, or notes to myself. For example, I’ve spent quite a bit of today thinking about a talk I’m going to give tomorrow, and jotted down some thoughts like this one.

As you can see, Tumblr allows me to link to an individual post.

A few times, I’ve also posted snippets of chat/IM conversations.

6 thoughts on “Finally Getting Tumblr [en]

  1. What I wonder about is this: some of my notes (the paper kind) are kinda personal. Not the diary-kind personal which you wouldn’t want your mum to see, but still not entirely public. Some notes however, I’d like to be able to share to people who don’t have an account anywhere (and only those, in mix-and-match groups). Finally, I have very few notes that everybody might care about.

    How does Tumblr address this issue of “target audience”?

    Also: is there an easy way to save my notes to my computer so I can handle backup myself? That would probably make offline full-text indexing possible/easier, too.

  2. Hmmm I don’t think Tumblr has this kind of fine privacy control. Actually, I’m almost positive I didn’t see anything about that in the settings.

    It’s really dumbed down to be very simple.

  3. If that’s the case, it’s kind of a glorified pastebin, isn’t it? With no expiry of course and a slightly different interface.

    Can’t really tell if it’s useful to me, then.

    (I’m a text file messie. I keep dozens of ill-named text files in a dedicated subfolder of my home dir. They contain everything from phone numbers to grocery lists and birthdays. But then, grep usually helps me find what I need. Actually, this might be a result of me being a Unix syadmin. Everything is a filesystem to me.)

  4. Thanks Stephanie! Great post; after reading it I’m actually reconsidering now Tumblr to fulfill part of my online presence too.

    I’m curious though to see if I can handle one more “output mode”… but probably yes: I’m already (like most of the people around me) switching between talking, e-mailing, writing on paper, writing digital (wiki and docs), writing SMS, chatting, blogging, bookmarking, twittering (and probably some more)…

    I’m especially interested in the part where you connect tumblr with co-comment: I’d really like to bring co-commenting back, but so far I haven’t been able to do it consistently :-/

  5. I’ve thought a bit more about the whole pastebin vs. Tumblr comparison I drew up in my earlier comment. I realized that a pastebin is actually a very specialized service similar to Tumblr, but geared towards programming/computer people and their needs when using IRC.

    As such, expiry is useful on a pastebin – for Tumblr it wouldn’t be.

    As for content other than semi-pure text (pastbins have syntax highlighting sometimes), pastebins are pretty useless. Most disallow image linking for security (and maybe decency) reasons and none that I know of allows binary uploads. The latter is to fight piracy and keep space consumption low.

    Now for Tumbler, things work differently: people will want to put images up there for others to see (does Tumblr host them?). Also, Tumblr users probably want to structure text (headings, links, paragraphs that flow etc) while pastebin users prefer literal text – most often, pastebins are used for computer/tech support, where verbatim quoting is extremely important.

    In conclusion, pastebins and Tumblr have some things in common – yet they are completely differnt 🙂

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