Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Security Through Obscurity

So, as we were musing about here last summer, the inevitable is apparently occurring, and the yutes these days are looking for a cooler place to hang out, i.e. Tumblr, where they won't run into their parents and teachers and a whole bunch of other old, lame people they want to avoid, i.e. Facebook. I found this part funny, though:

Tumblr actually became huge because it is the anti-blog. What is the No. 1 reason that people quit blogging? Because they can’t find and develop an audience. This has been true of every blogging platform ever made. Conversely, blogs that do find an audience tend to keep adding that type of content. This simple philosophy boils down to the equation: Mo’ pageviews = mo’ pages.

But Tumblr does not conform to this calculus, and the reason is that a large percentage of Tumblr users actually don’t WANT an audience. They do not want to be found, except by a few close friends who they explicitly share one of their tumblogs with. Therefore Tumblr’s notoriously weak search functionality is A-OK with most of its user base.

Tumblr provides its users with the oldest privacy-control strategy on the Internet: security through obscurity and multiple pseudonymity. Its users prefer a coarse-grained scheme they can easily understand over a sophisticated fine-grained privacy control — such as Facebook provides — that requires a lot of time and patience. To quote Sweet Brown, Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Tumblr proves that the issue is less about public vs. private and more about whether you are findable and identifiable by people who actually know you in real life.

Someone once told me in response to my puzzlement over Tumblr's existence that it was a popular alternative to "traditional" blogs because it was more ideally suited to use on a smartphone. Eh, whatever; as with people who claim that tweeting is less "effort" than the brute labor of emailing, I don't understand and I don't want to understand. I'm not the target audience. But I do appreciate this ethos, however. I've always said that if I ever got inexplicably popular, I'd sneak away like a thief in the night and set up shop elsewhere, like those people you read about who fake their own death to start a new life as a blank slate. Knock on wood, though; I've managed to hide in plain sight via the clever use of... a pseudonym. That, and the fact that I tend to write about things of interest to no one else. I don't know if the humor's too offbeat, the topics are too quirky, or the prose is too boring, but whatever it is, I'm afraid to think about it too much lest I inadvertently alter the formula.