On tumbling and shallow identity

So as you may or may not know, I publish the blog part of this site using a little thing called tumblr (the portfolio bit is cobbled together with Cargo and spit and bits of string). Most of the time tumblr is brilliant because it’s simple. Really simple. You can literally set up and account and start blogging within a minute.

Khoi recently discussed the ‘shallow identity’ that this simplicity encourages. There’s no default ‘about’ page, so many bloggers are completely anonymous (or hidden away in the small print – something I’m guilty of with my other site, Concrete Proof) and the intent of the blog is unclear. And there’s no in-built commenting system, so actual human discussion beyond clicking a ‘like’ or ‘reblog’ icon is discouraged, unless you figure out how to install an unsightly third-party commenting system like Disqus.

Despite these shallow shortcomings, I’ve stuck with it a lot longer than other blogging platforms, because it just works. Over the years, I’ve tried my hand at Blogger, Wordpress, Typepad, but none of them allow me to post something as quickly and reliably like as tumblr does.

Well, I say reliable …

This week it went a bit screwy. The way I manage Concrete Proof is I gather together lots of lovely images in one go and then queue them up for auto-posting, so it publishes one beautiful drab grey image every afternoon. It’s like a daily concrete scooby snack for you all. The other day, HAL tumblr decided to publish my entire queue in one go. Not the end of the world, but still a right royal pain in the bum for me and all those other people whose queued posts were vomited onto the web.

My gripe here isn’t with the queuing feature itself, it’s with way tumblr have dealt with problem: silence. Lots of people have mentioned it in their posts and on twitter, but still nothing has been said. No apology, no explanation, no reassurance that it’s being looked into. If you’re running what is essentially a communication product, the very least you can do is actually communicate with people, and do it really well.

[Actually, the least you could do is demonstrate complete bewilderment at the concept of communication whilst attempting to push it onto people it in the most obnoxious way possible. An art perfected by BT, aka the world’s most inept company.]

All blogging tools are going to have glitches. Talk to us about them. Be open. Encouraging shallow identity is one thing, but adopting it as a business practice is just plain infuriating.