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Previously on: Tumblr as a Coffee Shop AU: the shape of tumblr community; Tumblr 101: Setting Up Your Blog

Okay, so you’ve got a tumblr, you’re all logged in, ready to go. You need stuff to look at!

Tumblr content is pretty different from livejournal or AO3 or ff.net or youtube content. There are many more kinds of it, which use different skill sets. Some of those may be unfamiliar and therefore seem invisible (often the case with gifmakers), but still are the product of fannish passion and vision - just in many different forms.

In that sense, tumblr is a much more accessible, democratic platform. Fans don't need to have the time, tools, training, experience, education, or English-language fluency it takes to make traditional fan art or to write traditional fic or meta. That means that many more voices can participate.

Speaking of, content on tumblr is part of the conversation. When someone makes a Draco Malfoy aesthetic post or casts Harry Potter as desi, they're saying "this is how I see this world," and you can like or reblog to show that you agree or approve or want more people to see that conception of the HP 'verse. (or that you think it's really pretty and a job well done.) When you reblog something you're helping to curate your followers' experience of fandom - what the HP world looks like to them, what ideas they might consider, what ideas might inform their views of characters/ships/events.

So - what is it all, and how do you find it?

Q1: What types of content will I find on tumblr?

Tumblr tends to attract a broader range of fan content than livejournal or AO3. You’ll still see traditional fan art, fan vids, recs, and fic (though with a tendency towards short fic or linking to AO3), but you’ll also see:

Aesthetics – collections of photographs that are used to convey the creator’s vision for the general atmosphere/vibe of a particular ship, pairing, event, fic, place, or group. (examples)

Asks - when someone receives an ask they can answer it publicly. Could be just because they feel like it (and anonymous asks can only be answered publicly) but it's especially common when someone asks for recs or opinions or proposes headcanons/ideas that start a conversation. (examples)

Ask Games - take three forms (1) chain letter type memes ("list five things that make you happy and send this to the last ten people you followed!") (2) lists of questions you can invite your followers to ask you (example) (3) role-playing type situations where bloggers will answer asks in character (example)

Chats - short, usually funny/pithy/tropey/pointed conversations, formatted like a screenplay and often but not always taking place between characters. (example, example, example, example)

Fan Art Gifs - fan art with animation (example, example, example)

Fancasts - suggestions about which actors should play a character or multiple characters. Often about looking at pretty people, often a way of racebending or genderbending canon. (example, example, example)

Fanmixes - playlists, usually linked to 8tracks or a similar website where you can listen, that capture the mood of a ship or event. (example)

Gifsets - Gifs drawn from the movies, used to celebrate characters (example), draw out subtext and/or ship (example), capture a particular moment (example), recreate an atmosphere or aesthetic (example), restore text from the books (example), or add humor (example).

Headcanons - sets of observations about a ship, character, group of characters, or part of a world. They are meant to add depth or breadth to the universe and its characters, and many headcanons also reimagine the characters. Unlike meta, they are not analytical or necessarily grounded in canon. Often written as bullet points or as short text post, which other bloggers may add on to. (example, example, example, example)

Meta - analysis of canon texts, events, and characters. May be similar to meta on lj, but may be more informally written and include photos and art or be written as short fiction or lists of bullet points or questions, and may consider the implications of a point as well as arguing for a reading of it. (example, example, example, example, example)

Memes (personal) - see Ask Games, though they're also known as memes.

Memes (tumblr-wide) - catch phrases or punchlines that spread across fandoms and non-fandom tumblr (ex: potter4ham (or force4ham, anything4ham), the signs as, crave that mineral, none pizza with left beef, it has anxiety, etc., which may show up in fandom - example, example)

Photosets - Any post that compiles images. This includes aesthetic posts, image-heavy news posts, giffed videos, compilations of images from around the internet, personal images, and more.

Shitposts - short posts that make a pithy observation about something. The term "shitposting" is self-aware self-deprecation. Sometimes a lot of thought goes into them, sometimes they're throwaway shower-type thoughts, puns, silly jokes, etc. (examples)

Q2: How do I find the content I’m looking for?

