Tumblr & Small Streams Loosely Joined

Just discovered Tumblr last week and I have to say I’m pretty impressed.

So what is Tumblr?

Blogs are great, but they can be a lot of work. And they’re really built to handle longer-form text posts. Tumblelogs, on the other hand, let you easily and quickly post and share anything you find or create.

To make a simple analogy: If blogs are journals, tumblelogs are scrapbooks.

So is Tumblr something I’d use instead of Squarespace? Probably not. However, Tumblr’s simplistic features and design are something I’d definitely like to see emulated within Squarespace though.

Funnily enough, when I used to work for Squarespace, I actually had a discussion with Anthony about something very close to this. In effect, the idea was to have different content types for posting. So if you were going to post about a book in your journal, you’d select "book" as the content type, and a very simplified entry form specifically for books would appear. If you were going to post about a photo, you’d select "photo" as the content type and so on. If you look at Tumblr’s content types below, you’ll see how this idea comes quite close to what I envisioned.


Of course the biggest problem with this approach, as Anthony relayed at the time, is that it would basically destroy the module approach to Squarespace which is it’s foundation. I fully understand why he couldn’t do it because it would probably confuse a lot of people. I guess I was just looking at ways of rethinking how blogging works and instead of thinking of different content types on your site as being static (i.e. Squarespace gallery or Amazon book list), I saw them as more like "streams" of information, always updating (i.e. similar to how Flickr works which still allows you to create galleries from your stream of photos).

Therefore, for me it was more about creating multiple streams of information and then figuring out ways of dynamically displaying this information on the fly. For example, viewing my specific book stream would show you all of the books I’ve ever read. You could even view the books by time period (i.e. books read this month or year) or by rating or both (i.e. show me the best rated book from each month of this year). The power of this approach is that the information no longer is static but becomes flexible and usable by the person viewing the content, so that they can manipulate it and view it in different ways depending upon what they are interested in. I think the closest thing that compares to this would be something like a pivot table in a spreadsheet program.

Anyways, the simplified content entry types I think are one of the gems of Tumblr. It’s something I’d like to see in other blogging platforms. For example, you could emulate something like this in WordPress but you’d be doing it in a cludgy way by using custom fields. The beauty of Tumblr is that the entry interface itself becomes part of the simplicity and design of the application which in turn draws people to it.

Oh, almost forgot. The other important thing about Tumblr is that it shows us the need for content in different sizes. For example, when someone is researching a book, they’ll often jot down small notes here and there in a notebook. Then these notes are aggregated into structured thoughts and ideas, eventually becoming longer articles and then eventually a book. This is how blogs should work in my opinion. There should be variety of input types and sizes to meet your demands. If I only have a second, I can post a bookmark about a new site I found. Then tomorrow, I can follow it up with a small note or two about the site (observations in using it). And then finally I may write a detailed entry or article on the site that gives a full run down of it. The beauty of this approach is that it allows me to continue my thought flow and write how much I want, when I want.