What is it?
Tumblr is a unique mix of Twitter and blogging. Its posts are mostly far shorter than a traditional blog post, often being shaped around images, video clips or gifs. Tumblr users are an amazingly diverse group ranging from teenage fans of Justin Bieber, to rabid fanverses for Sherlock, Marvel films and other films and TV shows, to brands, to blogs focussing on specific topics such as the representation of people of colour in medieval European art or feminism, to the truly academic such as JR Clark's tumblr on marine biology research or Carolyn Porco's tumblr focussing on her work at the Cassini Imaging Team. It's a very visual network and has a low threshold as its learning curve isn't that steep. It's a network that allows for easy interactions in the form of likes, reblogging, and asks. While commenting, or replying as Tumblr calls it, to posts is possible when enabled by the blog owner, replies often get lost in the notes at the bottom of a post. So discussion is only really feasible through reblogging and adding a comment below the original post. It preserves a discussion in its entirety, so credit is always given, yet at the same time can become unwieldy for long discussions.
What can it do for me?
Tumblr can be a less intimidating way to get your feet wet in the blogging game due to its user-friendly interface. It's also a way to reach a diverse audience both in terms of age and background and can have unexpected reach. Using Tumblr and its tagging system you can create an easily navigable collection of visual references for example the Ancient Art tumblr which focusses on all forms of ancient art and through tags makes them browsable by period, medium, and location. Another possible use, due to its easy user interface, is as an accessible and collaborative research journal within a (private) group setting.
Apart from the usual caveats, the one thing that might be a potential problem with Tumblr is the fact that while you can delete a post, this doesn't delete a reblog, unlike Twitter where all retweets of a deleted tweet disappear, unless they were copy/pasted and then retweeted.
Pro's & Cons
- Tumblr is easy to use
- Its audience skews to the younger side
- Through Tumblr's tagging system even bloggers who don't necessarily connect to your field but do focus on a particular topic, can find and reblog your content, making it easier to reach new readers.
- No useful commenting system for possible longer discussions
- Discoverability of posts and blogs is challenging if they aren't properly tagged.