“Why don’t more animators use tumblr?” Is The Wrong Question to Ask

 Via: The Rauch Bros. Tumblelog

Fred Seibert has opined that more animators should be using Tumblr as a platform for their art. I do not disagree with this statement. In fact, I agree, the Tumblr platform has a lot of features to offer and has proven itself to be a great tool to build a community around your work in addition to discovering new stuff.

However, Fred’s post misses the mark when it comes to its reasoning.

Yes, Tumblr is a social platform, but so is any blog (so long as certain features are engaged).  Fred points out the Adventure Time tumblelog as an example, stating that:

 Very few of the posts get fewer than hundreds of notes (you can see the number at the bottom of each post.) Regular readers will recall that very, very, very few of our posts got even one comment on our old blogs.

This is true, except that comments and “notes” are mutually exclusive. One is a tool to provide feedback or opinion on a post, the other is simply a statistic on how people have responded to it (either likes or reblogs).

Comments are a truer measure of social interaction in that they indicate that people have thoughts or feelings on the post, not merely that they liked it or were suitably enthralled enough to post it on their tumblelog too.

This is not to diss the notes system. Indeed, you can implement Disqus commenting in Tumblr, just as Frederator have done, if you so desire and get the benefit of both worlds. I just don’t see the point in proclaiming the benefit of one over the other.

What Fred is right about is the ease at which Tumblr allows you to share content. One or two clicks and you’re done. Compare that to even twitter, where you often have to click, login, edit the tweet and click again to post. That can get tiresome, especially if you like to post multiple times a day.

A post Mark Coatney proves to be the inspiration for Fred’s post, and although it also focuses on numbers, it lists three things that are essential to building a community on Tumblr:

  • Be Engaging: Have interesting things to say, and don’t talk simply about yourself. Respond to other Tumblr users, ask questions, etc. Remember that Tumblr is a visual medium (more than half of the 25 million things posted on Tumblr each day are pictures), so look for compelling images to tell your story whenever possible.
  • Be Social: Tumblr is above all a social sharing platform. Use this space to show off your best stuff, encourage others to share it with their followers, reblog posts from other Tumblrs that you think your followers will enjoy.
  • Be Yourself: No publication has to fundamentally change who they are to connect with people on Tumblr. The audience responds most to a personal, peer-to-peer connection with you; embrace that.

These are all great points, except that that they are applicable to any platform, not exclusively to Tumblr. This very blog is an example, I engage with commentators, I’m socially active through Twitter, Tumblr and Google+ and I am myself, right down to popping in a ‘u’ in places American’s find weird.

What Fred should have focused on was what he mentions in the very first paragraph:

Some young artists are using it [tumblr], but for some reason a ton of animation blogs are on Blogger, some on WordPress.

Yes, they are using Blogger and WordPress, and I dare say that the biggest mistake they make is not in choosing these platforms, but by neglecting to maintain them! I can easily say that of the 300+ artist blogs in my reader, well under 10% are updated on a regular basis. In fact, I recently went through and deleted any blog that hadn’t been updated in over a year. The numbers were depressing to say the least.

These animation bloggers can’t blame the platform for their failure, they can only blame themselves.

Instead of asking “Why aren’t more animators aren’t using Tumblr?” we should be asking “Why aren’t more animators taking blogging more seriously?”

Start An Animation Blog Now!

Via: XKCD

It was a year ago tomorrow that I wrote the first of what would become what I would consider a ‘daily’ post on the blog. Sure, it existed before that and I averaged about one post a week (although sometimes less) but on this day last year (April 1st), Gilligan over on the Retrospace blog posted some advice to bloggers. After I read that, I made up my mind that I needed to put in much more of an effort.

Before I knew it, a whole year had passed and here I am writing about it. I honestly didn’t think I had it in me to sustain a blog every day for an entire month let alone a year. Funnily enough, I’ve never run out of things to write about and I’ve barely repeated myself at all.

Yet it’s funny to look back and see that I’ve come a very long way with my blogging. I dare say my writing has improved, what I write about has become slightly more nuanced than simple reviews and my commentary has become more vocal instead of simply relaying the news.

All of this I still enjoy very much. Even though I normally have a gym session under me before I sit down at 6am to write the day’s post, I don’t feel any overbearing obligation when doing so. Oh, sure there are some days when inspiration can be a bit hard to come by, but those are relatively few and far between and I always resolve them in the end.

Why mention all of this? The answer is simple, you CAN do it too.

There are tons of people out there who have a blog (or tumblelog, twitter, etc.) and update it every now and again. For some of them, I am forever grateful for the invention of RSS, because without it, their blogs wouldn’t be getting a peep of a visit from me. I simply don’t have the time to check back and see if they’ve written something new or not.

I think the main reason is that you do have to schedule time for your blog, otherwise its just not going to work. I do it in the morning before work, perhaps you can do it before you go to bed. Either way, if you don’t specify a time to work on it, it’ll never get done.

For animation types, I simply cannot fathom why some of them don’t update at least once a day or at the bare minimum, once a week. As creative types, a blog can serve as a great output for your work, inspirations or even your non-animation hobbies.

Besides all that, blogs are stupidly easy to set up and maintain. This blog began on Blogger before it moved to WordPress.com (where it went daily) and before it moved to it’s own host using WordPress.org. Along the way, I’ve garnered some experience that continues to serve me well.

My point is that only you can make your blog the best it can be, no-one else will or want to. Put in the effort and you’ll be surprised what you get out of it. I sure am.

The Importance of Having a Blog

I was chatting to a guy there at the weekend. Nice chap and rather talented with a pencil and paper too. He was telling me how he really wanted to work in animation in some form or another. Which was great, in fact he had already been in contact with some studios in New York about a possible internship (that’s a post for another day).

While all this was great and he was pushing himself to get out there and get recognized, I had to regretfully inform him that he was missing a big piece of his plan: a blog.

Now I use my blog more of a place to communicate my thoughts on animation because engineers are unlikely to know or even care about that kind of thing. However, if you’re either in the industry or trying to get in, a blog can make all the difference in the world.

Right now, I follow about 400 news feeds (give or take), of which about 300 or so are blogs, either individuals or small studios. Most of those are either collaborative, others a place to share artwork on a common theme, like Sugar Frosted Goodness, or individual. Among those, they are normally either places to post artwork, thoughts or to post some quick animatics or storyboards. Most often promote a show or exhibition they are in, which is also a great way to find out about local events, for example the Little Golden Books exhibit happening in downtown Baltimore that I hadn’t a clue about until I read about it on Steve Lambe’s blog.

My point is, and I made it to your man, was that if I want to see a collection of your work, i.e. your portfolio, I would rather see it on a blog, where you might post some WIPs or where you found the inspiration, rather than a static website. DeviantArt is also OK, but that is a much more structured environment. A blog allows you a lot more freedom and flexibility in how you present yourself and your work.

Besides all the wonderful benefits, it’s free! Either Blogger or WordPress.com (where this blog is hosted) don’t cost a penny to get up and going. Both have different strengths and weaknesses so at the end of the day, it comes down to personal preference.