Microblogger shootout: Posterous Spaces vs. Tumblr

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

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Support and community

Both these services encourage you to explore how other people are using them. Tumblr's a bit more forward about this with its Dashboard Explore link, which kicks up a marvelous gallery of Tumblr sites. The services don't provide peer support forums in the traditional sense, but both provide online help in the form of FAQs and detailed how-to instructions.

Posterous Spaces

Posterous's attempts to promote its own community used to be relatively modest, but with the site's revamping as Posterous Spaces, the pendulum has swung the other way. Of the four top-level links you get when you log in to your Posterous Spaces account, three of them (Reader, Popular and Activity) show other people's blogs.

You can also see a scrolling list of some of its more popular recent blogs at posterous.com/explore, and a Friend Finder link that cross-references anyone you may want to connect with on Twitter or Facebook. The company also spotlights some of its favorites at the official Posterous Spaces blog at blog.Posterous.com.

However, in contrast with Tumblr's rather discouraging attitude toward support, Posterous Spaces has a large and well organized help section generously populated with video tutorials, many submitted by Posterous Spaces users.

Tumblr

While I can't fault the quality of email support at Tumblr or the efforts to make the help section international with German, French, Italian, Japanese and Turkish translations, the actual content seemed a bit skimpier than at Posterous Spaces.

On featured sections, such as configuring a personal domain name to resolve to Tumblr servers, the instructions were clear and accurate. But the site's search capability often turned up nothing of use. After finding no information on posting by phone, for example, I sent a request for email support. An accurate reply came in after a day, but it closed with "We cannot provide any additional support." This strongly worded tone echoes through other places on the site ("Our staff is absolutely unable to assist with DNS configuration" and "Really -- our staff isn't able to support many of the issues that may crop up"), which send out an unwelcoming vibe.

Bottom line

Which style of support do you like best? A photograph of a community ambassador saying in warm friendly tones, "Really -- we can't help with this" or a plain set of step-by-step instructions showing how it's done? If you prefer actual help without the friendly face, Posterous Spaces wins the support game. Tumblr's frothy set of developers, however, have the edge in adding Tumblr-specific features to popular mobile apps.

Conclusions

Both Tumblr and Posterous Spaces help new or time-strapped bloggers establish a solid online presence. Their sites can be destinations in themselves or front ends to other social networking sites. But for my money (in the sense that time is money), Posterous Spaces has a usability edge over Tumblr.

Tumblr provides a lot of unusual and handy features, such as posting by phone and instant messenger and tagging multiple posts with a single mass-editing tool. But other basic tasks involve much more clicking around than Posterous Spaces requires: You can't change your profile picture and site description in the same place; you have to register at a different site to enable comments on your blog; and the list goes on.

Posterous Spaces processes all kinds of media, from audio and video files to entire galleries of graphics and even PDFs, and quickly delivers a smart and functional blog, complete with seamlessly embedded viewers. Though both services handle posting by email, Posterous Spaces handles more media types more smoothly and rapidly.

Matt Lake is an author, award-winning technology journalist and technical services coordinator in the field of education.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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