The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

Bob Stepno § The structure of journalism today / 2014-03-10 18:42:32
Anne Field § The booster pack / 2014-02-15 16:15:39
Josh Rubenoff § The booster pack / 2014-02-09 04:29:20
David Lang § The right flavor of fame / 2014-02-07 15:13:49
Robin § The booster pack / 2014-02-06 16:41:42
Navneet Alang § The booster pack / 2014-02-06 03:40:31
Sam M-B § The booster pack / 2014-02-06 03:32:35
Chris Baker § The booster pack / 2014-02-06 02:38:57
G Love § Conversation Media / 2014-01-30 07:26:22
Navneet Alang § Calculating the Weight of the Object / 2014-01-26 16:07:58

Wandering above a sea of media


This is probably not going to push my stock/flow ratio in the right direction, but I’m starting a tumblr. It’s so odd! I am completely mystified by the platform and its dynamics. I have no idea how to do anything. (And I sorta like the feeling?)

So I have two questions:

  1. If you want to use Tumblr to pose a question (as I’m doing with this blog post) what’s the best way to actually get feedback? I feel like there is some Snippet of Code that I should know about. Note that I don’t want to add comments to all posts indiscriminately.
  2. Is there a way to connect Google Reader with Tumblr, so that I can zap things straight over from within the Reader interface? Again, not indiscriminately; I’m not talking about setting up a feed. I want a magic button. (I think?)

Anything else I should know about? Tumblr best practices? Gimme some tumblrs to follow.


Zach Seward says…

Google Reader > Settings > Send To > Tumblr

There’s a feature on Tumblr where if you end a post with a question mark, you can open up a box where people may answer the question posed. Alternatively, there’s an “Ask” feature where people can ask you questions (either anonymously or pseudonymously) that you review and answer, with the answers being posted to your Tumblr.

As for the Google Reader, that I don’t know—each blog has its own RSS feed to import, but I’m not sure what you want.

Best of luck!

Don’t know about the first question, but as for the second:

As for following Tumblrs – I like Rex’s idea that you follow precisely none, but, rather, just add them to Google Reader. Follow 20 or so and your interface become far too cluttered to be fun. As for my favourites – there’s one called (sorry, this is the name) “holy shit, it’s a fucking rainbow” ( Another is “This isn’t happiness” ( And Diana’s Tumblr,, though infrequently updated, is just as delightful as you’d expect.

When I started with tumblr, I tried not following anyone the dashboard and just kept them to my NetNewsWire instead, but slowly realized that doing that means missing some of the stuff that makes tumblr neat. For instance, seeing the “?” feature that everyone’s mentioned and “likes” and “reblogs” organically is a bit nicer than relying on per-theme implementation.

That said, I’ve tried to be protective of my following count. It’s only in the teens and it is already on the edge of getting overwhelming.

Check their Goodies page: for ideas on how to tumble. And lets you acquire questions from readers and/or allow for collecting tumbling.

I can’t figure out how to list who I follow nicely, but here are a few recs:
And of course, ME! (linked above)


I’m also pretty new to tumblr but I can answer at least your first question: If you create a regular text post with a question at the end, so it ends with ? There will be an extra checkbox under post to twitter in the sidebar with the text “Let people answer this”, check it and people can answer.

Second question i cant answer. Don’t really understand the question.
You can follow me :)

Greetz, Vox Patrol

In answer to your first question: in either the title or the main content of your text post (it has to be a text post) end a sentence with a question mark. As long as this is the last sentence at that time, a small checkbox will appear on the right hand side saying “Allow people to answer this.” Tick it, people will be able to answer, and you can continue typing.

Slick! Subtle.

it may have the speed of flow but there’s some stock to it. i use it mainly as visual/social bookmarking and find i check the archives of my tumblr more than delicious now. it’s more about the “capture” rather than the “put in context” Also, a reblog seems less of a redundancy than a retweet, as it really is about keeping a collection of text/images/questions. this informality is especially endearing if you have a “real” blog

I have the same relationship with Tumblr as Joanne, probably for about the same reason. My Tumblr has been cultivated into a thing that’s topical for my value of topic that I can use to remind myself of amazing things by hitting “random”. If people ever wanted a hint of future QB posts, my Tumblog would be a good place to start.

