KJ (owlmoose) wrote,

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DW vs. Tumblr: January Blogging Meme

This is a day late; sorry!!

[personal profile] alias_sqbr asked me to compare and contrast Dreamwidth and Tumblr. "I'm specifically interested in the different ways people react to the same post, since you crosspost, but whatever you feel like talking about is fine." This is a great question, but also a hard one, because my thoughts on Dreamwidth and Tumblr (and LiveJournal, which I can't decouple from the others completely) are complicated, and sometimes contradictory. That said, I've wanted to write this post, or one much like it, for a long time, so here goes!

First, a bit of personal history. I started my LiveJournal in 2004, around the time I was laid off from my dotcom job. Its original purpose was to be an unemployment journal, but I didn't really write in it much, or find a strong cadre of friends, until I got involved with fandom in Summer 2005. I stuck with LJ through all its various ups and downs and dramas and corporate changes, but with increasing dissatisfaction. I created my Dreamwidth account in May 2009 and started crossposting sometime in early 2010 (I can't remember exactly when). As far as the journal sites go, it's a set-up that suits me pretty well -- I was a little worried about splitting the conversation, but for the most part, the comment conversations take place on the DW side, and even when people get chatty on both posts, it's never too much to manage. From time to time, I think idly about shutting down the LJ side, either by disallowing comments or ending cross-posting entirely, but I have enough LJ-only friends and participate in enough LJ communities that I don't really want to lock myself out completely.

I created my Tumblr in February 2011, but as with LJ it took fandom to get me really active. I date my real start with Tumblr to the Dragon Age Holiday Cheer exchange of 2011; I posted a story that got a bit of traction, and I met a number of people that way. It wasn't long before I was spending most of my fannish time on Tumblr, and posting to the journals less and less. Not because I like Tumblr better -- there are things I like about it as a platform, and there are things I absolutely hate -- but because the community on Tumblr is so much more active. When it comes down to it, I'm mainly in fandom for the interactions with other people. Since there's less interaction on DW (and even more so LJ), I'm less motivated to post here.

And there really are some great things about Tumblr. Even though the pace can be overwhelming, I appreciate how dynamic it feels. I've really liked being able to meet and get to know artists -- my DW/LJ experience of fandom has been so focused around fanfiction and meta writing, to the point that I know very few artists in Final Fantasy fandom (and those I do know are all also writers). I also find it much easier to approach people I don't know on Tumblr. Although I appreciate DW's attempt to decouple following someone's journal from the concept of being "friends" with them, I think LJ's terminology still shapes the way we think of adding a journal to our reading list. Following a Tumblr seems much less personal, so it's easier to just add someone I think is interesting. In general, it's a better set-up for finding content by people you aren't already aware of, thanks to how tags and reblogs work, and that's great for discovering and building community.

Dreamwidth also has some clear advantages, important ones. Threaded comments make it about a thousand times easier to have conversations. It can function as an archive. Probably the most important in my mind, though, is the clear delineation between personal and public space. On DW, your journal is your space. You can control who sees a post (within the limits of Internet security, of course), who can comment, the content of the post itself. Once you put a post on Tumblr, it's out in the wide world. You can't keep people from changing it, you can't really respond to comments, and once it's been reblogged, that post is out there forever, as is.

And this leads into the main issue I have with Tumblr: you can't really have a good conversation there. It's inherent in the site itself; I would go so far as to say the site is purposefully designed to discourage conversation, given its lack of a workable messaging system and the limitations on replying to posts. Tumblr is designed to be a broadcast medium, not a community platform. Of course, people being people, they've found ways to build community anyway, but we have to fight the system to do it.

In contrast, DW is designed to be a community platform. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the community never really came, at least not en masse. I could point to a number of factors -- people leaving LJ in bursts and trickles rather than as a mass exodus, DW evangelists turning people off, Tumblr being new and different rather more of the same, etc. I could wish that fandom would embrace DW, but if it hasn't happened by now, I have to assume it never will. If I could have the active community of Tumblr and the community platform of Dreamwidth in one place, that's where I'd be. As it is, I think I'm probably stuck with the multi-platform system for now.

As far as crossposting goes, I don't actually crosspost much besides fic. I've found that linking to a journal entry on my Tumblr garners almost no response -- if I want people to read or react to something, I usually have to post the complete entry. Fanfiction almost always gets more likes and comments on Tumblr than it does on DW, although really most of that interaction comes on AO3 these days. Crossposted talky or meta posts, on the other hand, usually get more attention here, relatively speaking. In truth, I haven't been writing that many meta posts lately, except in response to memes on Tumblr. And there it is again: interaction verses platform. Do I think that my DW is a better place to write long and thoughtful meta than the somewhat wonky Ask replies on Tumblr? In theory, yes, but in practice, I know if I post them there, more people will read it. When I'm evaluating my use of social media, the social trumps the media, almost every time.

From the January Prompts meme (On DW / On LJ). Want to ask a question? Many slots remain open, especially in the latter half of the month.

This entry is also posted at http://owlmoose.dreamwidth.org/660421.html. There are currently comment count unavailable comments on DW.
Tags: about me, fandom, internet, meta

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