Expressed much more clearly than anything I could have written. Thank you, dulltrev, for this post.
You’re a bunch of ungrateful petulant children, with no apparent grasp of dignity, decency, or development.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s look at why.
Missing e is a browser extension. It provides a number of helpful little tweaks to the Tumblr UI, tweaks which I, and many others, find useful. It used to make extensive use of the Tumblr API, and page scraping. As it became popular, Tumblr eventually contacted the developer cutlerish of the extension, Jeremy Cutler (cutlerish) (who maintains and develops Missing e in his spare time, with only some grateful users giving donations to support this) to express some concerns over the load this was putting on Tumblr servers.
To be honest, I could see where Tumblr was coming from with this. In a well run web operation, judgements are made as to the likely load on various parts of the system, and infrastructure and other decisions are made based on this. In the interests of politeness, I am going to assume Tumblr did this, despite the lack of evidence of competent management elsewhere.
So I could understand that these loads were unappreciated, and ultimately could be damaging to Tumblr, and the experience it offers to its users. Page scraping, in particular, can be a significant problem. While I was surprised that calls to the API Tumblr themselves provide were causing problems, I gave them the benefit of the doubt. It was a shame, but I could understand why they would ask the developer to stop doing this.
But the story didn’t end there, did it? The developer (admirably in my opinion, after having his work stomped on by Tumblr) went back to his extension and did a thorough rewrite. He removed most? all? of the page scraping, and all the calls to the Tumblr API. Presumably by these actions he significantly reduced the load on Tumblr infrastructure, by essentially making the extension do its work within the user’s browser.
Now, I’m not a developer anymore, and I admit I have not gone through the Missing e code. But I take the developer at his word, and I am sure any suitably knowledgeable people out there will correct me if I’m wrong.
Put simply, cutlerish listened to the concerns of the Tumblr staff, and went away and tried to fix the problems they identified.
Lo and behold, while cutlerish was doing this work, Tumblr began rolling out a few new features - features that had previously been in Missing e. Now, this is fair game - when you develop something on a platform you don’t control, you can’t really be surprised if the people who do control the platform come along and deliver the same features. In a way, it’s just competition, albeit one side has an overwhelming advantage. It happens.
But they didn’t implement all of the features, by a long shot. There was still demand for the Missing e extension, and so it was rewritten and released. Given the new way Missing e performed the features left, it seemed all was well again.
We didn’t take into account Tumblr’s petulant and capricious nature, though.
Yet again, Tumblr have stepped in to say they don’t like the extension. Even with an assurance that the issue which I suspected was originally behind all of this, the ability to automatically suppress promotional slots on the sidebar, would not continue, Tumblr still had issues. The description of the conversation I have read suggests to me they don’t really know what they are, and at this point they seem to be excuses more than anything else.
But as if they were worried they weren’t showing themselves in a bad enough light, Tumblr felt they should also resort to blackmail. To enforce their decision they didn’t feel the need to rely on good arguments, or effective debate. No, instead they decided the best way forward would be to threaten cutlerish with his removal from the service, the deletion of his blog. Tumblr has the power, and according to the Tumblr Terms of Service we have all signed up to, the right to ostracise one of our community, and enforce that ostracisation on all of us.
I am at a loss now to understand why Tumblr is doing this. The sensible reasons - excessive load, potential loss of advertising revenue - have been negated. All that are left are some pretty petulant reasons - Tumblr wants the sole right to decide what we are able to do, and how we are able to do it. They want the right to define how we see their service, because they are now threatening someone who enables us to change what we do to the pages presented to us, even when we make those changes in our own browsers.
Is it that they just don’t want what they offer to be compared to what could be done? Is it that they are so defensive that improvements coming from outside of Tumblr must be attacked, rather than embraced? Do they feel offended that so many of us refuse to accept their vision is the absolute definite best?
Let me be clear: Tumblr have an absolute right to protect their service by preventing excessive load. They have an absolute right to dictate how our computers, or devices, or whatever, interact with their services at the technical level - the number of requests, preventing page scraping, and so on.
They do not, however, have the moral right to prevent us from altering the content they deliver once it reaches our browsers. If I had worse eyesight than I already do, they couldn’t stop me using larger fonts. They couldn’t stop me using a text-to-speech system if I was blind.
They apparently feel, however, that they do have the power to stop me from, for example, automatically adding in certain tags. Perhaps they feel their Terms of Service allow them to do this, to say I am not allowed to replace text at the top of a post with icons, I am not allowed to have a scroll bar for long Ask box questions.
And if someone helps me to achieve those things, they will threaten them with removal from their service. They will stoop to coercion rather than trying to find agreement.
This is what comes from using a platform controlled entirely by one company. We’ve seen similar issues, on a larger scale, with Twitter, and their new policy of not approving ‘standard’ Twitter apps to access the API. We are now seeing a similar policy, though with a much more heavy-handed application, by Tumblr.
Part of me hopes the reason Tumblr are doing this is because they have found a way to actually make money from this platform, and Missing e in some bizarre and convoluted way was going to threaten this. I suspect, however, that it is more to do with an ethos of absolute control, an us vs them mentality, and an unwillingness to be open with their community.
I’ve written before on my belief Tumblr is, at its core, a deeply dysfunctional company. I’m a project manager, so I see it as a project which has forgotten it needs to bring its users along with it, and to be open to suggestions for improvements, and actual improvements, from outside. They’ve become blinkered and defensive, and ultimately that leads to disaster.
Perhaps Tumblr have their reasons - but given their track record on actually communicating with the community, I doubt we’ll ever hear them.
I don’t know if it will help, but I am going to email email@example.com and express my disappointment at the way they are treating a member of their community, and the rather pathetic tantrum they appear to be throwing. I encourage you to do the same.
Life is what happens
while you’re busy making plans.
(Or, watching TV.)
If I knew how to do this, I would program a popup that warns you when there’s the words “attached” or “attachment” in the e-mail, but you’ve forgotten to actually attach the file… Happens *all* the time.
I’ve actually done this already - if you’d like, I can share the instructions on how to add this to your Outlook. Basically, it’s a copy/paste of my code into a new macro that you assign that starts with Outlook and checks the message for those words on sending of the message. The hardest part you’d need to do is follow my instructions on where to copy/paste the code. Let me see if I already wrote up the instructions somewhere - if not, I’ll draft something this weekend and share it with the internet.