Monday, February 15, 2010

Some context please?

Some context please?

I was watching Reality Bites last night -- which other than seeing most of the cast of The Ben Stiller show on the big screen wasn't that good back then and is still not that good now -- and must admit cringing at Ethan Hawke's character. If you were to revisit the characters now I bet Winona Ryder's character would have eventually married someone like Ben Stiller's character unless, of course, Hawke's philosophical angry slacker never actually grew up and out of his self-centered blindness.* See, I can say this with some conviction since, at that time, I was pretty similar to the Hawke's character, right down to tossing off "important quotes" and lording my intelligence over all within earshot.

This got me to thinking about Tumblr and just what works on it and what doesn't. It's primary use is as a platform for curation, where you dig around stuff and share what you hope is of interest with everyone else. It's most successful when sharing images or a story you want to comment on, but I've also noticed a large number of people who use it to collect quotes they find interesting. However they usually pick a few lines of a quote out of context and then don't supply any commentary so often you haven't a clue why the quote is / should be notable. This isn't a huge problem, but it is one that sort of stops the dialogue cold, which seems counter-intuitive on a platform built on propagation and piquing readers' interests to keep the flow going.

I'm interested n what you have to say and what you find moving, but you're going to have to tell me why you find it interesting / inspirational / moving if you expect me to care.

*Don't even start with the Hawke / Ryder OTP thing.


twg said...

I agree that she wouldn't have ended up with Troy, but that doesn't mean she'd necessarily end up with someone like Michael. Maybe it's my innate Ben Stiller dislike talking, but I'm just saying.

I still like the damn movie though.

keccers said...

I am totally in the tank for Tumblr, could write a million pages as to why, and feel compelled to respond to this post!

The Tumblr platform in itself promotes dialogue no matter what the content of the post is, using "likes", "reblogs", "Ask me a question" posts, photo replies and the "submit a question" form. Even if the content in question is out-of-context quotes.

This "Tumblr Dos & Don'ts" post by yvynyl, a top Tumblr-er (runs a fantastic music blog & helped start Hype Machine's tumblr) points out that it's good to have a "consistent theme/style/voice". Tumblrs will usually have (fairly obvious) themes that help put posts in context without commentary.

I personally choose not to comment on a lot of the things I post on my tumblr—but I see a lot of engagement with my readers because I try to follow Yvynyl's unofficial rules. People that follow me know I love the Jonas Brothers, so when I post a hot picture of Joe Jonas all sweaty on stage, it requires no explanation!

Tankboy said...

Katherine, I'm not really talking about general Tumblr etiquette since I'm fine with it as a primarily curatorial tool allowing reader response, as it does. You're right when you say that the person your following's style often provides enough context. But I don't think that applies to snippets of quotes that, bereft of context, don't make any sense.

For instance, when I was younger I would try to impress by dropping a line of Sartre in a conversation in order to display my "smarts," not really realizing that the thought I was dropping was only a single step leading to a larger picture constructed through numerous paragraphs.

You can summarize the general gist and then drop some fave lines, but I don't think you can drop s single sentence and expect that to engage.

Tankboy said...

Oh, and twg, I too have an anti-Stiller reaction when it comes to him as a target of romance, just as I got older I realized he was probably the more genuine of the heroines two options.

Truth be told if I was her I would've dumped them both and moved to Austin to end up with a hip techie millionaire.

keccers said...

Ah, I see! I felt like you were trying to say that you dislike all posts without personal commentary from the author. Didn't quite pick up on the nuance of exactly what you were trying to say before commenting.

Although, re:
"You can summarize the general gist and then drop some fave lines, but I don't think you can drop s single sentence and expect that to engage."

...a LOT of my Tumblr followers are tween girls, a handful of whom I follow back. Their discussions/"likes" centered around snippets of song lyrics and treacly, cliche-laden one liners can be astounding. Not quite the same thing as Sartre...but... :p

Gage said...

I can barely remember movies let alone quote them... so I'm afraid I can't really participate in this. I will say though, that I CRINGE when people quote movies and tv shows around me... I actually feel embarrassed for them...and it makes me uncomfortable.

Not sure why.

Tankboy said...

Gage, it's a good thing you didn't know me in college ... my friends and I basically communicated in movie quotes past a certain number of beers / evening hour.