Best practices:
-New additions to the Tumblsphere are better than reblogs.
-If you reblog, add insightful commentary (I regularly fail to do this)
-Don’t auto pipe in other stuff from other sources (my opinion).
-The best tumblogs do one thing. It’s so easy to make a new one that this is a viable way of doing things. (I also fail to do this)
-Install the bookmarklet!

Suggestions: (High volume photos) (You know this guy) (The Instapaper creator on design and the like) (The Paleofuture guy) (Letter heads of companies and people through history) (Not sure how to describe – design & art ?) (weird architecture images and renderings) (It’s Jay Rosen!) (Reminders of tech gone by) (A loving list of nice little design touches in Macs (is there a Windows equivalent? I’d love to follow that too))

I could go on at length, but this is a good start.


I don’t know about that Alexis guy, but Obsolete the Book is totally our people. I love Tumblr for the swarm aspect: post anything and everything around a topic (even if that topics is, as it often seems to be, some hipster meme bullshit or 70s Italian soft pornography). We should all do a group Tumblr about something.

I tried to reply but it seems to have gotten eaten?

Perhaps my list of suggested tumblogs seemed like spam?

(Ha ha, yes, thanks for mentioning it: I checked the spam folder and there were like FIVE great comments, full of links, waiting there. All approved now.)

You’ll like Tumblr, Robin. I get a lot of news/website ideas/escapism out of my dashboard every day. I *like* the dashboard interface, although they still need to figure out how to condense reblogs of folks I’m following when I’m also following the reblogger… you’ll see, it can get redundant.

What’s your URL, btw? You don’t mention it here. Mine’s

See you!

I’m a big fan of Tumblr. I follow fewer people than on Facebook and Twitter and with a stricter criteria so the large proportion of the content people I’m following posts really interests me. I really like the ‘clipping tool’ too.

Ways to get responses:
1. Enable the ‘ask’ feature. You can ask anyone on Tumblr a question (if they have it activated) by adding ‘/ask’ on the end of their URL. Only you can see the questions but once you reply, everyone can see the question and your response in your content stream.

2. The add-a-question-mark feature mentioned in other comments here.

3. Reblog somebody else’s post and add a question and a conversation can generate through reblogs. Very similar to retweets but you see the conversation.

I’m on there:

All the people I follow are in the ‘Follow Them’ column on the left of my page. There’s a fair amount of Current people that you’ll know.

Actually, it’s pretty tricky to find new people to follow if you have somebody specific in mind. I tend to just click on the profiles of people my friends reblog and if they post interesting stuff, I follow them.

I don’t understand how tumblr works to be honest. It makes me feel stupid, but there you have it. I’m reading the comments and paying attention though, so maybe I will get it soon.

No, I totally agree! That’s one of the reasons I decided to jump in… I just sooo don’t understand it.

Tumblr smells of an even more significant battle of wit and creativity than Twitter.

I’ve got a Tumblr –

People tend to do Q&As in a few ways: Through the /Ask page (which is a setting on Messages), using the question mark trick, adding Disqus comments to their layout (which I find a lot of Tumblr users ignore since they read you from the dashboard), reblogging, or using for questions.

I’d actually suggest following a few, so people know your Tumblr exists. Reblog other people’s stuff if it inspires you and add your own commentary – it’s trackable and leads to conversation. Get the “Share on Tumblr” button – it makes it easy to find anything you get through random websurfing.

I find people by seeing who’s reblogged a post and added insightful commentary, then reading their Tumblr to see if I’d like their content. Also by seeing who my friends follow.

Here’s some Tumblrs you may like:

Thought I’d pipe in with a link to my favorite tumblelogs:

Also — commenting is not a feature built in to Tumblr and in fact can only be achieved through clunky third party services. I love Tumblr’s approach to this though, because in order to remark on someone’s post, you have to reblog it on your own site and add your thoughts there. (This from a girl who’s anti-comment after having seen the Internet get ugly a time or two — you may feel differently because you have such a nice, intelligent community of readers here.)

I agree with Laura about the genius of the “your comments show up on YOUR blog” reblog system. We each own our words and have to live with what we said.

Yes and no. I mean, mostly yes. It’s brilliant in a lot of ways. But you don’t get streams like this!

It depends on the design of the template. Some of them show “likes” and what people added when they reblogged. But it’s clunky.

But yes, I see the point about a well cultivated commenting community winning out on a threaded comments system like this, rather than the everyone’s comment at their house.

