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Posts I Like  December 27, 2015 – 11:49 am

imageHate to say it, but…

I know that the post 99 life hacks to make your life easier! is extremely popular and useful. I also know that if you type “99 life hacks” into Google the first hit is my Tumblr. But I’m afraid I did not (repeat: DID NOT) create that post, and so I can’t give you permission to use it—or really say anything about it at all. None of the photos are mine; the arrangement isn’t mine; the original post isn’t mine.

So how does it keep tracing back to me? Tumblr has a feature which allows you to reblog content. Basically if you’re on Tumblr and have an account and see something you like, you can hit “reblog”, and post it on your own Tumblr. You can add your own text if you like, but you don’t have to; you can simply reblog a post wholesale. As Tumblr is the one handling the copying and pasting, they also take care of the version tracking. If you go back to my post and go to the bottom and keep on clicking the “Show more notes” link until it no longer appears (which will take you a long long time, I admit), you’ll see who originally posted the post. Conveniently, a link to the original post and the user who created it (shialabeowulf) is included right at the top of the post. It’s the very first thing you’ll see on the post. It’s my guess that shialabeowulf probably didn’t invent all these life hacks and take the pictures, but collected them in one place from a variety of sources (perhaps the Lifehacks Subreddit or or—maybe even some originated on Tumblr). That’s just a guess, though. The only person that can clear that up is the original poster: shialabeowulf.

As an addendum, reblogging isn’t plagiarism: it’s reposting someone else’s material with credit (even if you try to expunge it, the trail will always be there in the notes section). The same isn’t true of someone who takes someone else’s image and manually inserts it into their post without crediting the source, as I did with that Mario screenshot above (which I got here). The reblogging feature of Tumblr is set up specifically to allow users to share others’ content without having to worry about attribution—and also to prevent users from claiming others’ material as their own. They’ve basically made citation simple and happen by default, which I think is brilliant.

So what happened with this post? If you go to the 99 life hacks post on my blog, you’ll notice I just reblogged it in the usual way. I didn’t even add any text at the bottom, since I thought the post was good enough (and long enough) on its own. I didn’t do anything outside of the norms of Tumblr, and never claimed that the post was my own—and, in fact, have noted several times that it’s not. So why does it keep getting attributed to me?

If you’re a Tumblr user, you’ll notice that every so often you’ll see a big post: lot of notes, lot of reshares. All of those posts started out somewhere, and often not with somebody that has a million followers. The posts become big, though, when they reach a tipping point: someone shares it with someone who shares it with someone who, it turns out, has a number of followers who, in turn, all share it, and if people see it being reshared from the same individual, it keeps getting attributed to that person, etc. It’s also the case that each individual reblog on Tumblr is itself a single, solitary webpage. Thus, my reblog of the 99 life hacks post can indeed be more popular than the original post. It doesn’t change the fact that it’s a reblog, though.

One of the things that may have helped my reblog be the tipping point is that I had a fair number of followers (most of whom were following me for entirely unrelated reasons), and when I post to Tumblr, that post is automatically shared to my Twitter again, where I also have a larger than average number of followers, and all my tweets are automatically shared to Facebook. The tweet I sent got retweeted a lot, so it got shared with a different set of people than those who follow me on Tumblr. All of this contributed to Google’s search algorithms and drove the ranking of my reblog up. I later also shared the link on my Google+ page, because I thought it was useful, and I swear Google gives special preferences to links shared on Google+ (they’re trying desperately to make that thing relevant. Poor Google+…). Then pretty soon it just repeats itself and takes on a life of its own.

Of course, none of this would ever have happened if the original post wasn’t useful (or amusing or thought-provoking or whatever a good post has in it or does to be good). I reblog a lot of stuff on Tumblr, but none has had the reach that the 99 life hacks post has had. That’s because there’s a bunch of really neat ideas in there. As some have noted, some don’t work; some aren’t as useful—or safe—as they purport to be; but some are absolutely ingenious, and a lot of people respond to that. I applaud your effort to want to share the post and give credit where credit is due, but that credit should not go to me. You should contact shialabeowulf.

Sorry for the long-winded reply, but I’ve been asked about this post a lot, so I wanted to say everything I wanted to say about it in a single post, so that I can link to it in future when questions about it arise. Best of luck tracking down the original image-takers/meme-makers!


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