Microblogger shootout: Posterous Spaces vs. Tumblr

A new wave of free sites encourages fast blogging, multimedia entries and social networking.

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Adding content

Most bloggers don't just want to post words; they also want to put up pictures, video, audio and links to sites they have come across. And they want to be able to do it remotely as well as from their desk. Both Posterous Spaces and Tumblr recognize this and provide tools to help, including browser apps such as bookmarklets. Both let you post through email and Android and iPhone apps.

Posterous Spaces

There are two philosophies when it comes to adding content to a blog. Tumblr's is to differentiate between all kinds of content and give you a different set of options tailored to each kind. Posterous Spaces takes the other tack: It gives you a page with a huge title-and-text entry box on the left side and a pane for uploading other types of content on the right side.

Posterous Spaces vs. Tumblr

You can upload entire galleries of photographs, MP3s and videos to Posterous Spaces.

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In the box on the left side, you can fit paragraphs of text -- much more text than Tumblr allows -- and take advantage of lots of text formatting options. That's all there is to it, and it works just fine.

In the pane on the right, you can upload entire galleries of photographs, along with MP3s and videos, all at the same time. This may not sound like a traditional type of blog posting, but it increases your flexibility for getting a point across. As a torture test of Posterous Spaces' media handling, I uploaded four JPEGs, two MP3s, a PDF and three video files in FLV, WMV and MPEG formats. All of them were processed and ready to browse, embedded in a single blog, within a couple of minutes.

Posterous Spaces embeds media players and also has a very nice little embedded slideshow application for browsing such postings. It previews PDFs with an embedded viewer from Scribd that lets you zoom into full screen or print the PDF.

The other main approach Posterous Spaces takes to updating is via email, which it did consistently better than Tumblr did during my evaluation. Send a simple text email to your dedicated Posterous Spaces address from the one email address you've associated with your account, and its subject will appear as the blog post title and its body text as the blog content. Send video, audio or other content as attachments, and they'll appear embedded in the post under the body text.

Tumblr

Tumblr's site interface, the Dashboard, presents (down the side of the screen) a column of the different blog spaces you manage and (across the top) a large, clear row of icons for different types of posts.

Posterous Spaces vs. Tumblr

Tumblr's Dashboard presents a large, clear row of icons for different types of posts.

Click to view larger image

Click on Text, and you get an intuitive text-entry box with a text formatting and picture embedding toolbar along the top. You can publish a post immediately or build up a backlog to roll out on a schedule. Click on Photo or Video or Audio, and you can either upload or link to Web-based media sources, which will then embed in your blog. Posts can be tagged as public or private; private ones will be unsearchable but visible to anyone you share a link with.

So far, so clear -- but post types labeled Chat and Quote make less sense. The first has nothing to do with instant messaging -- it simply formats text as a dialog. The second formats text as a quotation -- something you could do with little effort for a regular text post.

Tumblr limits audio files to one 10MB upload per day and video to no more than five minutes per day. It's not always gracious about handling the limitations: It let me upload a video that was five minutes and eight seconds long, and only after 10 minutes of processing time did it tell me the file length exceeded the time limit and disallow the post.

There are ways to post to Tumblr other than via the Web, though they can be hard to find on the site. Visit www.tumblr.com/goodies and you can find the number to dial to phone in audio blogs; the dedicated email address assigned to your account, which allows you to post blogs via email; and the name of the AOL Instant Messenger bot to hail when you want to post a blog via AIM.

That said, Tumblr is a bit quirky when it comes to email posting. It handles picture attachments fine, but embedding them in Microsoft Outlook, for example, resulted in a couple of blank posts during my trial. The email subject becomes the caption for an image post, but when I embedded an image rather than attached it, the body of the text did not appear online in my posts. Posterous Spaces didn't exhibit such quirks in my tests.

Bottom line

Posterous Spaces lets you post more types of media via email, mobile app and Web, using a fairly bland but very powerful set of upload and formatting tools. Tumblr's efforts, no matter how effective Tumblr's mobile and Web apps may be, pale in comparison.

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