But on the other hand, comments can go viral as people comment on you while at the same time showing their stuff to THEIR friends.

Yeah good point! Very good point. A comment is both a contribution to the conversation and an amplification of the conversation.

Heh, well, I have no comments or intelligent commentary on tumblur, but as soon as I saw this post come across in Reader, I thought the picture looked really familiar.

Then it hit me, I own the book ( that has it on its cover!

That is all. Carry on.

It’s on the cover of a book I own, too–but a different one! Human-Built World by Thomas Hughes, which I can’t recommend highly enough if you’re into the history of science & technology & human organizations. Super-super-readable.

I wanted to buy this book but couldn’t remember the title, only the cover! You people rock!

er, the book I wanted to buy was the world’s greatest traveler, but yours looks interesting too, Robin!

I’d thought about asking TinEye about that painting, but decided that an older Little Prince was a good enough explanation. Skipping the search doesn’t happen enough these days. Tom Waits calls it “a deficit of wonder.” And lookie here, that appeared in my Tumblr back in November.

Anyway, arriving late (yet again), there isn’t much to add to the great suggestions, insight, and advice above, but here’s a stab.

I started using Tumblr as a scrapbook, but since I don’t have another blog, it’s also where I share occasional rants and raves, many which start as comments elsewhere. I now have two more Tumblrs for teaching and if you are at all interested in why the TCS crowd uses Tumblr, scroll down about halfway through this post for some reasons. (See the lowercase-letter sequence.)

A few of my Tumblr favorites: Tim’s mini. Quiet Babylon, a grammar, Anne Galloway’s plsj, Russell Davies’s Dawdlr, and Buzz Andersen’s Sci-Fi Hi-Fi. And, of course all of my middle school students’ Tumblrs too. You can find them in the sidebar of the two that I use for class.

Finally, Scott Rafer says “Follow = RSS + Humanity” and Noah Brier expands.

“An older Little Prince” just blew my mind.

That’s a book waiting to be written/drawn.

your mom had a Tumblr before you. Just sayin…

You are far from the sea lad and wandered where little is noteworthy and much is not.

The picture also appears on the cover of John Lewis Gaddis’s great The Landscape of History—another book that’s germane to recent Snarkmarket threads. It’s Casper David Friedrich’s Wanderer Above the Sea of Clouds, for those keeping score.

It’s one of my absolute favorites. How can you not want to be that guy? Total pirate-philosopher/Lord Asriel thing going on.

Yeah, every time I see that picture reproduced I think, now we bring back the frock coat. (only, no epaulets. How is someone supposed to drag your lifeless body off the mountain without ‘em?)

I use Tumblr for my blog, but I’ve never really gotten too much into the whole Tumblr thing either. Perhaps you can enlighten me/us once you’ve gotten into it for a bit?

Personally, I use mine mostly as a place to publish/remember the random stuff I like across the internet, mainly so I can easily point it out to other people I know IRL. Sort of like social bookmarking, as mentioned above. I don’t bother with the tagging, though, since search is almost always sufficient.

But I don’t really participate in the “Tumblr community”. Sort of bad at that sort of thing&emdash;tend towards being an observer/thinker more than a collaborator. Which I’m working on, since this is the Web 2.0 era. But one thing that’s made me shy (ha!) away from Tumblr’s community-type features (which in general seem to be rather great) is that, due to the lack of comments, cross-Tumblr interaction is pretty shallow. Sure, it’s dead easy for me to reblog, and when I do so it shows up on the other Tumblr and starts a “conversation”. But I find in general that cross-blog conversations just don’t get read. It’s beyond most peoples’ “hassle threshold” to click all the reblogs or trackbacks, read them, and respond, so cross-blog “conversations” end up having lots of repetition and not much depth.

What frustrates me is that Tumblr could really easily add support for comments, with an optional “and reblog” checkbox on the side. Or at the very least, allow reblogs’ unique text to be integrated somehow. But real comments would be better, since there are a lot of times when I want to comment but not to post something on my blog. Disqus is alright, but a tighter integration with Tumblr (akin to what they’ve done with follows, likes, reblogs, etc.) would open up a world of possibilities.

My Tumblr’s at . I noticed you didn’t post a link; perhaps you haven’t registered yet? If that’s the case, be sure to post whenever you do set it up.

The snarkmatrix awaits you

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