Tumblelogs  OCT 19 2005

On my web travels the other day, I came across a new (to me) kind of weblog, the tumblelog. Here are a few examples to get the gist of what a tumblelog is: hit projectionist first and then Anarchaia (which seems to have been the first one), Church Burning tumblelog, Mikael's Tumblelog, and ones zeros majors and minors.

A tumblelog is a quick and dirty stream of consciousness, a bit like a remaindered links style linklog but with more than just links. They remind me of an older style of blogging, back when people did sites by hand, before Movable Type made post titles all but mandatory, blog entries turned into short magazine articles, and posts belonged to a conversation distributed throughout the entire blogosphere. Robot Wisdom and Bifurcated Rivets are two older style weblogs that feel very much like these tumblelogs with minimal commentary, little cross-blog chatter, the barest whiff of a finished published work, almost pure editing...really just a way to quickly publish the "stuff" that you run across every day on the web.

Many of the tumblelogs I ran across seem to be powered by Ruby on Rails, itself a quick and dirty programming framework that emphasizes fast prototyping. You can kind of see how tumblelogging is the blog equivalent of Rails. Christian Neukirchen describes how he edits his tumblelog using a templating language called Vooly.

I like the idea of tumblelogging a lot; I've been slowly moving kottke.org in a similar direction for awhile. Different ways of displaying various types of content...remaindered links, regular posts, book reviews, and movie reviews are all displayed differently. I'm working on incorporating photo albums and perhaps a daily photolog...as well as a couple other different types of content. I've been focusing a lot more on the remaindered links (because they're more fun and closer to pure editing, which I enjoy a lot more than writing) and less on the magazine-like regular posts-with-titles. The further away from punditry I can get, the better it will be for all of us.

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There are 38 reader comments

Andrew49 19 2005 1:49PM

This sounds like the "Asides" on Matt's blog (photomatt.net), and on other WordPress blogs using his plugin.

Ben53 19 2005 1:53PM

I also tend to make too big of a deal out of posts by waiting until I've come up with enough to talk about to warrant at least a couple of paragraphs. Frequently though, I have a couple of sentences that I want to write about a particular subject that goes unmentioned because I don't think it merits a whole post. I just started doing something similar to your remaindered links just so I could add on a little commentary to the things I was reading and linking to.

Where'd the name Tumblelog come from though?

Donnie Jeter55 19 2005 1:55PM

I always think it is interesting when trends start to shift - this clearly seems to be a shift both in a design and content sense. From a design perspective, it seems people are getting more and more tired of templates. People will excuse underdeveloped design if it is original - Kubrick is no longer allowed. In the same sense, I think the trend is slowly turning away from 37 Signalsesque design (Derek talks about this with his new design). It seems people are wanting to express their personality again, rather than just their thoughts through content. We don't all need clean, crisp swedish like design - it gets old. And while tumblelogs are not works of genius in regards to design, they are unique and something the web (specifically the blogosphere) has needed for awhile. They are dirty, unorganized but completely perfect for they are; the form fits the function.

Ramanan07 19 2005 2:07PM

It is interesting to see how site layout effects peoples posting habits. I think the best thing I've done on my site was including little asides in with my longer posts. I post more frequently since doing so. I think a title, a timestamp, a demarcation that what you are writing is somehow important, makes it much harder to muster the energy to write.

Paulo07 19 2005 2:07PM

Rageboy was what first came to my mind; though, like Robotwisdom and Bifurcated Rivets, Christopher Locke's style well predates the term "tumblelog." Yet another Web 2.0 invented word.

paul haine24 19 2005 2:24PM

Linklogs are so Web 1.0.

scotty36 19 2005 2:36PM

del.icio.us is a great platform for the "tumblelog". In fact, Fred Wilson, pointed me to one the other day. I will try to dig up the link, 'cause it was awesome.

