2023 Tumblr Meetup – San Jose

Recently I was fortunate enough to get to travel to San Jose in California, to meet the various other folks that I work alongside on Tumblr. This is the first time that we’ve all been able to get together in one place since Automattic acquired the platform back in 2019 – and so it was a unique opportunity to meet the people behind the madness, and put faces to Slack profile pictures.

As usual, I was documenting some of the week as I went, and for this trip I opted to leave my trusty Leica M 240 at home, and use the recently purchased Sony A7 IV instead. This turned out to be a mistake. While the A7 IV is great for portraits and video and all sorts of other things, it felt too bulky and instrusive for the kind of casual candids that I usually shoot – particularly when you aren’t necessarily sure about how folks feel about having their picture taken. To be honest, I barely shot any for the first few days, until Rudy (below) demanded that I fulfil the role of unofficial documentarian that I have somehow slipped into.

In the end the results were alright, but I was relying too much on the auto ISO feature of the A7 IV, and had to dial the clarity/texture down by about 20 or so to reduce some of the digital sharpness. That was compounded by the very satisfying-in-person-but-boring-in-pictures yellow monotone of the hotel’s lighting. All in all, the pictures just lacked the character that I am used to from the Leica. It turns out that the rangefinder is still king for some scenarios after all… even one from over a decade ago. With all of that said, I am glad I actually got pictures, as I would have regretted it otherwise. Thanks for the push Rudy – I needed it.

To be fair, one of the benefits of the A7 IV was that it had auto-focus, and so I could just leave my camera lying around and other talented people (like Josh Root) would pick it up and shoot what turned out to be much better photos than me. I would credit you all individually, but eh, I’ve no idea who took what. Except one particular set of pictures that I won’t share here. RC, I’m looking at you…

This week wasn’t just about meeting new people though, but also re-connecting with old friends and colleagues that I haven’t seen in many years, who (like me) have ended up working on Tumblr in on way or another.

I have always enjoyed getting to see folks from work, but over the past year or so I have felt an increasing post-meetup loneliness. This is a common phenomenom, but not something I had ever experienced with any intensity until relatively recently. You can read some of my thoughts in that post, but the jist is that you go from spending almost literally every waking hour with folks that you can be authentic, open, and honest with – to a real sense of isolation when all of a sudden that disappears and you are back on your own, looking at a laptop screen, contending with timezone differences.

These trips always seem to take a long time to come around, and then pass by so quickly. It’s very easy to take the time for granted – and just expect that we’ll have another go at things in a few months. Experience has taught me that this simply isn’t the case though, and we need to consciously make the most of every minute. It might well be a marathon and not a sprint, but these shared times together are precious enough that you have to make sure to squeeze every last bit out of the lemon (thanks Rich).

As for the future of Tumblr… who knows what will happen. As a platform it’s had a rocky history, passed from pillar to post with successive corporate owners, and there’s no secret that we face big challenges when it comes to building it up again. However, if I was going to bet on anybody to ensure its future as one of the weirdest places on the web, it would be the folks in this room.

Until next time…

6 thoughts on “2023 Tumblr Meetup – San Jose

  1. Ugh, FOMO feels, so many good people. Lovely pic of you & Lori.

  2. Missing that 😭

  3. I miss Tumblr! And I’ve tried to get back on. But man, those ads. Those ads.

    1. They keep the lights on!!

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