Tumblr – Software Above the Level of a Single Device

Web 2.0 is a powerful tool which is now reaching far beyond the desktop computer; the ability to reach target markets is increased dramatically. In 2010, there were five billion Internet connected devices – an incredible channel to reach users and target markets. But these 5 billion devices include traditional desktops, mobile phones, tablets and any number of other devices. Clearly, one version of an application cannot suit all devices due to the variances in the features of devices.

This is where the concept of software above the level of a single device arises. As one of the core Web 2.0 design patterns, this pattern states that web applications should be tailored to meet the needs of individual devices, by targeting specific features of a service to devices, and making the most of what these devices have to offer. This creates a rich, tailored and complete service which a company can and should use as part of their Web 2.0 offering.

Focusing specifically on mobile devices and the desktop, there are a collection of web apps that have complimentary mobile app options. One such company offering this functionality is Tumblr. Tumblr is a unique blogging platform, siting somewhere between micro-blogging service Twitter and full-blown WordPress, Blogger and other blog services. It encourages users to post short content – quotes, text, links, photos and so on – but deliver this in a more blog-oriented style. While Tumblr is multi-platform – there is a desktop tailored web-app, native applications for iPhone, BlackBerry and Android, and also connectivity to Twitter and Facebook.

Tumblr makes unique use of software above the level of a single device best practice. First, Tumblr tailors the experience of posting to the device. On the desktop, the web app fills the display and has a wide-screen layout. On the mobile devices, the posting activities are tailored to fit the display. Tumblr takes these steps to suit the device and ensure accessibility, which invites content contribution by users. Further, mobile device applications take use of the hardware on these devices (specifically photo, video and audio recording), which are not always available on desktops. Users always have their mobile devices with them, meaning the barrier to contribution is lowered and the user may post from where the action is. Data is available across the web and mobile platforms once the data is posted.

Tumblr for iPhone vs. Tumblr for Web
The post selection screen for Tumblr on iPhone compared to the same interface for Tumblr for Web

One aspect of the pattern which Tumblr does not integrate is location. There is a push for location services in web 2.0, examples including FourSquare, Google Places and Facebook Places. Tumblr is positioned to include functionality to post a users location and have a Google Map show as the post on the user’s Tumblr blog. It may also be possible for Tumblr to spread social interaction to the real world and allow a way for users to discover posts near them, as a way to find out interesting things going on around them. This in itself would require Tumblr to further adopt Web 2.0 strategies such as harnessing collective intelligence as in other blogging applications, perhaps through comments.

Overall, Tumblr is a very focused application which addresses the more important best practice of the software above the level of a single device design pattern, but has room to grow and take advantage of other parts of the pattern.

Tumblr has given me a new way to reach my audience. How have/can you use Tumblr in your social media brand?

6 thoughts on “Tumblr – Software Above the Level of a Single Device

  1. Tumblr was a great choice for the latest pattern. I also think Tumblr could benefit from intergrating location. I have FourSquare and Facebook Places on my phone and I’ve noticed how well it benefits them.

    It’s really handy that Tumblr lets users access it from the iPhone and lets them actually post blogs, not just view them. I do a lot from my iPhone and I’m sure many others would benefit from this.

    Great post :)

  2. I always thought what would Twitter be like if it provided its users with the capability to upload images onto their twits. Tumblr has provided me with a futuristic visionary image of what it may be like.

    Very stylish, artistic and clean user interface it has. It’ll take some time to get use to the feel of the application but I’m starting to like what it offers. One thing I like about it is when you’re scrolling through posts with images of your personal topic, a click of the mouse would enlarge it to a more clearer picture. Quite neat I say.

    Tumblr is greater for the average cyber person who is sick of browsing around the blogsphere reading chunks and chunks of blog posts. Users of this application would love the fact it doesn’t take alot of time and effort to read one blog post. How restrictive is Tumblr? Do they have anyone monitoring the posts users share? Will pornographic images and other offensive information be discarded from the site? I would probably think so. And how about copyright material?

    1. Hi Darkwaterhorses,

      I think like any other community, Timblr will democratize the process of managing offensive material. This is of course much the flavor on sites like YouTube and Facebook, and this makes it easier for people to reach out and take down offensive or inappropriate content.

      In terms of restrictiveness, I believe everything is quite open, much like any other blogging platform. I think this makes sense; Tumblr has a vested in test in ensuring that people are not restricted. This is in the interest of getting content on the platform that Tumblr can use to their strategy advantage – more traffic means more users which links to a greater ability to monetize the service. Copyright becomes and issue of course, as with any other service, but again, this links back to having democratized management tools that users can access.

      Do you think that addresses all the issues, or are the deeper rooted problems that they must address with other tools and approaches?

  3. Tumblr seems to be picking up quite a lot of momentum with… I hate to lump it all into one category but creative people. From what I’ve seen of it, it’s used qute heavily to post pictures, lyrics, poetry, and more than anything, gifs.

    I mean wow the number of funny pictures I get sent that have a tumblr URL is quite amazing. Anyway… I do agree with an earlier poster that Tumblr is an excellent example for software above the level of a single device, and also as a modern web2.0 application.

    I was wondering, did you find that one platform was noticeably superior to another or were they all similar in terms of day to day use? I also agree on the Location Services as well, it does make sense for a service like this, especially with its high level of creative content to make use of geo tagging.

    How would you suggest they implemented this feature security wise? Friends only? Or user settable?

    1. Hi Chris,

      This is a bit of a double edge sword – Tumblr must have users privacy interests at heart, but there is strategic value in the data (as per O’Reilly’s design pattern for data in Web 2.0). This is where the ideology of allowing users to decide, but setting the default as low as possible by default, comes in. By making the data public, they could deliver more timely information if you (as a user) were in the same location as other posts. Do you think this is beneficial or is that too much I’m vein of the patter, which compromises the right to privacy for users?

      1. Hey trent, I agree, it is indeed a defined design pattern, and by allowing users to define the degree of anonymity they have when posting this should avoid the hairy issue of compromising privacy.

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