11 December 2018

The touch of death

Last week I posted about Tumblr's sudden ban on sexually-oriented material and the tsunami of anger and ridicule with which Tumblr bloggers have responded.  So far there is no sign of Tumblr management backing down, as Google Blogger did in a somewhat similar situation in 2015.  So now Tumblr's inhabitants are focused more on finding a new refuge to which they can flee from their doomed homeworld.  It's a search in which I have an interest, because the vast Tumblr community produces a lot of interesting stuff -- just look how many of the links in my own weekly link round-ups go to their blogs.

The effects of the ban are already visible in the blogosphere.  Some Tumblr blogs I regularly read have stopped posting or drastically slowed down; one has been deleted entirely, and I hope the artist who posted it has back-ups of all her material.  Some are focusing on sharing methods of backing up endangered blogs, and at least one archiving site plans an all-out effort to save what Tumblr management is about to destroy.  Other bloggers have decided to go out with a bang, posting sarcastic memes about the doomed resistance, or irreverent videos like this one and this one.

The corporate grey men in grey suits, fixated on winning the advertising dollars controlled by other grey men in grey suits, never had any hope of understanding the vast and colorful culture to which their very touch is death.  To start with, the average age of Tumblr bloggers is 26 and they are 72% female.  There is a historical pattern of social media platforms being destroyed by corporate attempts to "monetize" them, because such attempts always mean limiting or censoring "undesirable" material or posters.  In the long run, corporate ownership is lethal to internet culture.

I previously mentioned AO3, a fan-owned site which covers expenses by soliciting money from users, to avoid the traps of corporate ownership and advertising.  AO3 is a fanfic archive, not a blogging platform -- but this is very valuable, since fanfic often explores NSFW themes and thus gets targeted by the bluenoses.  And its user-funded model could certainly work for a blogging platform.

At least two such platforms do exist -- Pillowfort and Dreamwidth, both of which have been swamped with inquiries from Tumblr bloggers about joining.  But Pillowfort is new and still in development, and could be overwhelmed by the refugee horde.  Dreamwidth is actively trying to make Tumblr's loss its own gain (thanks to Pinku-Sensei for the link), though with its active user base in the tens of thousands and its somewhat limited features, it would strain to accommodate even a fraction of Tumblr's hundreds of millions of bloggers.  Here's a "masterpost of Tumblr alternatives" geared toward various kinds of posting; some, such as DeviantArt, are already know to all, but others are new to me and I'll be giving them a look.

MSM stories about the ban often refer to "porn bloggers" or cite a percentage of Tumblr's traffic which is drawn there by erotica, as if there were a sort of sexually-explicit section of Tumblr, distinct and divisible from the rest of it.  But this false dichotomy is itself an imposition by the prudish and diseased mainstream culture upon a community to which it is largely foreign.  Bloggers post about their personal lives and desires or their fantasies about fictional characters; sometimes this involves sexually-explicit writing or art, sometimes it doesn't.  But the concept of a sharp dividing line exists mostly in the minds of outsiders.  Most of the Tumblr blogs I read rarely or never post NSFW material, but their solidarity with those who do has been exemplary.  It's all one culture.

Not everyone on Tumblr has decided to leave -- many are planning a mass protest on December 17 in hopes of getting management to reverse the ban.  But history suggests that such efforts will fail.

Tumblr's eventual destruction was predicted by this blogger five years ago when Yahoo first bought it.  Such things have happened before.  It was LiveJournal's crackdown on sexually-oriented material in 2007 that led to the implosion of that platform and a mass migration to Tumblr, which set the latter on the road to becoming the blogging colossus it is today.  But those who know nothing of such history are doomed to repeat it.  And Tumblr is not alone -- Facebook is making similar policy changes, though more sneakily.  Some say it's Apple that is driving this.

We must see to it that the user-funded model represented by platforms like AO3 and Dreamwidth becomes the wave of the future.  Yes, I understand the appeal of free blogging, but nothing of value is truly free -- you are posting on a platform controlled by members of the 1% who neither understand you nor care about you, or which could be sold to such people at any time.  There are hundreds of millions of us.  Together we can support platforms on the scale we need to free the whole blogosphere from the strangling grasp of "the economy".


Blogger Debra She Who Seeks said...

Ha ha, love those videos about Tumblrgeddon! My fave 3 sarcastic gifs/memes on this topic are:




11 December, 2018 06:19  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Debra: Hah! Those are cool. I've seen the t-to-cross one making the rounds.

Tumblr is full of creative people and of course it's coming out in their responses to "Tumblrgeddon" (I'm stealing that as the official name for this whole situation).

11 December, 2018 06:29  
Anonymous Osirisopto said...

Like facebook the owners of the Free Blog sites are making money off of the people posting.

Voiding your copyright is not a winning strategy for creatives.

Self hosting allows you to control your work.

Yes it costs money, yes it takes time, but unless your goal is for the the man in the suit to buy a new car from the profit he makes off off your dreams you don't have a choice.

Sorry but this subject is near and dear to my heart. I'll leave you with the thoughts of one older, wiser, much more talented and successful than I...




14 December, 2018 05:32  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

It doesn't even bother me if Google Blogger makes some money off of hosting blogs. They need to have some incentive to keep doing it. What bothers me is if they start trying to constrain what kind of content bloggers can post, beyond the bare minimum required to avoid getting in legal trouble. That's the issue with Tumblr now.

It would be nice if I could get paid for blogging, but that's not how it works. Maybe one of these days I'll write a book.....

14 December, 2018 18:11  

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