How Marco Arment’s leaving Tumblr made me quit Posterous
November 2nd, 2010 by ravi

Right at the outset I must admit that the title of this post is a fair bit exaggerated. Marco leaving Tumblr isn’t the sole cause of my reduced usage of Posterous. As is always the case, these things are complicated. So I shall explain.

Most important to note is that Posterous is a splendid service. It is well designed, managed, supported and its use of email as a significant interface is downright retro brilliant. To linger a bit on support, to make the point on how good Posterous is: head honcho Sachin Agarwal once spent multiple hours over many days trying to hunt down an import problem that blocked transferring my posts from a [by now] obscure CMS/blog system called Nucleus. These guys are dedicated. And I still use Posterous heavily for my family blog, where the email based interface beats anything else, to transmit the mundane activities of grandchildren to doting grandparents.

For their part, Tumblr is quick to respond to questions and offer help (though not necessarily as dedicated to fixing them). If you are shopping for a mini-blogging platform, the two platforms do offer an embarrassment of riches. But with all that, I find myself using my personal Tumblr site a lot more than my Posterous one (despite Posterous’s autopost feature which can make the content appear in both places). And I am yet to explain why.

People like lists. So here is one with three reasons why Tumblr won out for my personal mini-blogging.

1. Instapaper

Marco didn’t leave Tumblr to run for political office. Which might be a good thing since I am not sure how much I agree with his politics. Instead, he chose to please me (and perhaps other) by going full-time on Instapaper. In case you don’t know what Instapaper is: it is a “read later” tool that sucks the valuable material out of a web page of your liking and presents it to you in a simple, readable interface for later perusal, either using a browser on your computer, or using an iPhone app. This is not a highly original idea — originality is over-rated anyway — but the implementation is sparkling and consequently the service is addictive.

And Marco being a Tumblr man, Instapaper for iPhone sports the ability to easily post stuff saved to Instapaper to Tumblr blogs. And since I read almost all lengthy content now using Instapaper, instant sharing from there to my blog is a sweet hook. It also helps that my RSS readers (NetNewsWire and MobileRSS for iPhone) and Twitter clients (Tweetie for Mac and iPhone) support saving to Instapaper. My workflow is complete and unfortunately Posterous does not fit naturally within it.

2. Bookmarklet Posting

If I were a hipster, I would call this problem “curation stress”: put bluntly, the Posterous bookmarklet for quick posting is a pain. Unlike the Tumblr equivalent, it pops up as a modal within the page being shared (“curated”), often obscuring bits of text from the page that are important. Also annoyingly, when text is selected for sharing, the bookmarklet presents an edit interface that is difficult to edit, in part due to the interspersed HTML and choice of font (Posterous seems to assume, not entirely unreasonably, that you want to quote the selected text as is and only wish to tack on a comment).

3. Continuous Import

Posterous, not Red Bull, gives you (or at least your content) wings. This they do through a nifty feature called AutoPost, which spreads your content across blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and even Tumblr (Tumblr provides the more limited capability of posting to Facebook and Twitter, but even a cursory look at the formatting of the Facebook autoposts gives evidence of how much better thought out Posterous’s version is). This is quite valuable but it turns out in my usage that what is more valuable is not continuous export but continuous/auto import (the ability to pull in my WordPress blog posts into my mini-blog — Tumblr or Posterous). And this (blog post import) Tumblr does reasonably well, while Posterous does not at all (workaround are possible: as noted earlier, Posterous supports an email interface which can be used to funnel in blog posts).

—— § ——

What is to be made of all this? Nothing much, as you were warned: if casting hundreds of words into the bit bucket black hole we know of as the Internet is your thing, and mighty WordPress is not to your taste, you are going to have a tough time choosing between Posterous and Tumblr. The list above most likely does not offer you much comfort!

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