Dear Tumblr Staff,
An open letter to you from a long time reader, user, contributor and member of the community that has grown around this service.
I note with interest a recent post in which you stated:
Which, I must say was interesting. Not because this is a common occurrence amongst makers of software and online services that they feel they can alter the nature of the agreements between the users and the providers, but in that it was delivered in a great big package of misdirection.
All of the posts surrounding this announcement have been glorified around the socially responsible message of being anti-self harm - with messages about not promoting cutting, bulimia, anorexia and providing a strong anti-bullying brouhaha to go along with it all.
All very admirable and very noble.
In fact, one would say so much so that the majority of users would not bother to therefore click on the links and read the actual changes made to the proposed ToS.
For example, you have stated under a section entitled Limitations on Automated Use:
You may not do any of the following while accessing or using the Services:
(c) access or search or attempt to access or search the Services by any means (automated or otherwise) other than through our currently available, published interfaces that are provided by Tumblr (and only pursuant to those terms and conditions), unless you have been specifically allowed to do so in a separate agreement with Tumblr, or unless permitted by Tumblr’s robots.txt file or other robot exclusion mechanisms;
(d) scrape the Services, and particularly scape Content (as defined below) from the Services, without Tumblr’s express prior written consent;
Which in a very real sense states that if a user of this service wishes to utilise any tool that enhances their interaction with the content and use of the site that they will in fact, be breaching the ToS and can thus find themselves at the end of the clause that states:
Tumblr may also terminate or suspend your access to or ability to use any and all Services immediately, without prior notice or liability
This is insane.
The full frontal attacks on a client and browser based CSS extension was bad enough, but to now make it so the very habitual users with somewhat stagnant social circles who follow and are followed by a higher percentage of people who are the most ardent advocates of your service are the targets of this misguided focus is beyond comprehension.
I wonder, in all honesty, do your staff and developers have so little belief in their own skills and the community that they support that they would rather attack something that is allowing users to remain on the service rather than perhaps consider integrating the very things these users are installing the extensions to do?
In the five years I have been on Tumblr, I have presented a large number of feature requests to Tumblr staff - both openly on my blog and in directed eMails. You may recall some of those requests included a “safe-dash” feature to block images for when at work or other locations that could cause an issue, a NSFW checkbox that offered a “read more” style link for content that was on a blog that was not an overall NSFW blog, the ability to group blogs under different viewings, the ability to reblog without having to restart my browsing experience from scratch … well, you get the idea … many of these things were in fact able to be implemented with Missing-e, so, whilst I waited over three years for your staff to continue to “look into” the safe dash option, I installed the extension on my work-pc.
Three years later I have a message on my home PC telling me that missing e is dangerous.
Really? You would rather spend the effort to write a script that targets users and ensures they are notified of this even on the machines that are not, in fact, running the extension? That was the best use of your staff skills? Not implementing the features we requested and begged for that led us to utilising said extension?
Tumblr has gone off track. You need to find your way back. These proposed ToS and the actions they propose are seriously diminishing the usability, accessibility and community feel of Tumblr.
Think of it this way. How many users of the extension are actually out there? One percent? three? Five? If you only ban them, it wouldn’t be many, right?
Considering these people are, as I said, the long term, habitual users with social circles who follow and are followed by a higher percentage of people who use these extensions, you’re talking about carving out large chunks out of the community. These are some of your most passionate advocates. These are the people who may very well be the innovators, trend setters and social reinforcers. How many hearts, comments and reblogs are attributable to these people alone?
When reinforcement and posts diminish, these tumblr users will be less inclined to visit, post, and create content for their followers, further impacting the greater tumblr community.
Once you lose these tumblr users, you’re pretty much relying on fickle 13 year olds to keep tumblr relevant. Well, at least you can control them … hell, it worked for myspace, right?
This decision has not been thought out at all. The decision will alienate the userbase you have worked so hard to grow. All for what exactly?
CC:d to firstname.lastname@example.org.