This time: setting up your tumblr!! deciding whether you want a tumblr account, usernames, primary blogs vs sideblogs, themes, and settings.
This post gets into a lot of the nitty-gritty of how to fine-tune the look of your blog and your privacy and communication settings. If you're not interested in those details (which is fine - you don't need to understand it all to use tumblr) stick to questions 1-2 and 13-15, and come back next time for more about how to find the content you want and the blogs you want to follow.
Q1. Do I want a tumblr account?
It depends on what you want to do with tumblr.
Tumblr without an account: visit individual blogs, view posts, click any link you find, save links through other platforms (sending them to email or an aggregator), view limited search results, ask questions anonymously (if a blog's settings allow that)
Tumlr with an account: all of those things, plus: follow blogs, see content from multiple blogs in one place (your dashboard), "like" things (save them within tumblr), reblog things, view full search results, ask questions anonymously or non-anonymously, directly message users
Having a tumblr account makes the site way more functional and efficient, and makes it possible to talk to other people. But if your primary interest is in occasional browsing, visiting a few favorite blogs may do the trick and you don't need an account for that.
Q2: How do I pick a username?
It's really up to you! But I recommend at least thinking about using the same name that you use for lj and/or AO3. Tumblr is great for a lot of things, but it's not a substitute for AO3, lj, or email. It's a lot easier for you to find people (and for them to find you) across platforms when usernames are consistent.
ETA: it's also a good idea to avoid usernames with underscores or dashes. Tumblr's system for tracking tags treats them a little strangely in ways that make it hard to find mentions of you/your posts. (Thus, dicta_contrion on LJ and AO3 but dictacontrion on tumblr.) (H/T to gracerene for the reminder!)
Q3: What if I want to change my username?
You can change your username on tumblr at any point. Could be that you've already created a tumblr and want to pull it into line with other platforms (or just mix things up), or that you pick something now and want to change it down the road. If you change your username you keep your likes, followers, and settings.
There are two potential complications to changing it. First, people will no longer be able to find your blog through old reblogs that still have your old username on them, though you can leave a note + link to redirect people, like this:
Second, changing your username changes your tumblr url. This means that you need to update any links back to specific posts. For instance, all the recs on my masterlist link back to individual tumblr posts, and my username is a key part of the URL on each post:
So if I changed my username to dicta-contrion all of those links would break and I'd need to go through my rec list and manually edit them to replace my old username with the new.
Q4: How would I change my username?
To change your username go to settings:
On the right hand side you'll see a menu bar that lists your blogs.
Click on the blog you want to change, and then click on the little pencil next to your username:
Q5: What is a primary blog?
Your primary blog is the first one you create on tumblr. It's the account from which you follow, like, message, and ask. Once you have established your primary blog you cannot change it. You can only have one primary blog per email address.
Q6: What is a sideblog and why would I want one?
Once you've made your tumblr account you can add additional blogs, called sideblogs. You do not need to do this! One blog is just fine!
You might want to do this if:
- you want to keep different types of content separate (like having different blogs for different fandoms) (either for your own sake or for your followers)
- you want to interact with different audiences (like having a public tumblr you share with friends and an internet-only fandom tumblr)
- you want a place to be able to save posts in a more organized fashion than tumblr likes allow for (likes all go to one central likes folder and you can't search or tag or sort them once they're there, whereas you can reblog things with tags/to a searchable sideblog if you want to save just recipes or just stuff about MCU to a separate space)
Q7: How are primary blogs and sideblogs different?
Primary blogs and sideblogs are different in a few key ways:
- People who follow one blog don't know about the others unless you tell them. They have separate follower counts and are not linked except in your own account. Except:
- You cannot follow, message, or ask from your sideblog. So, for example, when I got into the One Direction fandom/Larry Stylinson I made a sideblog, 1Dicta, for 1D-related posts. I follow a number of 1D blogs. When I follow them they get a notification that dictacontrion has followed them, not 1dicta. If someone else messages or sends an ask to 1Dicta I can respond as 1Dicta, but if I want to send an ask or message I can only initiate that communication as dictacontrion.
- You can password protect or have members of a sideblog. So, for instance, if I wanted to post selfies but only wanted to share them with a few people I could start a side blog, dictasface, password protect it, and only give the password to people who I wanted to access that content. Or if I wanted there to be a place for people to share selfies I could create another sideblog, password protect it, and add other people as members so they could post their selfies to that space. (You can get around this by creating a new primary account and sharing the password, but that requires logging out and back in every time you post.)
