Microblogging platform and lazy book deal factory Tumblr introduced a "feature" yesterday called Tumblarity, a single convenient number that lets users know exactly how many terrible blogs are better than theirs.
According to their staff site, Tumblarity, which magically distills your post count, followers, reblogs and other meaningless things, is a precursor to a forthcoming Tumblr directory, an obvious feature that would seem to indicate Tumblr is growing up if "growing up" means implementing functionality that would have been incredibly easy to do a long time ago. Also, only a grown up would create a term as sharp as Tumblarity. What was wrong with Populumbrity? Tumbtrelescence?
While providing users with a single metric for tracking their activity that encourages them to post popular things and thereby grow the site is an obvious asset for TumblrCorp's shareholders ("Our site that makes zero money has grown 5% this month"), it seems misguided to actually link this ranking to a term as loaded as popularity. Some users might worry about these rankings turning what is supposed to be a repository of interesting content into a school cafeteria where everyone is jockeying for a spot at the cool table, but I think that's only applicable if you went to a Science & Math High School where all the students were equally excited about the Where the Wild Things Are movie. Or maybe it's like the Max in Saved By The Bell in that what you think is cool will seem incredibly dated and horrible very soon and also you are impressed by a waiter who does magic tricks.
The bigger fear is that this will turn off non-power users. Does a casual user want to be reminded every time they log in with a big fat "Tumblarity: 5" they they are a big stupid idiot whom no one likes and maybe why don't they quit if they are going suck so bad? Probably not, and I can't imagine that user will want to come back. Now Tumblr has lost the zero advertising revenue that user generates! Oh wait. Maybe the business model is to drive people away? So smart, Tumblr. Your thinking is so far outside the box that it's practically in another box, a box that's impossible for money to get inside of.