Three main ways!

1. Searching for it. There’s a search box in the upper left hand corner of your dashboard. Type in the terms you’re looking for and hit enter.

Search tip #1: tumblr will autofill tags with the most popular options, and you can use that to figure out which searches are likely to return results. Like so:

Search tip #2: tumblr is very attached to portmanteau-type ship names. Searching for Harry/Draco, H/D or Guns and Handcuffs isn’t likely to return much, but drarry will give you lots.  Other commonly used ship names: romione (Hermione/Ron), Snarry (Snape/Harry), wolfstar (Sirius/Remus), starbucks (Sirius/James), wolfstarbucks (Sirius/Remus/James), jily (Lily/James), scorbus (Scorpius/Albus Severus), and scorose (Scorbus/Rose). The conventions around femslash ship names are a little different/still evolving. Some ships have names (Pansy/Ginny is ginsy), some have multiple names at the moment while people hash out the pros and cons (Ginny/Luna is linny, lunny, or loveley, depending on who’s tagging), and you’re more likely to see pairings without a portmanteau, and with an x rather than a slash (tonks x fleur, parvati x lavender, etc.), and there aren’t clear conventions about whose name comes first so it can be helpful to search both (e.g. tonks x fleur and fleur x tonks)

Search tip #3: tumblr automatically excludes NSFW search results. If you'd like to include them, click the lock in your search results (circled in the image below)

2. Through the tags. Tumblr’s tags work like a hybrid of livejournal tags and twitter tags, which is to say that the organize content within each individual blog (a la lj) and across the entire platform (a la twitter).  I’ll talk more about what this means for how to use tags later, but for now, how to find things with them.

First, you can use them to get around tumblr’s search algorithms, which return the most popular posts in a given tag. When you search, the results you get are https://www.tumblr.com/search/drarry.  You can manually change that to https://www.tumblr.com/tagged/drarry and get different results - instead of seeing the most popular posts, you’ll see everything that’s been tagged “drarry” in reverse chronological order. You’re more likely to see content that’s about general fandom/fannish experience this way (“omg i stayed up reading fic until the sun came up” #johnlock #drarry #stucky) but you’re also more likely to find things that are a little bit off the beaten trail and haven’t already shown up on your dash a dozen times.

Second, you can click on a tag to see more content with the same tag. If you click from your dashboard it will give you results from across tumblr (same as www.tumblr.com/tagged/drarry). If you click from an individual blog it will give you results from that blog (so, dictacontrion.tumblr.com/tagged/drarry).

You can also track tags by going to the tag page and clicking "follow this search."

3. Following blogs that post it. This is easiest and most straightforward, because it all comes to your dash. So…

Q3: How do I find blogs to follow?

Search for them. When you search for a term tumblr will also return, at the top of the results page, several blogs that post a lot of content with whatever tag you’ve searched for.

Through other platforms. You can check to see if friends’ lj profiles link to their tumblrs, or if authors you like include a link to their tumblr in their AO3 end notes. (These are also good ways to help people find you!)

Rec lists/Follow Forevers. These are posts that people compile of their favorite blogs – blogs they’ll follow forever, thus the name.

Reblogs. Once you’ve found a couple of blogs you like, look to see who they reblog from. If you consistently like posts that come from that blog, you might want to check it out. At the top of each post on your dash, you'll see the name of the person you follow on the left, and the name of the person they reblogged from on the right.

Find the OPs. Keep an eye on the original sources of posts you like. If you consistently like posts from the same OP, you might want to check them out.

See the example below  - I follow themalfoymanner, whose name is at the top in black. She reblogged from lunasginny, whose name is at the top in grey. The original poster is sadfishkid, whose name and icon appear in the body of the post.

Q4. How do I decide who to follow?

