What You're Missing On Tumblr (And No, The Answer's Not "Nothing")

Anyone who follows Gawker's coverage of certain blogs on Tumblr could easily assume that the simple blogging tool is like LiveJournal for privileged white 20-somethings, and entirely unworthy of attention. But that's only the part that we, in our mocking masochistic obsession, have focused on, while ignoring the circus of delights that Tumblr can be. In fact, much as I want you to read my whole guide to the best and worst of Tumblr below, I'd rather you just went and read one of the best blogs from Tumblr, The Triumph of Bullshit.

By the way, if anyone is slow here, Tumblr is like Blogger or WordPress or Movable Type, except it's much easier and encourages people to copy stuff from other web sites. But in a good way.

The Tumblr you know
Because Gawker covers, well, New York and the media, we link to blogs by New York media personalities, particularly when they bitch about each other. That's why all we know about College Humor exec Ricky Van Veen's Tumblr is that he hates reading all his friends' crap, or that his former business partner Jakob Lodwick is too busy to flush the toilet (the link is safe for work, honest). We might know more about Julia Allison than we ever wanted, if we actually kept up with her blog, which seems to get more updates than Gawker itself. Let's ignore the question of why we actually clicked through these links, read them, then came back to Gawker to complain about the pain of reading them. All I want to demonstrate is that this is just one little enclave of a generally fantastic collection of blogs.


The Tumblr you're missing
The advantage of Tumblr is in not doing what the blogs above do, but in sharing fun things from the Internet or leaving very short messages that would seem skimpy on most WordPress or Movable Type blogs. Microblogging was already popular before Tumblr, since technically it's just blogging really briefly and linking a lot, and tumblelogs (the term inspired Tumblr's name) like Kottke.org, Fimoculous, and Robot Wisdom have been a source for other high-profile blogs for years. Even Poynter's Romenesko news feed is pretty much a tumblelog.

Of course, Tumblr blogs aren't as spot-on as Kottke or Romenesko, but they do show a lot of promise. The blogs Garden of Varied Delights and Tumblus do a decent job collecting Internet fads, if a bit slowly. The Stumbling Tumblr keeps digging up ten-year-old fads, but the author, an Australian lawyer in his 60s, also finds enough weird undiscovered stories to warrant an occasional check-in. The blog Giancarlo Can! is a documentation of one divorced man's bitter, petty fights with his ex-wife, which is so painfully Larry-David-without-the-jokes that I had to stop reading because I found I was involuntarily tensing all my muscles. White Whine is a collection of yuppie complaints, like "Why do they sell every flavor of Vitamin Water in 32oz bottles except for B-Relaxed?"

But the real good stuff is the smart-ass guys who combine links with their own commentary. This sweet spot is filled by Kung Fu Grippe ("The Burger King is such a dick"); Your Monkey Called ("The song's little-known subtitle: 'Your Body is a Wonderland (And I Am Its Carnie)'"); and Lonely Sandwich ("If this movie were a candy bar, it would be called Disembowel Nut Crunch. Or Marshmallow Genocide Bar. Or Snickers").

And of course there are the Tumblrs of former Gawker editors Jessica Coen and Alex Balk, which when combined are funnier than anything I'll ever put on Gawker, but you knew that.