- All of your likes go into one central likes folder regardless of how many sideblogs you have.
- All of your posts across all of your blogs contribute to your post limit. Tumblr only lets each account post 250 posts per day. That limit is for each account, not each blog. If I reblog to 1Dicta 249 times in one day, I can only reblog to dictacontrion once that day.
Q8: What if I want two blogs that act as primary blogs?
The workaround is to have them linked to different email addresses. For instance, when I was co-modding hd_collab we wanted a tumblr, but didn't want it to be forever tied to one co-mod in case that person didn't mod again. So we created a separate primary account from the hd_collab gmail address and all shared the password. That also meant that we were able to follow participants as hd_collab, instead of from one of our individual usernames.
This can require logging out and logging back in, and that is a pain. My personal strategy is to keep things in separate browsers (e.g. using firefox for my own fannish activity and chrome for modding, so the gmails and tumblrs and ljs could all stay logged in). YMMV.
Q9: What is a theme?
Same as your lj style. It determines the look of your blog, and to some extent its functionality. You can go with the default or get deep into customizing. It's worth remembering that people will see your theme when they visit your blog directly, but your followers will see your content on their dashboards most of the time.
Q10: How do I change my theme?
You can access the relevant page from the upper right hand corner of your blog:
Or from your settings page, which will let you change your entire website theme or just your header:
At first it will take you to a page where you can edit your current theme.
You can use that sidebar to customize things like the color of links and a few display options (like your header text and whether your followers can see your likes and who you follow). You can also set up additional pages. These can be set up as their own pages (example) or they can link to external pages or they can link to a particular tag, so that it's always showing everything under that tag (example).
Or, towards the upper left hand corner, you can choose to browse themes:
You can choose from paid or free themes, as well as themes that are good for different purposes, and then it's a matter of browsing through the options to find something that works for you:
Q11: What are some things to consider when picking a theme?
- What do you want your blog to look like?
- Do you want to have a finite number of posts per page, or infinite scrolling?
- How prominent do you want the search bar to be?
- Do you want each post to display tags, a timestamp, and reblog and like options up front (which some people think looks cluttered), or do you want users to click on a post before they can access those (which some people find clumsy to use)?
There are no right answers, though! Just things to think about - if you want to think about it at all. Tumblr's default theme is just fine!
Q12: What settings should I be aware of?
These are accessed through their own tabs under "settings":
Account: change the email associated with your account or your password; set up two-factor authentication; determine whether tumblr emails you when your account is logged in to; set up dial-a-post; set your language, and look at all your current active sessions.
Dashboard: Your dashboard is where all the content from the blogs you follow is aggregated. You can stroll through it and see every update from everyone you follow without visiting their individual blogs. Your dashboard settings determine whether you see notifications ("username liked your post" "username is now following you" "username has asked '...'") as you scroll; whether you can scroll endlessly, vs having pages with a set number of posts; and whether or not your messenger makes sounds when you send and receive messages (which you do from your dashboard.)
Notifications: you can determine whether or not tumblr emails you when you get new followers, new replies, new submissions, new asks, when you are mentioned (@username) in someone else's blog, and when someone has answered your ask (this only works for non-anon asks). You can also determine whether you get notifications for these sorts of activity from everyone, from no one, or just from people you follow.
These are accessed by clicking on the blog whose settings you want to change:
Likes: tumblr defaults to letting people see all of the posts you've liked, either through a "likes" tab in the mobile app or by going to tumblr.com/liked/by/username. You can make your likes private in the settings for each of your blogs.
Follows: tumblr defaults to letting people see who you follow, either through a "following" tab in the mobile app or by going to tumblr.com/followed/by/username. You can make your follows private in the settings for each of your blogs.
Communication: tumblr defaults to allowing as much communication as possible. You can change those settings in a few ways, always starting by going to settings and selecting the blog whose settings you want to edit. The options are as follows:
- Replies: any tumblr user can reply, any tumblr user you follow can reply, any tumblrs you follow and tumblr users who have been following you for at least a week can reply.
- Asks: allow questions, disallow anonymous questions (/allow questions only from non-anon users), disallow all questions. You can also change what the link to your ask box is called.
