There's a controversy going around on Tumblr (wow, what an enticing lede) about a senior staff member doxxing a poster that's leading some to discuss leaving the platform. I'm not familiar enough with what's going on to comment extensively. I tried to research it and got only so far as some screengrabs of said staff member disclosing said poster's alts, all of which included the name of some sort of bodily fluid, in an attempt to bolster a case that the user was posting sexually-explicit content that violated platform guidelines. I have no idea if she actually was posting content that violated guidelines. You got the sense from the text that the exec had been trying to make a sensible case but had gotten so fed up with the counterarguments that he resorted to a tactic he shouldn't have. Execs can sound very reasonable when advocating ridiculous shit, though.

The takeaway from this very Tumblr controversy - outside the propriety issue, which does matter, of course - is that a higher-up at Tumblr is getting fed up with the platform's users, justifiably or not. I don't think anything that makes Tumblr a further pain in the neck to its owners bodes particularly well for the health of the platform in its current anemic circumstances. Tumblr's latest owners tried a monetization initiative - weird merchandise, a livestreaming platform that ended up essentially just porn (so much for platform guidelines), original blog content from the site runners and an attempt to introduce daily topics - which failed. They've eliminated all of it; the platform now runs bare-bones. This is seen among posters as a good move, freeing Tumblr of the irritations of monetization, but I don't agree. Fewer irritations are soothing, of course, but businesses exist to make profit. If something is actively costing a business money, there's no hope of getting more money from it (either from selling it - it's a radioactive property at this point - or monetizing it), and they've demonstrably stopped efforts to put anything into the platform, it typically means they're gonna cut their losses and shut it down. Perhaps that's not what's going to happen, of course, but I don't think, as many do, it's alarmist to prepare for the possibility.

I created this blog after I left Tumblr for a bit due to dunderheaded politics, and I'm ambivalent about my going back there (a decision made in large part to support a friend). One thing is that 95% of the time, I'm just reblogging various stuff about games I played 20, 30, 40 years ago - which can be fun, and there's good content, but I'm trying to cut down on demands on my time, and this doesn't seem like the most vital or creative use of it. Another thing is that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, of all issues to oversimplify, has become the new dunderheaded politics thing - an attempt to solve with glib sloganeering, language policing, and demands for lockstep agreement something that's literally been a metaphor for an intractably complex quagmire for decades. I don't think many of us, safe and snug in our beds in a portion of the world unthreatened enough to obsess about shipping and fandoms, have much useful to say about it. I know the answer is to ignore the ignorant stuff posted, and there are folks who do that well, but it still seems that I'm in a way endorsing the platform by using it, particularly since the Tumblr staff feed is enthusiastically reblogging this view of the conflict. The third thing is that Tumblr is, well, Tumblr, home to a lot of exhausting folks who make their personal problems exclusively the province of other people and who fuel their self-esteem by yelling at others. Again, there are many folks who run blogs free of this, but it's so endemic to the platform that I frequently wonder, you know, why am I here, as a largely self-actualized adult.

Well, one reason is to have a place to publicize things - however feebly; Tumblr's reach has plummeted, and if a post is in the double digits, it's doing big numbers. For another, there are people on there I like and with whom I'd like to stay in some sort of contact, even if that contact consists only of liking and reblogging each others' posts occasionally. It does seem like the cons outweigh the pros on most days, though.

However: at least Tumblr is public and, to a degree, searchable. In the wake of the recent controversy, I've seen folks urging their followers to go to their individual Discords to keep in touch - which is understandable. What makes it frustrating to me is: Discord resources, to the general public, may well as not exist. You can't find them through search engines. They're not archived. Once they're closed, everything on them is up in smoke. (In my particular case, the entire platform's blocked off, because you need to be able to receive texts to register, but that's a me thing.) I like home-grown sites, but walling off everything from all but an inner circle is dispiriting to me.

I'm not a social media person, but I've found a lot of neat stuff through public accounts with which I don't interact directly, sometimes on platforms I'm not even on. Recently: a D2 comic anthology with a short story by Akari Funato, and a collection of observations from a Baten Kaitos playthrough from a game engine programmer, compiled from and linked to on Twitter. Conversely, the Angelique stuff on my site still gets traffic from the long-defunct Angemedia LiveJournal community - even moribund social media platforms and posts can serve as a wealth of information, if they show up on search.

And now a lot of that's going into walled gardens, available to no more than a handful of people and then never to be seen again. It's some sort of dark inverse of the old web: something more individual than social media, yes, but really more like balkanized. Not independent in the way of personal websites - and not the big, shared project of Web 1.0, where anonymity reigned, freedom of information was king, and your ideas and contributions made you who you were. Now, once again, it's all about who you know.

Fake ETA: As I was putting this post together, news broke about Tumblr making a deal to scrape user posts for AI training data, which certainly is an acceleration of the plotlines involved. This will put a damper on one of Tumblr's few remaining strengths, user art, particularly given dwindling user engagement; as one artist leaving the platform at the news put it: "#ten notes in return for being plagiarized thanks i won't then." I can't imagine Tumblr staff aren't aware of this, which signifies a) they're focused on getting any revenue they can out of the platform by any means, and b) they don't care how many users they lose or tick off. Both of which point to dim prospects for the platform.

Add comment

Security code
Refresh