Tumblr can be a confusing place to navigate with a pretty high noise-to-signal ratio, so for this follow friday, I decided to write up a primer for the newbie looking to get acquainted with making the best of their tumblr experience. I’ll be using examples from the Sherlock fandom, but most of the general tumblr stuff applies to everything.
1. Helpful Addons
Before you even get started, install Missing-e, and Tumblr Savior. Missing-e makes the tumblr interface far more intuitive, helps make communication easier, and all in all makes tumblr a more user-friendly place. Tumblr Savior will be your savior when you want to avoid posts about spoilers, fandoms you don’t care about, or potentially triggery keywords.
Not exactly required, but Tumtaster is nice if you want to download audio that people have posted on tumblr. (Note: This only seems to work with audio uploaded to tumblr, not embedded stuff from SoundCloud).
2. Tumblrs, How Do They Work?
The main use for tumblrs is for posting pretty pictures, audio files or video files and sharing things that you enjoy with your followers. If you like something a lot and want to keep it on your blog for future reference, the reblog function if what you want. If you just want to agree with someone’s post or send general notes of encouragement, the like button is pretty good for feedback. I recommend reblogging anything you like and making use of the tag function so you can more easily search for them. Don’t be afraid to get specific, because after awhile, you’ll have so many pictures that just searching for #benedict cumberbatch is not going to net you much.
Example: The #hand porn tag on my blog, for admirers of Mr. Cumberbatch’s hands.
Missing-e makes this incredibly easy if you turn on the 1-click reblogging feature, which lets you tag and reblog (or queue) a post without leaving the page you’re on.
A note on tag etiquette: Tumblr by default enables copying the previous poster’s tag. You can turn off that option in missing-e so you don’t have to manually delete everything when you reblog. It’s fine to keep general tags from the previous poster, but when there’s stuff like “#my art”, you don’t really want that on your blog unless it’s your art.
You’ll want to consider queuing your posts if you’ve been away for awhile and will end up posting something like 20+ posts in a short time period, which may spam your followers’ dashboards.
On Making New Posts:
Text posts are the only ones that allow a “Read More” cut, so if you’re writing up something tl;dr like I am, that’s the option you want. With missing-e, you can add pictures with their “+Upload photo” option.
Photos are restricted to 500 pixels wide. If you’re going for a photoset, the sum of the horizontal pixels of your pictures still cannot exceed 500 pixels. In addition, if you want your GIFs to animate, they must be under 500 kb.
3. There’s too many spam posts/spoilers/posts I’m not interested in!
This is where Tumblr Savior comes in. Never want to see another picture of a kitten again? Just add the word kitten to Tumblr Savior’s blacklist, and all posts tagged with or containing the word “kitten” will be hidden. If you don’t want to see kittens, but DO want to see pictures of Martin Freeman, add “martin freeman” to your TS whitelist, which will override your blacklist. If you notice after awhile that you somehow are following a blog called “fuckyeahkittens,” you may want to consider unfollowing them instead of torturing yourself over pictures of cuteness that escaped your Tumblr Savior blacklist.
To avoid filming spoilers for Sherlock, the main tags being used are: sherlockbbcspoilers and bbcsherlockspoilers. If you enable “whole word matching” - which I recommend, or it’s going to block too much - you can use a wildcard to match most posts. *spoiler* might work for you, though it could be too general. *sherlockspoiler* or *sherlockbbcspoiler* should work fine to block most spoiler posts. If it’s a big deal to you, check over the blog for their tagging practices or spoiler policies to see if you’ll be safe following them.
If you’re tracking certain tags, you’ll occasionally come across troll posts. People writing nasty stuff just to incite a reaction, and if you reblog or comment on it, they’ll invade your askbox and generally make life unpleasant for you. The old adage of not feeding the troll is very appropriate here.When you hover over a post, there’ll be a new option called “block” that shows up. This will block the user from communicating with you and from their posts showing up on your dash. Your followers will thank you for not perpetuating the wank.
4. Which Blogs Do I Follow? How Do I Find Sherlock-Related Posts?
For someone new to tumblr, I recommend following actor/show-specific tumblrs rather than personal tumblrs to begin with. Those will have one theme, be generally lower traffic, and lets you get acquainted with the fandom landscape. Here are some blogs I recommend to start with:
- sherlockology - lots of news, trivia, etc.
- wearsherlock - Sherlock wardrobe blog.
- lornasp - romangirl88 on youtube: large collection of Benedict videos
- cumberbatchweb - news, interviews, etc.
Tumblr fandom is predominantly Sherlock/John in nature. We don’t get too many ship wars here, but with the high traffic and fast-paced nature of tumblr, it can be difficult to find non-shippers or people who ship the rarer pairs. I recommend the LJ kinkmeme for that instead.