Boris53 19 2005 2:53PM

Funny. A few weeks back I was on teh verge of hacking a Jabber bot which would post to a weblog with tweaked templates to allow me to do this kind of "blogging" easily as well... basically "chat" to a bot and it gets published.

Another use of this is for (dreaded!) "groupware"... where as I am working, I can "chat" quick notes about what I've done/accomplished/whatever to the bot and have it recoreded, in perhaps a group "tumblelog".

Railsguy08 19 2005 3:08PM

Slightly OT, but "Ruby on Rails, itself a quick and dirty programming framework" are fighting words indeed. Quick yes, dirty no way. I think of ROR as an industrial-strength PHP or a lean J2EE framework. As clean and crisp as they come. Give it 2-3 years and it will be everywhere. Basecamp, 43 things, and Odeo are three of the main ROR apps right in the thick of the Web 2.0 pool. I wouldn't be surprised to the see the immature ROR-based Typo blog app surpass Wordpress and MT within 18 months. Sorry for the OT.

Paul Santos11 19 2005 3:11PM

Is this really something new, or just a new name? The format is identical to Fark, or Buzz, both of which have been around for ages.

Heck26 19 2005 3:26PM

I might regret typing this, but here we go... So, why must there be a name and a category for everything?

Let's see... I had a personal website ten years ago, I had a personal website five years ago, and I have a personal website now. At least that's how I see it. May be the only one, apparently. By the way I'm a dinousaur and still edit everything by hand (not if working for clients obviously, but that's what suits me own dear corner of the web best).

However, it sort of irks me to be told by everyone and their dog what it is "exactly" that I have been doing all these years, and to hear many of them change their description along with the new trends, while my site remains basically unchanged.

- "No, you don't have a website, you have a blog, see the dates?"

- "No, what you're doing now is called photoblog, see your photos?"

- "No, no, you don't have a photoblog, you have a [insertnewdefinitionhere] because [whatever]"

I have been doing pretty much the same for ten years, the same... And I gather many people have been doing exactly the same as well. Seems to me it's all a silly game to categorize until there's nothing left uncharted or unexplained or God help us, "common" (like a "website", hey, who has a personal website anymore, except maybe Mark Pilgrim, "back from his blogging years"?).

I don't know, maybe I just don't "get it". Simply an opinion, please don't take it too seriously. :)

(Oh yes, I hate the word "blog" too and agree with Neil Lee, sounds like...)

John Doe42 19 2005 3:42PM

get away from the punditry? That's what makes this place unique. If all I wanted was remaindered links, then fark would be an order of magnitude better than you. Okay, they lean toward funny and away from thoughtful. Let me ask another question - if you quit your job to do this website full time, and all you do is post a handful of links and sentences a day, what do you actually do all day? Aren't you making out like a bandit?

Pardon if this sounds confrontational, please keep in mind that the motivation behind my questions is pure jealousy.

Ryan Schroeder47 19 2005 3:47PM

What happened to projectionist? I came across it a couples of days ago and was also intrigued by the format. It's gone now though.

BryanJz59 19 2005 3:59PM

There's nothing dirty about Rails. 37signals wrote it, all their products are based on it, ODEO is based on it, 43things/places/people is based on it, Rollyo is based on it too. You'll be seeing a huge chunk of new products built on Rails in the next couple months and years.

Justin00 19 2005 4:00PM

I feel you Heck, it can be a waste of time. When our ancestors dig through archives of turn-of-the-century internet material, they sure as hell won't be able to distinguish this -- they'll have to wonder what all the noise is about.

For future anthropologists, if this hasn't become blatently clear to you by now: The noise is the amplified sexual and social tension of millions of geeks who don't get out enough, and redirect their energy into classifying and reclassifying everything they make and do with their friends online, almost as sport. The chunk of our brains that evolved for categorizing and recording the activities of our fellow humans in our growing tribes isn't used to its full capacity when its not flooded with celebrity weddings, he-said-she-was-like bickerings, and intricate interpersonal relationships. So we end up focusing our minds on other, more abstract things.

