Faces of Tumblr.
Yesterday, I was super lucky. I got to go behind the scenes at Tumblr headquarters to see all the faces of Tumblr. I came bearing gifts—a dozen miniature red-velvet cupcakes with real cream-cheese frosting.
I found that “headquarters” was a lot smaller than I had expected. Perhaps because of the sprawling nature of this platform, I imagined Tumblr to reside in some massive warehouse or, at a minimum, several stories in a tall tall skyscraper. It turns out, neither was the case. Rather, Tumblr occupies a couple of floors in a cozy building, probably enough square footage to house a larger family.
“Family” is precisely what Tumblr is, though. Virtually everyone knows each other’s names—from tech support to editorial to management. Largely funded by investors who believe more in the product than in the bottom line (since there hasn’t been much of a line to speak of since Tumblr’s birth), Tumblr adheres to grass-roots and concept-based-business plans as thickly as thieves. There are very few “offices” at headquarters; rather, Tumblr’s space is modeled after one of those hip NYC studio lofts—lots of open space, hardwood floors, and a ton of natural lighting. There are rows and rows of Macs (yes, Tumblr is Apple-fied—shhhhhh!!!), behind which sit the folks otherwise known as “Tumblr Staff.” There was a large screen TV hanging from the ceiling, displaying the Google-Chrome-Error-Bot, and I believed, to my core, that everyone in the room was working really really hard to get rid of it.
I was permitted to kiss and cuddle Tommy the Pomeranian, Tumblr’s official mascot, who honestly made me feel a bit yodel-y with his perfectly manicured coif, and at one point, I wandered past what must have been Tommy’s less-mannered peer (a curly-haired mutt) lapping up some beer that had evidently spilled out of a malfunctioning mini-fridge.
Cat (my official host for this adventure) refers to Tumblr’s famous/illustrious/sexy founder as “Dave”—“Oh, Dave was around earlier today. Maybe we’ll bump into him,” and it’s all I can do but to stifle the unmistakable sigh of awestruck fan-girling that has been pressing on my chest since the moment I saw the illuminated banner for “Tumblr.” I take a few photos, here and there, trying not to impose myself on what is clearly “super important Tumblr stuff” and finally get a hug from Rachel F. (Tumblr’s official “Lit Liaison”, whom I’ve been Tumblr-stalking since the inception of my blog—she doesn’t know this, I hope).
Over a posh lunch at Almond (I unapologetically order the steak frites while my host opts for the much more elegant wedge salad), Cat describes how there used to be no “poetry spotlight” before she decided to make it happen; how she spent days combing through thousands upon thousands of poetry blogs to highlight up-and-coming writers; how diverse the writing community is on Tumblr. She speaks in gregarious sort of staccato, like one of Bach’s famous minuets, made all the more irresistible by a set of perfect pink plush lips. Cat’s been at Tumblr for one year; she talks about #Poetry like a proud parent, about Tumblr like home.
About a year ago, I had to dismantle my original blog due to a few nasty cyberstalkers. I recount how Tech Support very much lived up to its name, how kind and responsive they were while I was living on the verge of a nervous breakdown for about 15 days. Cat explains how they live and die by “response time,” and how there is someone on call literally 24/7, while popping a crusty bit of French bread between those bubblegum lips. She continues that, unlike other faceless social media conglomerates, Tumblr aims to maintain a “human presence” in everything—even in response to emails about forgotten passwords: “Here you go. Oh and btw, nice blog!”
Like a lot of its employees, Tumblr is finally growing out of its infancy and moving ahead towards that somewhat awkward but altogether memorable stage in its development. No longer relying exclusively on investors, Tumblr is partnering with small businesses, art galleries, and even some big-time retailers to leverage the brand-naming power of over 77 million blogs and 25 million unique viewers per month. But, there aren’t any “in-your-face” pop-up ads or the unwelcome buzz of bedazzled gifs in store for our dashboards any time soon. As Cat confirmed, “Dave” still has stomach problems with selling ad-space, but as Tumblr gets bigger and bigger (with no end in virtual sight), the team has been devising creative ways of leasing cyber-space while maintaining both the look and integrity of Tumblr’s original platform.
Too soon, it is time to say good-bye. Cat is tall and lovely. I watch her stride down 22nd street back to headquarters and I confess, I am jealous of far more than her long legs and impeccable sense of urban-chic.
I hope the cupcakes were good.