Tumblr – users want more control

This was a comment on Rob’s blog that I decided to turn into a post…

Good products are simple for the majority of users with more complex features for those who need it. I’ve always believed this.

And in this I see the fundamental drawback with Tumblr.

It has a wonderful UI and is easy to use. But it is so because of the limits they have put on it. Adding widgets is hard. Plugins couldn’t exist till recently. Good in some ways… but truly good UI is the ability for the user to customize. Simple is the default, but you have to be able to make it more customized (or complex) as needed. And this last part is what Tumblr is missing. Big time. It is a huge issue (for me, anyway).

Reblogging is such a great idea. But it is only available within Tumblr blogs. Could Tumblr figure out a way to let you reblog from any blog? Sure they could – they are smart folks. But it wouldn’t be as easy or as pretty. So no one can have it. That’s an issue. Why not make the standard reblog easy and as it is and then why not offer an option in the dashboard that more advanced users can turn on that will allow reblogging from anywhere?

The exact same thing is true with your suggestion, Rob – the ability to see any blog in your dashboard rather than just Tumblr blogs. Is it possible? Sure it is – just grab the site’s RSS and present it nicely in the dashboard. For the basic user, they can only see Tumblr blogs they follow, for the advanced user, an option should exist to see other blogs.

Tumblr’s biggest drawback is that it mandates how users will use it. Dictating how your users can use something by not enabling customization is not a great way to ensure simplicity. Open does not have to be complex and ugly. And the smart people at Tumblr can figure it out.

These are just two examples of how users would like to see more out of Tumblr. Other users will have their own pet requests. For each of these examples, I know Tumblr can give us a great reason why they don’t enable it. But… their users want it – isn’t that what’s important? Tumblr needs to allow the users to have more control in how they use the platform.

I’ve been wanting to write this post on Tumblr for a while and your post prompted this long comment!

Originally posted as a comment by Shripriya on Why Didn’t I Think of That? using Disqus.

  • http://blog.botfu.com falicon

    I have a clunky system (fubnub.com) that does allow for this sort of reblogging of any post from just about anywhere to just about anywhere….I'm actually in the process of cleaning up the UI for it and will also be releasing an API for it soon as well…if you have a chance I would to hear more specifics about the features and UI choices you wish tumblr was doing better (I will then try to work them into the new fubnub.com).

  • http://magkasamatayo.blogspot.com Hectic Capiznon Bloggers 2009

    Im so curious, why your blog have the title ” Almost As Good As Chocolate”, ?hhehe

  • http://shripriya.com/blog Shripriya

    Sorry for the tardy response. I think we've exchanged messages about
    Fubnub before.

    The issue with Tumblr is that importing RSS feeds are highly
    unreliable. The import of my Flickr feed seems to work fine, but the
    Tumblr feed doesn't work well at all. If you check on the
    GetSatisfaction site, you'll see a lot of people complaining about
    that Twitter feed issue.

    Ideally what I'd like Tumblr to offer is to allow me to import feeds
    and customize how they are imported. I would like the ability to add
    the source or add a description to any item from a feed (a standard
    thing that gets put in each import). It would be very cool if it
    allowed me to group all the feeds from a certain day – for example,
    let's say I upload 10 photos into Flickr on a certain day, I would
    like them all to show up in Tumblr as one item instead of 10 items
    that overwhelm my blog. If that can't be done, then give me the option
    to import the first and provide a link to the rest.

    Basically, I want a level of manipulation to the RSS feed if possible
    and it certainly seems possible to me. Given that Tumblr has a high %
    of reblogged content, it would be great if they allowed you do
    customize how you pull in content – and gave you more flexibility on
    the RSS side instead of just on reblog side.

  • http://tvontheweb.blogspot.com Chris

    Great points! I have been meaning to look at tumblr to see if it is a good platform for me. I haven't really understood what the big deal is or what it really lets you do. I've heard some things about the people who run it–control issues, etc.

  • http://tvontheweb.blogspot.com Chris

    Great points! I have been meaning to look at tumblr to see if it is a good platform for me. I haven't really understood what the big deal is or what it really lets you do. I've heard some things about the people who run it–control issues, etc.