- fuckyeahsherlockfics - they take requests if you want a rarepair!
- fuckyeahmystrade - Mycroft/Lestrade
Tumblr being a very visual medium, this list is going to be pretty long, but nowhere near comprehensive. Let me know if I missed anyone!
And everything under my fanart and gifs tag, really. Take care while surfing the art blogs, as quite a few of them will post or reblog NC-17 rated stuff. There are three ways to surf safely if you’re in the presence of non-fandom people or at work. You can use the “Safe Dash” feature of Missing-e, which will block all images until you disable it. If that’s too drastic, you can add these terms to Tumblr Savior: nsfw, porn, nc-17, nude, nudity and hope that whoever you’re following tags their posts. Alternately, don’t follow their blogs, but bookmark them and visit when it’s safe.
5. What about Personal Blogs?
Personal blogs will vary more in their content, so who you want to follow will depend on what your other interests are, how much you love or hate crack, and your general threshold for fannish
obsession dedication. I recommend looking at the notes and the people your existing followers reblog, checking out their blog, and following if it’s to your liking.
You can also start a post asking person to like/reblog your post if they’re a Sherlockian, and check out the blogs of everyone who responds. This can easily get overwhelming though, as I notice most of these types of posts get several hundred notes.
And if you have a bit more free time, tracking the “sherlock” and actor-specific tags is another way to find new people to follow.
6. How do you communicate with other users on tumblr?
And here we come to the weakest part of the platform. First of all, when you start your blog, your askbox and replies will be turned off by default. Go to your tumblelog by clicking your username and click on “Settings.” If you can’t find it, it should be by the URL: www.tumblr.com/tumblelog/[*YOURUSERNAME*]/settings. I recommend turning on Ask, Submit and Replies.
The askbox is restricted to 500 words, with no e-mail addresses or links allowed. Otherwise, your message is just going to fly off into the void never to be seen again. If you’re wanting to include links or pictures in a message to other users, you’ll have to use their “Submit” option if they have it enabled. If you notice a lot of your messages not being received, turn on submissions!
For submissions, the only way to reply privately is to go to the other person’s blog and using their askbox or their submission system. You can also respond publicly by publishing their submission and adding your response at the end.
If a question is asked via the askbox, you can respond privately if the user is logged in. Unfortunately, that’s where it stops and if the conversation has to continue, the first user will need to submit another ask. There is no way to respond to anonymous questions except to publish them on your blog. I recommend screencapping and answering several questions at once to avoid cluttering your followers’ dashboards.
Once you’ve been following someone for two weeks, or if they are a mutual follower of yours, you can reply to posts that they’ve started (i.e. it won’t work on reblogs) and they can reply to yours. If you don’t have the option to reply to someone, and your message is fairly short, you can also add commentary at the bottom of the post when you reblog. In this case, you’ll have to reblog the post manually instead of using 1-click reblogging.
To reply to replies, you can’t really get threaded discussions going like LJ can. But missing-e will let you click on the reply symbol and format a new blog post with your response to that user, tagging them with their username. You can also respond by going to the user’s askbox and private messaging you.
If you want to open up questions to the general public, not necessarily the people you’re following or who are following you, you can end your “Title” or your main post with a question mark, which will open up a new option that allows people to answer your posts.
Checking the option to let people photo reply will also net you funny reaction gifs to your posts and is recommended as well.
To make sure that people see your messages to them, tag them with their username. Missing-e will have options to automatically enable this for any questions you publicly answer. If you’re responding to a submission, I think you have to add in their username yourself.
To make sure you don’t miss any messages or answers to you, one of your tracked tags should be your tumblr username. Like so:
Note: If you track too many tags, the helpful numbers next to your tags letting you know something new has been posted will disappear.
6. Sherlock Fandom: What’s up with the in-jokes and crack?
Quick Intro to the fandom in-jokes. All you really need to know is that every character on Sherlock is some sort of animal, we get really overinvested in fics/art that go viral, and there is no rhyme or reason as to how and why certain memes get started. There’s a lot of crack, and sometimes your dash will overflow with the exact same picture of Benedict being cute/sexy/both. We live and breathe hyperbole, so you know, don’t worry: there aren’t actual ovaries being harmed in the production of this blog.
My personal favourite memes of the moment are: misleading moriarty and hustlin holmes, which can generally be found under those tags.
Other than that, I hope you enjoy yourself! I think tumblr is a great place to hang out, but it definitely has a steep learning curve to understanding its quirks. Once you get past the horrible communication system, it can be a very rewarding way to meet new people and have lots of fun.
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