A Bunch Of Questions No One Asked Me About Why I Moved To Tumblr.

So what the heck address does this blog live at, anyway?

There was some confusion on that point because I jumped the gun: I wanted to post stuff on the Tumblr blog as soon as it was set up, but the changes I made to the server’s DNS entry hadn’t been reflected yet.  So for a brief period two Fitful Murmurs blogs existed, a WordPress (at fitfulmurmurs.com) and a Tumblr (at fitfulmurmurs.tumblr.com).  Both addresses should now point here. 1

Isn’t WordPress is a powerful, extensible, open-source blogging platform, with a great developer community and oodles of acclaim?

All those things are very true!  I love WordPress.  I used it for over a year and in that time it helped me grow as a blogger and as a web developer.  I think its a tremendous platform and I am in awe of the developer community around it - many of whom were wiling to offer their time and expertise to amateurs like me.

So what reason could you possibly have for moving?

Well, I have two, really: security and ease.  But they kind of go hand-in-hand.

How do you mean?

I’m not sure if you know, but not all that long ago hundreds of thousands of WordPress blogs were hit in a concentrated, pernicious attack on the blogging platform.  Users who were targeted - all of whom, I should point out, were using outdated versions of the platform - found posts deleted or scrambled, custom settings and content lost, and were even locked out of their Dashboards by newly-created “ghost” admin accounts.  And this wasn’t the first time that WordPress had been hit: attacks on the platform were constant throughout 2007 and 2008.

WordPress’s official response to the attacks?  "The only thing that I can promise will keep your blog secure today and in the future is upgrading,“ wrote creator Matt Mullenweg on the official WordPress blog.  "This is something that has happened before, and that will more than likely happen again.”

What’s the big deal?  Just keep WordPress up to date.

Good point - and that was my strategy in the eight or so months since that last big attack.  But this is where that whole “ease” part comes in.  See, updating your WordPress installation is a cinch: you click a link, it ticks off the steps in the upgrade process, and you’re good to go.  The problem is plugins.

There are core aspects of WordPress functionality that are not built in to the platform, and have to be dealt with instead by third-party plugins.  This is true both of technical, server-side functionality - like creating blog caches, so sudden spikes in traffic don’t cause your blog to crash - and of more prosaic features like Twitter integration.

There is, of course, a large and active community of web developers who create and maintain those plugins.  But WordPress has a notoriously speedy release turnover2, and most third-party developers can’t keep up.  So if you run a WordPress blog, you’re constantly juggling your twin desires of keeping your blog safe and keeping your plugins working - two impulses that sadly are often in conflict.

And don’t even get me started on keeping the plugins themselves up-to-date.

So what you’re saying is, you weren’t willing to put in the time and effort.

WordPress is for tinkerers.  And for a long time that’s what I wanted to do and I had fun with it.  But since I became aware of the security flaws, my relationship with WordPress became much more about housekeeping than about content, and you can see the drop of posts that resulted.

Eventually, I realized that I wanted a blogging platform that would just get out of my way.  Where I didn’t have to worry about system updates or plugin compatibility, or how to hack in threaded comments, or the (admittedly unlikely) possibility that if I did hit the big time, people wouldn’t be able to access my blog.  I wanted to focus on the writing.  And I found myself increasingly unable to do that with WordPress.

Why Tumblr?  Why not, say, Blogger?

Don’t be ridiculous.

Seriously.

I like Tumblr.  I like that it is easily scalable - that I can use it to share quotes, pictures, snippets of conversation, long blog posts, or any combination thereof.  The lead developer is Marco Arment, whose blog I regularly read and whose Instapaper service I find invaluable.  Unlike Blogger, Tumblr blogs are visually appealing; unlike Posterous, I like their Dashboard.

I also feel weirdly comforted that Tumblr is a private company that depends on me for money.  They don’t charge (yet) to run a Tumblr blog, but they nevertheless depend on content-creators for their revenue stream.  At WordPress, I felt like I was part of a community - and that gave me a certain amount of implicit responsibility about problems that cropped up.  With Tumblr, I feel like a customer - and successful companies take care of their customers.  It’s a different relationship.

Hey, I can’t comment anymore!  And all my past comments are gone!

This was the most difficult decision about making the move.  I am incredibly grateful to everyone who commented on my WordPress blog, and there were great discussions that were lost in the move.  I was sad to leave them behind.

But I was thinking recently about what makes for a good blog comment section, and I came up with some rough criteria - a strong community, an atmosphere that fosters discussion, an attentive curator, active conversation.  I realized that my blog didn’t have any of those things.  And I knew that I didn’t have the time or the inclination to put in the legwork it would take to create a place where people would have those kinds of conversations.

This doesn’t mean I’m unreachable!  I still welcome (even crave) feedback and discussion, regardless of the form - I’ll respond here to emails, blog posts, Tweets, phone calls, or any other way you feel like getting in touch with me.  But for the moment I’m giving this a go without comments.


  1. Seriously - if you are still getting a redirect error or the old blog, please let me know.

  2. WordPress Version 2.7 was released in December 2008.  In the eighteen months since, there have been thirteen non-beta releases (the most recent being 2.9.2).  There is simply no way that unpaid, volunteer third-party developers can keep up with a platform that releases a new version every month and a half.