Up to you! A few things you might want to consider:
- What do they post? Is it content you find interesting? Do you like the tone of things?
- How often do they post? A tumblr user can post up to 250 posts a day. Some get close to that, others post a few times a year, some a handfull of times over the course of a day. Is the frequency with which someone posts too much or too litle, when combined with other blogs you follow?
- Do they have an organized tagging system?
- Do they post NSFW content? Is that a pro or a con?
- Do they tag content you would want to blacklist? (Heads up - some people don't tag NSFW content, including porn gifs and clips. If you'll be checking tumblr at work or around kids/parents or generally in situations where you wouldn't want to be caught looking at porn, will following that blog be a problem? Do they give you the data (via tags) that you need to block those posts?
- Do they post reposted/stolen content? (more about that below)

Q5. Are there types of content I should be aware of?

I can't tell you what to do about it, but it's worth being aware of "reposting" - the practice of downloading or screencapping other people's posts and posting them anew rather than reblogging. There are some well-intentioned reasons that people do it, but the bottom line of it is that reposters get the notes and followers that come with that content without having done the work, and that comes pretty close, imo, to stealing, or at least some shady territory w/r/t intellectual property.

Rather than putting anyone on the spot by giving an example of a reposted art, here's an example of what to look for so that you don't reblog (and therefore contribute to the popularity of) reported (/stolen) posts:

For an art or image post:

- The image quality isn't grainy, as though it's been screencapped and enlarged (obviously, it's been screencapped as an example, but promised it looked a-ok on my dash)
- The user and source align (as opposed to the user being reposter1 and the source being artist.deviantart.com)
- The watermark aligns with the user and source
- More advanced things you can check: if you go to the original posters blog you see that they are an artist with multiple pieces of art of the same style(s) (or not); you google them and see that they're an artist and that this is their work

For a text post:

- the image quality isn't grainy, as though it's an image rather than text
- the user icon is present and isn't grainy
- More advanced things you can check: that the text is selectable, rather than being a screencapped image

It is, unfortunately, pretty easy to accidentally reblog reposted stuff. And there are different opinions about how serious it is - for instance, if an artist on lj or deviantart gives permission for their work to be used as long as its credited, is it a problem for people to post it on tumblr with credit? What if it's someone who's left fandom? What if we don't know their stance on permissions? And again, even if you decide you don't want to do it, it's easy to do it accidentally, without realizing you're doing it. So, advise against panicking if you do it, and ultimately it's your call to make. But out of respect for the content creators, I think it's something worth mentioning.

Q6. Anything I should know before reblogging or posting my own content?

Just a few things that haven't been covered above!

- Use a cut. If you're posting a long text or image-heavy post, it's considerate to post most of the body under a cut, which you can find by clicking on the "+" sign that appears when you click inside the post and then here:

You can't create cuts in reblogged posts.

- Tag things. There are a lot of reasons to do this. I'll talk more about other uses of tags in the next post, but in addition to social functions they serve an important organizational purpose. They let you find things you've posted, they let other people find things you've posted, and they let people block things that they need to block.

It's considered especially important to tag things that might be triggering or upsetting for people and to tag content that people might get in trouble (or in awkwardness) for viewing. Explicit content, rape, dubcon, incest, death, gore, homophobia, violence - basically, if it's something that should be warned for in the header of fic or art, you should tag it on tumblr.

Also - tagging is a key way that people find you and your posts, just like it's how you find them and theirs. If you tag things, people looking for those tags can find you and your blog and your original posts and reblogs - anything that's tagged. If you don't tag things, only your followers can possibly find them - so if you post your own content and don't tag it, only your followers will see it, and its ability to get a wider audience is entirely dependent on whether or not those people reblog. Tagging things makes it much more likely that other fans will be able to find you.

- Queuing and scheduling. Tumblr makes it easy to post content when you're not actively on the site. You can do that by scheduling posts individually, like so:

Or by running a queue, which will post post the number of posts you select at evenly spaced intervals in the time period you select. To add a post to your queue, select "Add to queue." You can set the number of posts and intervals by clicking on "Queue" in the right hand sidebar:

Next on: communicating via tumblr, what's up with tumblr tags, tumblr community norms

As always, questions welcome!
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