Tumblr Versus the World

xkit vs tumblrIf you were to make a movie out of any dedicated Tumblr user’s life, the site-runners themselves would be the antagonists. Sure, we devotedly sign in every day like we’re checking the morning paper, unable to escape the lure of… well, who knows what, but talk to any content creators and you’ll hear very few words of kindness about the administrators of the platform. They’re Moriarty. They’re Hydra. They’re Scar. They get to know your weaknesses, or rather, they identify the very few functions that actually work well, and they destroy them.

Every time you think that Tumblr itself can’t make Tumblr worse for its users, they think of something. I can’t go back to the beginning of the reign of terror, too much has happened. We’ll begin in the post-‘Missing E’ era. After Tumblr made life so difficult for Missing E (the original corrective add-on for Tumblr) that they gave up trying to fix the website’s mistakes, we entered into the era of fanmail (so flawed it’s funny), “activity” pages and the loss of the traditional tag function in favour of a general search. This week, the site introduced its latest, most radical and unwanted unnecessary update yet: wider posts. That may sound great to you. “Everything’s widescreen now, Kennedy,” you heckle from the back. Sit down, buddy, sit your ass right down. For years, posts on Tumblr have been made to 500 pixel width. Now, the new post size is 40 pixels wider than before. It’s also 40 pixels wider than the size you are actually able to upload in, meaning that all that’s happened is the gifs and images are being stretched. Given that Tumblr is primarily a visual social media platform, having everything look blurry and distorted is maybe not the best idea on paper, let alone in practice. The dashboard looks bad and blog themes look even worse. It’s chaos. Even if Tumblr rectifies the discrepancy between the 540px display and the 500px upload limit, the file size limit will remain and be even harder to keep gifs under if they have to be wider.

I can’t remember the last time Tumblr made an update that people were excited about. With every change, we muddle through with xKit’s superheroic tendency to fix things back to the way they were. Bless xKit guy, a human with all the goodness of Captain America and the godliness of Thor himself. I no longer know how I would use that website without the xKit add-on. He solves problems I didn’t even know I had! It’s a miracle Tumblr’s persistently terrible updates haven’t worn him down, but still he fights back.

Anyway, the newest update seems to have caused the biggest backlash yet – understandably so. It seems only a matter of time before people march on Tumblr HQ and stop the people behind the madness. The trouble is, something about Tumblr stops you from ever breaking free. They push and push at the elastic tying you to it and yet it never seems to snap – not for me, at least. A well-timed funny text post always arrives just in the nick of time, or a genius gif reaction. My relationship with this website can be best described by the poem in 10 Things I Hate About You. The love/hate balance may be (definitely is) slightly skewed more in favour of hate than in the Kat/Pat sitch, but it still sends the message: “Mostly I hate the way I don’t hate you — not even close, not even a little bit, not even at all.” WHY CAN’T I QUIT YOU TUMBLR??

Its display of complete disregard for user demands makes clear how little interest the site owners have in user satisfaction. I’m pretty sure that as long as the add-ons and corrective scripts are working, I will stick around, but we edge ever closer to the point of no return. Why must Tumblr make everything so difficult? Just know your audience, T. Know it, own it, satisfy it with a functioning ask and reply system and don’t mess with post sizes. It’s so simple.

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