Exploring Tumblr and Posterous

I have been a Tumblr user for some time now and I was skeptical when I heard about Posterous and read what some of its fanatics were saying about it. As far as I was concerned it was a lesser Tumblr clone with one or two interesting features. Certainly nothing that would convince me to stop using Tumblr as my ad hoc blog/mo-blog tool.

Tumblr, for those who don’t know, slots in somewhere between the likes of Twitter and FriendFeed and conventional blogs. It is a sort of stripped down hosted blogging platform that lacks some of the functionality you may be accustomed to in WordPress. Tumblr has a number of predefined post templates for normal text-based posts, photos, videos, audio and even chat transcripts.

It is pretty well suited for posting items you may find online using a bookmarklet and, at the same time, it is a pretty attractive blogging engine in its own right. I have been using Tumblr to share interesting things I find online and the occasional blog post that doesn’t fit in with my main blogs for various reasons.

Posterous has received quite a lot of attention since its launch in mid 2008. Most of its praise has been about its simplicity and how new users can create accounts easily by simply sending their first post to post@posterous.com. Of course they can also create an account on the site itself but this method of creating an account makes it really easy for someone who lacks regular access to a connected laptop or desktop to start posting on the go using an email capable mobile device. Users then have an opportunity to establish a fixed domain using their preferred user name on the site itself.

At first glance Posterous looked to me to be a lesser Tumblr copy. It lacks any real customisation options (Tumblr has a number of themes you can choose from as well as the ability to customise your sidebar) and its posting interface is pretty simple compared to Tumblr’s predefined options. Tumblr has also made it possible for 3rd party blog editors to interface with Tumblr so I can post to Tumblr using most of its predefined content types. Unlike Posterous, Tumblr also has a number of discoverability tools like its directory, trend monitor and a map showing real-time posts according to where their publishers are in the world. Of course I can also post to Tumblr by email or even by mms using a secret email address for my account. With all this in mind I didn’t really understand what all the fuss was about Posterous.

At the same time Posterous was getting so much attention I felt I had to take a second look. I created my account by posting via its email option (unlike Tumblr which uses unique email addresses to post, Posterous uses post@posterous.com and a list of pre-approved email addresses – Posterous contends that it can foil spoofing attempts) and then claimed my unique domain. I discovered that not only does Posterous allow me to republish my posts to Twitter (which Tumblr does too) but it also allows me to repost to a number of other services including Flickr, Tumblr, Facebook and more.

I initially thought this was “nice … but nothing special” until I started using the option. I only have my Twitter and Facebook accounts connected at the moment and I am contemplating adding Flickr too but I started to appreciate the benefits of the autopost option when I realised my posts were filtering through to my Facebook stream and that I actually like that. One way to use Posterous is as a mobile blogging engine/here-is-some-interesting-stuff-I-just-saw service and being able to autopost to Facebook just enriches my stream there. There are a couple other little things I started to like a lot about Posterous including direct Google Analytics integration and how it has been added as a photo upload and posting service to Seesmic Desktop as an alternative to TwitPic which I have used on occasion.

As with any of these services, the proof is in the posting so I created a couple test posts on both Tumblr and Posterous to see which service suits me best. I started with a post from my mobile phone which I submitted by email (I can’t verify the email address my mms’ would come from so Tumblr has the edge when it comes to mobile submission because I can submit using email and mms whereas Posterous is limited to email). My email had multiple photos from a recent family lunch at Mimmos in Norwood:

My Tumblr post only contains a single image from the batch I emailed in.

On the other hand my Posterous post not only has all the photos I emailed but it has created a neat gallery for them too. The manner in which these two services handled my photos was apparent in FriendFeed too:

Both services use bookmarklets to post content you might find on the Web. The Posterous bookmarklet is said to be pretty flexible so I tried both of them out (Tumblr post here and Posterous post here):

Tumblr’s bookmarklet doesn’t have the slick embedded look that more modern bookmarklets seem to have and it is structured according to its content types. As you switch from one to the other using its tabbed interface, the content you could publish changes to suit the content type.

The Posterous bookmarklet looks much simpler and it allows users to grab content from a site and create a rich post on Posterous. I am still trying to get the hang of this so my test post was pretty simple.

Using both services has disabused me of the notion that one is better than the other. I like Tumblr’s more developed customisation options and its pre-defined content types. On the other hand Posterous handles multiple images and integrates into other services far better than Tumblr. I also really want to use both services so rather than duplicate all my posts I am thinking about using Tumblr for Web capture stuff and Posterous more for my mobile and TwitPic-replacement posts. Or I might just mix it all up. You will get to see all my posts on FriendFeed anyway so it probably comes down to picking the best service for the content I want to post or just how I feel at the time – the choices we have is one of the things I love about social media.

So what do you think?

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