Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Tumblr Dramr, or How Tumblarity Made Tumblr Less Good

A very interesting bit of Tumblr drama played itself out to all of those who follow Mogadonia. Recently, it was discovered that Lovegifs had been posting animated gifs without re-blogging or posting any credit, a number of which came from Mogadonia (including some original creations), and therefore unleashing his/her(?) wrath. Mogadonia has put everything together in one tidy post, though a good number of posts were made on the subject.

For those who haven't got Tumblr accounts, beyond just being a public blog, Tumblr acts as an image/post sharing community, where users can "follow" each other and thus build an expansive and continuously updated stream of material on their "dashboard". One feature that comes in really handy is the ability to "re-blog" at the click of a button. This will automatically create a kind of "quoted" blog post (that you can edit) with a digital mark that saves info like who was the original poster, who liked the post, and who re-blogged the post.

This in itself is quite good at maintaining a kind of posting integrity, where even if you choose to strip the post of back-links and previous poster comments, there will always be a link to the original poster that can be accessed by other Tumblr users.

To make things even more interesting, a new feature called the "Tumblarity" was recently added to the dashboard. From the Tumblr staff blog:

[...] we’ve been using an internal metric called “Tumblarity” to sort and filter content on the Search and Popular Content pages. Tumblarity is derived from every blog’s activity and popularity across our network.

Tumblarity is a popularity guauge that only the user themselves can see (unless they decide to publish it, and many have boasted about it) and seems to be calculated by a combination of stats that include number of posts per day, number of likes, number of re-posts and who knows what else (Tumblr doesn't actually lay out what makes up the number).

The number can fluctuate like mad, and originally had users posting about their confusion, which was probably even more confusing for "outside" readers. Initial reviews were mixed at best (there's a great one on Gawker that puts it best IMO), but the topic has more or less faded from the collective Tumblr conscious. It does, however, manage to tacitly resurface from time to time when issues such as this one come about.

Though Tumblarity may have nothing to do with Mogadonia's frustrations, having it there to remind you of how "successful" your work, taste and curatorial skills are makes "credit" that much more important. It's no longer just a matter of properly citing your sources, but also of giving "props", and though I empathise and respect an artist's copyright, I can't help but feel that a lot of this is based more in the ego trip of popularity.

I am by no means above this, I always revel when my "finds" get re-blogged or posted elsewhere, linking back to either here or my Tumblog, but one can't justifiably force themselves upon others by saying "I made this!" or "I found this!" when so little (especially when it comes to animated gifs) is ever found only once or by only one person. Part of the joy of the internet is the anonymity and reproducibility - success is when a gif spreads like a virus and can no longer be traced to an "original" (what and where is the original when it comes to digital material, anyway?) - it is no longer "mine" but of the internet.

Perhaps I'm being too idealistic, but what is represented as conspiracy looks to me like a show of laziness and/or a desire to have (yet another) hot new animated gif Tumblog. Lovegifs is little more than a minor symptom of the internet and, at worst, a major symptom of Tumblarity.

1 comment:

blessthismess said...