SXSW Interactive officially ended Tuesday, but it has taken until now for me to fully recover. However, I will say that life at Texas State prepared me for most of the South By chaos.
I feel that I would not have been able to expertly push my way through hoards of people in the Austin Convention Center had I not mastered the art of walking through the Quad. Years of ignoring outstretched hands clutching flyers for shady parties (“Come on, there will be trash can punch!!!”) prepared me well when it came to turning down weird freebies and avoiding unwanted conversations (“Donate to the Kickstarter for my super-secret new startup and I’ll give you a free XXL T-shirt!!!). That being said, SXSW still wore me out. Today I’ll catch up on blogging about all of the cool panels I went to.
David Karp, founder and CEO of Tumblr, spoke at SXSW Interactive Sunday for a fireside chat entitled “Building Tools for Creativity.” The talk focused on the evolution of Tumblr and its role in allowing users to both create and curate content for the web.
Karp began kicking around the idea of creating Tumblr back in 2005 when the blogosphere had started to take shape and become a part of peoples’ digital identities.
“When the blogosphere started to gain momentum I was so swept up in it and wanted to be so much like the prolific people on the web,” Karp said. “I wanted an online identity I could be proud of.”
Karp said he tried other blogging platforms like WordPress and Blogger, but was frustrated by the limitations imposed by them. Their formats were designed for writing and long-form editorials. Karp thought there might be other people like him who weren’t writers but wanted a space on the Internet that could represent them.
Tumblr consolidates photos, text, multimedia and other content easily into one place, which has helped the website become a tool for curation, which in itself can be a creative process. Most people aren’t necessarily painters, writers, musicians or photographers, Karp said. The people who are creative and talented are able to pass on the colors and words that we tell our stories with.
The reblogging tool, which clones a post and puts it on a users’ page, has led to a new behavior on Tumblr that changed the shape of the network, Karp said. There is now a core community of creators and a bigger web of curators slicing the content up.
Many of the big social networks today like Twitter and Facebook are built around having common social interests. Tumblr is different in that you may follow a few people you know in real life who are interesting or good curators, but in general you follow people who create things that you enjoy, Karp said. Tumblr is a place where you primarily create and make things, not share and like.
Tumblr also allows for more creativity in that it gives users a way to personalize their blogs. Facebook, for example, gives up all creativity because “we are all a vanilla profile page in a big white directory,” Karp said. Tumblr gets back to the roots of the web as an open, vast place where people can create unique things that represent them.
Karp said Tumblr is now home to an eclectic set of talented creators aspiring to make it big in different careers like art, fashion and music. However, he said Tumblr users don’t necessarily have their sights set on fame and fortune.
“It’s a community of people with stars in their eyes, not dollar signs,” Karp said.