I reblogged this yesterday and removed it after I saw the link was down. This is a sad thing, so I decided to write Tumblr a letter:
Your dashboard is a powerful tool. Further, I would argue that the Tumblr dashboard is the single most valuable part of the Tumblr experience. You bring great value to your users by creating a vibrant ecosystem for communal exchange and content creation -blending aspects of what makes our social networks so popular with the ease of use of your brilliant publishing technology. Even more (and what’s sure to make your investors happy), your users spend an enormous amount of time glued to their dashboards: searching through content, waiting for updates from their friends, watching videos, looking through photos, reading articles, listening to music. You have an opportunity to gather an enormous amount of data about your users by the people they follow and the content they post and reblog, and an opportunity to monetize that data by the boatload with all those eyeballs constantly refreshing their browsers for updates.
So that being said, I understand that there is a desire to keep the Dashboard within the walls of Tumblr. You’re providing a wonderful service for free, and in return you ask only that you maintain control over the flow of information into and out of your garden.
I don’t need to tell someone in the internet business that closed systems can tend to capture more value than they create. Twitter, for example, has seen an incredible level of growth in the last year, and one might argue that a lot of that growth has to do with the openness of their APIs. You can use Twitter for years without going to the site more than once. Great companies are built on user experience, not user confinement. In other words, if you love someone, you might just have to set them free.
I don’t think I’m speaking alone when I say that I would get a lot more value out of the Tumblr Dashboard if I could export it to Google Reader. I would be able to absorb more content from a greater number of Tumblogs, and I would be able to share posts I found useful with my friends on Google Reader. Both of these things would enhance the network effect of your service. What if I could import my Tumblr Dashboard feed to Facebook? How many of my friends would visit Tumblr to see the content that I had shared with my network?
Yes, yes, I can reblog content, but this isn’t a one size fits all game. No single service has the ability to capture the value proposition of all of its competitors. Networks are not easily replicated (as Facebook might soon find out in its play against Twitter) so this can’t be about competition. This is about working with identity partners to build concentric networks of content and exchange.
Tumblr, I implore you to open your Dashboard. Please reblog this line if you agree. Maybe someone will listen.
Create an RSS feed of your Tumblr Dashboard. Tumblr should provide an official version of this as a feed and through their API, but till then, this hack seems like a decent option (requires that you trust them with your password).