The Problem of Reblogging

I have been against reblogging for a very long time. While this has occasionally been interpreted as not wanting other people to reblog my posts, it’s actually an unwillingness to reblog other people’s posts, combined with a general dislike of the tumblr-specific version of reblogging in general.

Been there, done that

This all stems from livejournal.

I had an account from 2002 to 2009. During that time, while people occasionally used livejournal as a general blogging platform, it was mostly an internally facing community. Livejournal had a lot of extra functions enabled that only worked for doing things within itsself. You could lock down posts to particular LJ users. You could link directly to another LJ by using a person’s name (not unlink in google plus). The net effect was that Livejournal rapidly developed its own community focused entirely within Livejournal. Which was fine, such as it was, but isn’t necessarily the most web friendly approach.

Within a few years, Livejournal was largely a segregated internet community; you linked out occasionally, but you were seldom linked to. The majority of people reading anything you wrote were people on your friends list, rather than just anyone who wanted to grab your RSS feed or visit your page.

Breaking the web

The net effect, to me and others, was that Livejournal started breaking how the blogging ecosystem worked. Linking is a key part of how good content gets elevated, both in terms of eyeballs seeing it and in terms of content ranking systems.

Done well, reblogging can do this; but done poorly, it mostly just creates noise as it messes up attribution to the original source. In the initial rollout of the reblog feature, it became impossible to figure out what the initial source of something was. And with all those links to everyone who had reblogged something, less intelligent ranking systems got messed up.

Turning inwards

So it was with a lot of trepidation that I saw the growing “community” features of tumblr. Reblogging, liking, and the horde of tumblr based memes (like the animal wars or color wars that took over for a few weeks). It all felt like something I had seen before. And while it’s great for the people who want that sort of community, for those of us that like the platform as a place to just blog, there was a good chance that the system wasn’t going to work out so well for us.

I resolved to continue linking to other sites as I had before; I didn’t care for reblogging or “liking”, and I wasn’t going to use it.

No need to fear

Eventually though, one realizes one is worrying about something that isn’t going to pass, and just being a bit of an ass. Reblogging and liking can still generate a lot of noise, but tumblr has sorted things out so that said noise doesn’t screw up anything for people who don’t care about it. They’ve committed to supporting custom domains and the needs of people less interested in tumblr as a community and more interested in it as a platform.

So, will I reblog now? The question has largely been taken out of my hands. An update to the tumblr bookmarklet now turns shares from other tumblr sites into reblogs. So whether I like it or not, reblogging is how I will be sharing things from other tumblr sites. I suppose I am still lukewarm on reblogging as a tumblr mechanism, but at least I don’t hate it.