While cycling to work I typically listen to podcasts. You might think this a rather dangerous thing to do while cycling, but the reality that most non-cyclists don’t seem to understand is that you can’t hear a damn thing on a bike anyway. If you’re traveling any faster than about ten miles an hour, the wind noise is deafening. This is why you don’t typically see cyclists traveling two abreast – there’s no point – they wouldn’t be able to hear each other unless they shouted.
While cycling to work this morning I listened to a podcast called “Grumpy Old Geeks” where two humorously cynical guys of a certain age go through the recent happenings on the internet and grumble about most of it. Sometimes – not very often – they express a small amount of enthusiasm in something that has happened. And that’s what happened this morning.
While lifting my bike over the chain at the edge of the estate that the office nestles in a sleepy corner of, my ears pricked up.
Tumblr was being sold to Automattic – the creators of WordPress.
Tumblr – the darling of the late 2000s hipster generation that democratized blogging in the wake of SixApart’s abject failure to breathe life into Vox – their second attempt at LiveJournal. Tumblr – the minimalist blog platform that had been seemingly built by a team that didn’t know how to build anything, but had captured the hearts and minds of a generation. Tumblr – the woefully mismanaged wannabe-goliath of web publishing that visited Fashion Week each year while millions of it’s users stared at a “Fail Whale” graphic.
You might think I’m being unfairly cynical, but the truth is it’s kind of romantic, in a twisted sort of way. Tumblr has continued to exist in spite of itself, in spite of it’s owners, and in spite of the people that built it not being able to find their arse with both hands. That’s got to count for something.
The one thing that has pulled me back to Tumblr over the years has always been the community of bloggers hidden away in it’s now empty halls. In amongst the countless rebloggers, recyclers, and pedallers of stolen content there have always been a small number of rebels – writing their thoughts, dreams, hopes, fears, failures, triumphs and various adventures – emptying their head into the heart of a failing system, and keeping going despite the fear that a sword of Damocles might fall on their platform at any time. That’s the thing though – they think of it as “their” platform – they always have.
I suddenly find myself hopeful for the future of Tumblr for the first time in years – and hopeful for the continued existence of the sort-of-secret community I have come to know. With Automattic at the helm, Tumblr might just make it after all – it might even flourish.