I'm not saying hardcore blogoplace residents don't have lives -- but the energy one has to invest in such a lifestyle is (I think, undeniably) borrowed from these other, more basic survive-and-reproduce activities. I'm of course right here with you, posting my take on how we categorize the internet -- and the cycle continues ...

Robert Bousquet05 19 2005 4:05PM

You tumblelogs all suck, they barely tumble. http://habtm is the only true tumbler. :)

jkottke07 19 2005 4:07PM

Rageboy was what first came to my mind

Totally. Good example.

So, why must there be a name and a category for everything?

I think it's a human thing. Blame Linnaeus. Tumblelogs are just a few people who are doing their own thing that's not that different from everything else, but they think it's sufficiently different that they've given it their own name...they created an ad-hoc group with a distinct identity. People said the same thing about weblogs/blogs, but for whatever reason, that name/format/whatever took off in a way that personal web sites and web diaries and web journals had not.

What happened to projectionist?

They're having some weird issues. I can't see it from home, but it was working when I was at a coffee shop today. Pity because the site is really pretty neat.

jkottke15 19 2005 4:15PM

Oh, and I didn't mean quick and dirty as an insult to Rails. Let's not get into a Rails vs. everything else pissing match here. Everyone complain about how stupid tumblelogs are some more because they're not new.

rpa15 19 2005 4:15PM

Kishan calls this microblog. He has been doing it for a long time

Heck37 19 2005 4:37PM

Don't take the following as a personal attack, it's certainly not.

"in a way that personal web sites and web diaries and web journals had not"

When you speak of that "distinct identity".... That's exactly what I don't get, I don't see anything that different or distinct about tumblelogs or photoblogs or weblogs or whatever. I can tell the difference between a news site, or a shopping site or a personal site... To some extent, of course.

I make lists, I categorize, everybody does. Maybe when I said "why this need to categorize everything" I should have added " to such an insane point of detailed categorization, because, what's the use, really?"

I mean, how many photos does a weblog have to display to become a photoblog, exactly? How many links without a clear dated structure to become a tumblelog? And so on. I don't understand or see the difference between "diary", and "journal", and "blog", etc. Yes, I know that some will die defending their "diaries" and don't you dare call their site a "journal". But I'm seeing everyday what you would (I guess) call weblogs, having a portion of their pages devoted to what would be a tumblelog or a photoblog, are they creating "metablogs", "uberblogs", "poliblogs"?

What if you don't fit into any of the existing tags? Are you creating a new "exoblog" trend when you are really just repeating what people did in Geocities ten years ago? C'mon. ;)

Heck48 19 2005 4:48PM

P.S. Thanks for the Linnaeus link, I studied Library Science and Veterinary Medicine. You couldn't fit more taxonomy in my head however you tried after that, maybe that's where my objection to extreme categorizing comes from. :)

DJMonsterMo40 19 2005 6:40PM

Hmm, I guess my MP3 blog might qualify. My link subject matter is all over the place. I try to comment on what I find, but it's easier to find something interesting than to write something original about it...unless you really put your mind to it. I just have too many distractions.

Sam Stephenson38 19 2005 7:38PM

Thanks for mentioning Projectionist! We're having DNS issues which should be resolved soon. Sorry for the most unopportune downtime.

Justin51 19 2005 7:51PM

Interesting post, previously I would have just called them linklogs, but there's something especially artful about the examples you linked to. If blogging can be thought of as sending emailing to the web, then this tumblelogging seems like IMing to the internets.

Clark MacLeod58 19 2005 8:58PM

Hmmm .... a new buzzword. I miss the old style of free spirited linking and commentary. I sometimes hate having to give titles to something or putting off sharing a link or a thought because MT require a title and a title forces a certain seriousness to it. Before MT it wasn't this way and so I launched a new weblog for just this purpose. It's much more fun and now it has a name.

