Interesting post on how Tumblr fails as a product for music criticism and discussion. I have some thoughts! Crumbler (aka Casey Newton) says:
The relentless pukestream that is the Dashboard, where the majority of Tumblr content is consumed, makes [time-shifting content] impossible. There is no “save for later” option on a Tumblr post. You listen either now or never.
Or, you can like a post and visit tumblr.com/likes - that’s sort of their de facto equivalent right now of a “Read Later” section. I always got the sense that the team wanted to avoid such a feature out of respect for co-founder Marco Arment (who remains a Tumblr advisor) and his product Instapaper. Even when they became aware their users were writing longer and longer text posts, their focus has always been on easy-to-consume audiovisual content. For proof, check the Tumblr homepage - all photos and videos, no audio or text posts. Also, note that it took them two whole years after launch just to allow photo uploads on text posts Clearly the platform wasn’t intended for legitimate publishing.
That being said, the company creates longish editorial content now with Storyboard, so I imagine they’re acutely aware of the problem right now and might be compelled to fix it at some point.
After discussing how nested reblogs on Tumblr are repulsive and difficult to follow, Casey says:
To see what it looks like in 2012 in America when classy people are arguing on the Internet, look at Branch. […] Tumblr could implement something similar — when I post, let me invite specific people who follow me to respond.
Tumblr is known to discontinue features that no one’s using. If you work for Tumblr and want to design a new conversation system, there’s no way to guarantee that everyone starts using it instead of just reblogging like they always have. And if few people use the new system and it has to be discontinued, the conversations generated with that system still have to be maintained and preserved by the staff. As far as I can recall, Tumblr has never removed a post type (chat, audio, video) or method of post interaction (likes, reblogs, replies). I think Tumblr, unlike most companies, is incredibly hesitant to introduce a feature for producing content that may not succeed.
So I think the only way to do it is replace reblogging with a new system, which was Casey’s intention in the original post. Reblogs would merely link back to the original post with no way to comment. If you want to reply, you would need to use the new Branch-like system.
The question then becomes: how do you retrofit the hundreds of millions of conversations on Tumblr to the new format? Because if you’re removing the ability to comment on reblogs in favor of the new system, all the conversations currently using the ugly nested blockquotes will be stopped in their tracks. Users will have to go back to the original post and start a new conversation - assuming they even want to use the new system in the first place. That means Tumblr engineers would need to build some sort of text parsing engine which looks through the mess of blockquotes in every post on Tumblr, attempts to figure out who said what and then moves it over into the new system. And that’s assuming the user didn’t edit the reblog structure in some way before posting…
I guess I’m trying to say that it’s a really difficult design problem.
Casey also suggests ways that Tumblr could surface more music content:
What song on Tumblr is getting the most plays right now? What artist has been blogged the most so far this year? Who is rising rapidly up the charts this month? This is stuff Hype Machine has been telling us for-fucking-ever. Tumblr has similarly useful data.
My theory: either a) they don’t have that data, because Spotify or Soundcloud retains knowledge of play counts, or b) the most popular audio upload at any given time is often an instance of copyright infringement. I think they’re of the opinion that they would probably lose a IP lawsuit if it came their way. People are uploading songs to Tumblr much more often than entire films, so #film has less of a potential chance of infringement - hence why it’s in the Explore page.