20100806tumblr.jpgYesterday, Khoi recognized one of Tumblr’s major shortcomings — the shallow identity.

Moreso than other blogging systems like WordPress or ExpressionEngine, Tumblr blogs frequently offer only scant few details about their authors. I can’t recall how many Tumblr sites I’ve visited where it wasn’t clear who was behind the posts, what their background was, or what their intent was.

While that’s certainly an annoyance, it hints at a much larger problem; modern publishing platforms (Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter) put a huge emphasis on new content. When you’re looking at the primary view for any of these sites, it’s a stream of data without much encouragement to look back. By focusing solely on what’s current, individual posts become less important.

Most of these services don’t offer any way to browse archives other than a “more” link at the bottom of the page. Tumblr offers a way to search a user’s archived content and has archives, but most people access Tumblr content via their dashboard. Without a way to discover or curate, content get lost.1 With a focus on new content, quantity has a greater value that quality which makes it less valuable in the longterm. Adding fire to the flame is advertisers’ obsession with impressions (though that’s starting to change), which favors sites that publish fast and furious.

It’s Time to Recycle

A couple days ago, Eric Schmidt said that it now takes two days to create the same amount of data that was created from the dawn of civilization to 2003. It’s no wonder we’re just throwing away stuff from earlier in the week. This is why we need to find ways to expose the best stuff in our stream.

People have already started remixing new content, with Flipboard being a recent success2. There are also sites like fflick, which tell you what your friends on Twitter think about movies, and Favstar, which collects your most favorited tweets. There is also software that archives your tweets, like ThinkUp and Doug Bowman’s Tweet Archive. Still, only Favstar helps expose interesting content from your archives and it’s pretty lightweight.

While I’d much prefer that any of these services add features to expose interesting content — something Flickr does well — they all have APIs and I imagine there are enterprising engineers working on this right now. Flipboard has proven there’s a pent-up demand for services that automate curation. Let’s see some more exciting examples.

  1. To be fair, most sites don’t do a great job of curating archived content, but old-school blogging platforms like Movable Type and WordPress have long offered plugins to view popular or active entries.
  2. See Michael Sippey’s take for a relevant argument.