And by "screw" I mean "forcibly reassign a subdomain," which is basically disemboweling a blogger's very soul because it changes his web address and renames him. Worse than the subdomain swap, however, is how childishly Tumblr handled it.
With some choice missteps from Tumblr Director of Operations Meaghan O'Connell (pictured above via), the usually user-friendly microblog platform is facing user insurrection. Here's how it went down:
- Pitchfork magazine decides it would like to own pitchfork.tumblr.com. Though the domain is already owned, it has not been active since November. Here's Pitchfork's explanation of what happened next:
Pitchfork emailed Tumblr the other day to ask how we would go about securing those URLs to use them for our publication. [...] Within 10 minutes, a tumblr representative responded: "Hi, Megan. Those URLs are now free. Please let me know if there's anything else I can help you with. Thanks for using Tumblr!"
- Meaghan celebrates Pitchfork's first post with a tweet.
- The person who ran the original pitchfork.tumblr.com discovers that he has been moved to pitchfork1.tumblr.com, and says the handful of posts he wrote are gone. He writes about it on a separate Tumblr account, where he goes by Tumbledore. The post receives 580 reblogs and "likes," which is the Tumblr equivalent of a Million Man March.
- The shitshow begins. Meaghan accuses Tumbledore of lying. She does line-by-line refutation of his claims.
Actually when Tumblr released the domain to Pitchfork Media, pitchfork.tumblr.com was completely dormant and empty. There were not "several posts," on that account, there were zero.
As per our policy, we emailed this account's address to inquire about the dormant account. After you failed to respond for 72 hours, we released the domain.
- Tumbledore accuses Meaghan of "libel" and posts an email correspondence with Tumblr Support that says "We didn't notify you."
- Pitchfork abandons ship, subtly laying the blame with Tumblr. In a post entitled "Dear Tumblr community," Pitchfork founder Ryan Schreiber says Tumblr handed over the subdomain in "10 minutes" (not 72+ hours) and posts a screenshot of Tumbledore's original pitchfork.tumblr.com posts. If we believe Schreiber, then Tumbledore is telling the truth and Meaghan is not."We'll be happy to surrender the URL and find a home elsewhere if the original register of the account wishes."
- Hipster underclass uprising: Tumblr's leadership is "full of shit" and "out to make a buck." Meaghan is "arrogant and rude." The final blow: Hipster Runoff says Tumblr is acting "like MySpace and Blogger." In other words: Corporate.
- Meaghan psychoanalyzes her detractors' "sense of loss" in a comment to The Rumpus. She alludes to "false information" but doesn't clarify who was wrong and when.
Most remarkable about this case is how Tumblr falls on the sword of its purposefully democratic platform. Meaghan—a 24-year-old sex writer who describes herself as "fucking in love with my blog"—mixes business and pleasure on her personal blog, as is pretty common for Tumblr. When she addressed Tumbledore, her tone was that of an egoblogger settling a personal score. Likewise, her attention to detail apparently slipped, opening a window for a built-in population of factcheckers to prove her wrong, and to debate the relative willfulness of an apparent fabrication.
We asked Meaghan about Pitchforkgate's factual discrepancies, and she says she'll respond later, once she checks in with Tumblr. Pitchfork.tumblr.com currently remains in Pitchfork magazine's possession.