- Submissions - allow submissions, disallow submissions, allow some types of submissions but not others (so, allow text and photo submissions, but not links or video)
- Messaging: allow messages from anyone or only allow messages from blogs you follow.
Privacy: tumblr defaults to making your blog public. You can edit your settings to keep your blog from appearing in search results (both searches within tumblr and external search engines) or to keep your blog from being visible to people who aren't logged in to tumblr.
Social media: You can link your blog to share posts on twitter or tumblr (which tumblr does not default to doing).
"Adult oriented" blogs: You have the option to flag your blog as "adult-oriented." This is not required - at all, or if you're reposting NSFW art or fic. If you do that you have the option of tagging the individual post as NSFW, and users who don't want to see it will block posts with that tag (more on that in another post). This is really for blogs (and there are a lot of them) that primarily or entirely repost porn pics/videos/gifs. If you flag your blog as adult-oriented none of your content will show up in search results unless the searcher is logged in to tumblr and has turned safe search off - and that's all it does. Again, there are lots of porn blogs on tumblr with super explicit content. They are really not concerned with nsfw fan art or explicit fic. When tumblr was acquired by Yahoo they implemented more search controls for underage users, but there's no sign of this option foreshadowing any sort of strikethrough-esque situation, and you don't need to flag your tumblr as adult for fan stuff.
Blocked users: If a user is harassing you - or, for whatever reason, you want to cut off contact - you can block them. A blocked user can still visit your tumblr by going to your main tumblr page (username.tumblr.com) if it's visible to non-tumblr users, but they can't follow you, reply to your posts even if they're reblogged by someone else, send you messages or asks, or reblog your posts. You can block anonymous users. This part of the settings page gives you a list of users who you've blocked. Blocking is permanent - you cannot undo it once it's been done.
Q13: Why would I want external apps?
TBH, because tumblr is missing some key functionality. These extensions make tumblr way more user friendly.
Q14: What does tumblr savior do?
Tumblr savior lets you blacklist certain topics. Say you follow a blog that you love, and suddenly they start watching Supernatural and suddenly half of their content is about that, and you don't want to unfollow but you also don't want to see a bunch of posts about Destiel. You can blacklist "supernatural" "destiel" "castiel" "dean winchester," etc., and all of those posts will be blocked. Or it could be that you love destiel and don't want any spoilers, so you blacklist "supernatural spoilers" "spn spoilerS" and so on.
For a test, I just blacklisted "draco malfoy." Tumblr replaced all posts that were tagged #draco malfoy or had "draco malfoy" in the text with a tiny line like this:
If I click on it, I can still see the post:
But if I don't want to give it a shot, I don't have to.
This is also great is there are particular topics that are difficult or triggering for you, or that could get you in trouble. So people will blacklist things like "homophobia" "rape" "drugs" "self-harm," and so on. And/or people will blacklist "nsfw," "porn," etc so that they don't get caught looking at that stuff at work.
But it doesn't have to be as serious as those examples - it can be anything you don't especially want to see.
Tumblr savior only works on a laptop or desktop, not on mobile devices (as far as I know - please let me know if that's changed!). You can get it here, or wherever you get extensions for your particular browser.
Q15: What does xkit do?
xkit fixes a lot of the little things that are annoying about tumblr. You can get it here or wherever you get extensions for your browser, and you definitely want to.
Once it's installed you'll see a new icon on your dash:
Clicking it will open a menu of options:
And then you can get to customizing. A few things I find particularly useful:
- Tweaks > wrap tags for easier reading: instead of having to pull tags across, see them as a block of text
- Timestamps: as you scroll down your dash you can see when each post was made, either all the time or by hovering over it
- Outbox: keep a record of your private replies to asks
- Tag viewer: adds a button to posts that lets you see all the tags people have added to a post
- Search likes: search your likes
It also lets you install a bunch of other extenstions, including blacklist (which works a lot like tumblr savior), an on-dashboard ad-blocker, an auto-scroll function, mass post and tag editors, and many more.
There is a mobile app for xkit on iPhone and iPad, but not yet on Android devices. The iDevice app also lets you change the background color, which might help make text easier to read for anyone whose vision can make tumblr a challenging read.
As much as I enjoy tumblr - and I do - it really is MUCH more functional with xkit. To the point that I would put it in the "setting up your blog, step 1" because tumblr will be way better with it.
As always, questions welcome!