The Tumblr-pocalypse

Effective December 17, 2018, Tumblr banned all adult content from its site. Since then, based on a traffic analysis from Similar Web, site traffic to Tumblr has declined by about 15 percent.

Similar Web - Tumblr Traffic Analysis, February 2019
Similar Web – Tumblr Traffic Analysis, February 2019

A Google Trends look at interest in Tumblr shows a marked decline in year-to-year searches on Google for the phrase “tumblr.”

Google Trends - Tumblr
Google Trends – Tumblr

I would be very surprised if the drop in total visits doesn’t continue to crater (I know I deleted my account in December and only incidentally visit the site now).

I never thought I’d say this about the site, but I actually miss Tumblr, or at least the idea that Tumblr briefly was the standard bearer for that people did not need to segregate their erotic selves from the other parts of their lives.

When I am using Twitter, for example, I am engaging with multiple communities that impact on different parts of who I am and what I am interested in, from politics, philosophy and economics to action figures and professional wrestling. From the cerebral to the ephemeral in one feed.

Tumblr added adult content into that mix (for those who chose it) allowing people to incorporate their particular erotic selves with their other identities.

This is why the numerous “where to find porn after Tumblr shuts down adult content” articles completely missed the point. What users liked about Tumblr was that it didn’t force them to go out to other sites, but allowed users to integrate all of their interests, including sexual expressions.

As Violet Blue put it in her December 2018 piece on Tumblr’s decision,

One thing is true: people loved the open internet when it was a) not under corporate stewardship hearkening back to 1950s values, and b) you could find people doing all kinds of sex in its different corners. Erasing millions of sex blogs and repressing sexual speech like Goebbels is the sign of a sick ecosystem, the opposite of a future-facing business plan and ignorant of millions of people who disagree wholeheartedly.

Tumblr says they’re erasing a million-plus blogs and decimating communities to create a “better, more positive” experience; Facebook, as usual, claims to be “encouraging expression and creating a safe environment.”

I don’t think any company that actively erases positive sexual expression is going to wake up to the fact that what they’re doing is regressive at best and harmful at worst. When given the opportunity to revert these policies, like if FOSTA was dumped, it’s clear none of them would. After all, FOSTA with all it’s ignoring of women and conflating of sex work with rape, was a bipartisan bill — and its most pivotal supporter was Facebook.

Xeni Jardin Hasn’t Learned A Damn Thing . . . But I Have

Xeni Jardin has a post today about her “unpublishing” of Violet Blue-related posts that caused so much controversy. Go read it now before she decides to take it down.

The post is fairly long but doesn’t really say anything beyond reaffirming that their her posts and she’ll take them down if she wants to. In the comments to the post, Cory Doctorow, Mark Frauenfelder and David Pescovitz weigh in to indicate their agreement with Jardin’s position.

To understand my position on this, which I elaborate on very pointedly in the comments to that post, go read this Boing! Boing! post from 2005 which is Boing! Boing!’s coverage of the London subway bombings including photographs and updates on the status of individual posters like Cory Doctorow who was living in London at the time.

That post was removed from Boing! Boing! because in one of the many updates to it, Violet Blue is credited with pointing to a blog with additional information on the bombing. Violet Blue is extraordinarily tangential to the post, but because the string “Violet Blue” appeared in the post, Jardin deep-sixed it.

Now it is very clear from reading the comments in this post and in the previous Boing! Boing! post about the Violet Blue controversy, that I am in the minority who find it absurd that Boing! Boing! would retcon dozens of posts simply because of incidental mentions of Violet Blue over what turns out to be nothing more than a personal falling out between her and Jardin.

I’ll just sum up my thinking about Boing! Boing! by reproducing a reply I posted there to another user who defended routine removal of materials from the Internet,

Talia wrote:

“Well, if this is orwellian, I guess I’ve participated in Orwellian actions as well, as a person who has deleted things I’ve posted on the internet. And every other single person who has ever deleted anything they put on the internet, ever, has also participated in Orwellian actions.”

BTW, I have to say I find that odd. I don’t generally delete things on the Internet (I can only think of a single occasion where I deleted a single post I made at my blog because I realized it was seriously erroneous and would cause more harm by misinforming than by adding a correction). Believe me, I’ve said a lot of things on the Internet I wish I hadn’t, but coming from a journalism background, I’ve always thought it was important to stand behind your words and own your errors.

I’ve certainly endorsed the views of people, for example, who I later disassociated with. But I can’t ever remember thinking “gee, I should go back and delete all that stuff like it never happened.” And I really don’t remember ever thinking “I should take down this really long post because somewhere in there it mentions this person who I know longer like.”

And I find it bizarre that people do think that way, but that’s probably just my particular hangup.

OTOH, this whole episode was useful in that it showed us a side of BB I think many of us didn’t realize was there. If you had asked me before this if BB would go back and removed posts like that London bombing picture thread, I’d have said no way. Retconning is something only comic book writers and sleazy businesses do.

Now I know better.

By the way, I should add that Jardin and others have argued that it is routine for bloggers to remove and retroactively edited things. Personally, I would only do that under the most extreme circumstances as I mention in my comment on Boing! Boing! But now that I think of it, there is a very well known blogger who is known for frequently deleting and rewriting the things he posts — Dave Winer. At the moment, I think Winer would fit right in with Boing! Boing!’s vision of itself.

Hipocrisy, The Name Is Boing! Boing!

The Boing! Boing! vs. Violet Blue death match at least gives BB fans something to do between Cory Doctorow’s posts plugging his book. For those of you who don’t care about Boing! Boing!, the short version is they had some sort dispute with sex blogger Violet Blue, and about a year ago went through and deleted several dozen Boing! Boing! posts that were either authored by her or mentioned her. It was only a few days ago, however, that anyone became aware of this retcon.

A lot of longtime Boing! Boing! fans are outraged, and a lot of people who could care less don’t understand the outrage. Its their site, right? They can do whatever they want, so why should anyone care? As someone who read Boing! Boing! back when it was still a paper zine, the answer is that we expected so much more from Boing! Boing! because those behind the site pushed for more from others.

For example, one of the disappeared posts is a rant by Xeni Jardin directed at Google for, of all things, supposedly “disappearing” sex blogs from its index. There are a lot of good comments from a variety of people in that post, including a couple by Violet Blue, but VB’s contribution is hardly the bulk of the post by any means. But because it mentioned her name, it was “unpublished” as part of the enmasse removals.

Boing! Boing! used to be the place you’d go to watch Cory or Xeni rip into sites who would do something as stupid as silently remove content that was about the horrors of silently removing content. Now, however, they’ve become that site.