DM31 19 2005 9:31PM

Speaking of remainder links, the rss feed for your remainder links does not work in a number of aggregators (akregator being one of them).

jessica_deva19 19 200510:19PM

I really hope that you continue to speak your thoughts as well as throw us a few links. I, for one, would be disappointed if the remaindered links became the main content, regardless of how many photos and reviews we could check out. What I like best about your site is that your main posts rarely comment on things with which you are not familiar. Although I do not always agree with your viewpoint, I trust that you are an informed voice on the topic.

Tom Flowers37 19 200510:37PM

If Web logs are blogs,
And spam blogs are splogs,
Then tumble blogs that ramble,
Should certainly be called togs.

mx05 20 200512:05AM

It's funny that the briefer, raw style is coming back. My primal logs were all somewhere between robotwisdom, hacktheplanet, and memepool and kottke: rare articles, frequent, splotchy posts.

I (of course) started with hand-woven html, but eventually ended up with an irc-powered bot that captured snippets of our conversations. Eventually, the tide of capable software bludgeoned me until I caved. I've been switching between the various weblogging wares for almost 10 years now (and a few of my own). None of them, however, capture that raw stream that we were able to produce in the early days.

Full circle, I guess.

Anil36 20 2005 2:36AM

"before Movable Type made post titles all but mandatory"...

I do believe tools influence content, but isn't this is a bit like saying Eudora required you to put subjects on your emails?

Also, for those of us who've been doing this stuff since '99, I remember when tumbleblogs were just called LiveJournals.

Rich32 20 200510:32AM

Boris and mx: 2lmc spool and the daily chump both use an IRC bot to grab their links and conversations and stick them on the web.

Tumblelogs are stupid because they're not new. I was doing this in 1982 when I was the only person on the Internet and everything was much better because it was harder.

Christian Neukirchen44 20 200512:44PM

Some clarification and comments to the comments:

* The essence of a tumblelog is to mix several kinds of very short posts, this is why the microblog by Kishan and Bifurcated Rivets wouldn't be considered to be a tumblelog according to my definition.

* Anarchaia is not powered by Ruby on Rails, but by an arcane web-site development kit called Nukumi2, which is written in pure Ruby.

* Publishing Anarchaia is hard work to be done daily, even if it doesn't look like it.

* Tumblelogs are not supposed to replace anything. I still keep an ordinary blog for my longer (read: real) posts, because if my blog and my tumblelog merged, it neither would be a blog or a tumblelog anymore.

Alexander Micek54 20 2005 1:54PM

I'm rather surprised by this blog category: my own website is named tumbledry, a domain I registered over 2 years ago. I suppose that would make my website similar to these, except "dry" as in "dull and boring."

Oh well.

Amy Hoy00 20 2005 2:00PM

It's always the people who didn't capitalize on the old-made-new-again idea/new term/etc who are calling it stupid.

Scott Johnson20 20 2005 3:20PM

It really looks like project.ioni.st got hacked. I realize that they are having DNS problems, but just from browsing the site, it doesn't look good. I hope they get it back up soon--that's a slick site.

rick07 21 2005 3:07PM

Whatever, everyone knows that this is the one true tumble log... literally.

Michael Koziarski25 21 2005 4:25PM

projectionist is back, DNS issues while moving.

why39 21 2005 5:39PM

The thing that draws me to the tumblers is the unique visual style they give each type of post. IRC logs have a distinct appearance, quotes have another, code, photos. Which is normal, but these guys accuentuate them, paint around them.

So then it's like you're watching a conveyor belt and pink seaogs or orange umbrelloots or blue yahtzicles start emerging from the rubber curtains at the end. You watch it and it's just the daily assembly line all right, but it's got a very neat style dripping off. You call a few other workers over and they take off their gloves and watch it as well if they like.

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.

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