Travis Smith: my resume, bio and photos back to the main blog page
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Dear Jeff D’Onofrio, CEO of Tumblr (for now).

You announced today that Tumblr is removing (banning) all adult content on Dec. 17, and I’m here to say: Don’t do it.

I know, you’re probably thinking, defending pictures of naked people is a first world problem, or a fool’s errand, or both. But here’s the thing: you’re not just banning genitals.

I currently have more than a handful of tumblr blogs. One is private, two are shared privately, one is public but anonymous, one is shared publically and one is publicly mine. And what was special about Tumblr is encapsulated in the breadth of those options and uses.

The public ones were casual and fun. The private ones were, you might guess, sexual in nature. They were places where I shared my interests and ideas and fantasies with no one, or with a special partner.  They were inspirational, aspirational, escapist, beautiful.

And the many tumblr blogs that I followed as I worked on my own blogs—they were astounding in their meticulous care and attention, in the collation by their owners.

You said “It is our continued, humble aspiration that Tumblr be a safe place for creative expression, self-discovery, and a deep sense of community. ... There are no shortage of sites on the internet that feature adult content. We will leave it to them and focus our efforts on creating the most welcoming environment possible for our community.”

Actually… there is a shortage of sites on the net that allow adult content AND that aren’t simply a ghetto for adult content. There are places to go to FIND video clips and photos, but not to share, reblog, augment, describe, react to… Tumblr was, quite simply, unique.

The label “adult content” covers a lot of ground and it’s so sad that you’ve thrown so much wonderful content into one big bonfire. Yes, there’s a fair amount of dreck and porn spam on Tumblr, but there was also some amazing, spectacular, gorgeous erotic art, of kinds that it’s difficult to find elsewhere on line.

Because you see, there’s nothing inherently wrong with adult content. There’s nothing wrong with liking it, or sharing it, or generating it. That’s the part of your attitude and your purge that offends me the most.

Some of the blogs I followed were nothing but black-and-white leather and lace photos.  Some were of a particular era, or only nature photography. Some were only of a certain “mood”, or only photos with original erotic story vignettes written about them. The effort people put into their blogs was deeply impressive, and the shared community around these popular and, yes, “adult” blogs was vibrant and supportive and welcoming.

Tumblr was a place online where adults could be adults, and do adult things. There were tumblr blogs where someone could review sex toys, describe their discovery of swingers clubs, share their first beach nude photos, find an artistic photo of someone in nothing but a pair of kitty ears and ask “what do you think?”

Tumblr was a place where exploring and sharing different aspects of your self was easy and safe, and where you could do so without a feeling of being “filtered”.  There was no need for a #freethenipple movement on Tumblr.  There was no “real names only” crap to have to go through.  There was no spoon-feeding you “posts you might like.”

On those shared blogs of mine, sometimes my partners and I would also post our own “adult content.” Sometimes just for the two of us. Sometimes, others could see. It was exciting! It was fun! It was sexy and the feedback was empowering. And who, exactly, was it hurting? No one. Literally no one.

“We’ve given serious thought to who we want to be to our community moving forward,” is what you, CEO Jeff D’Onofrio, said in your blog post.

D’Onofrio, there’s no denying that you can change your company however you’d like.  Nintendo use to make playing cards.  Netflix use to rent DVDs by mail.  But realize that the core of Tumblr IS adult content—and by that, I don’t mean naked people. I mean, honest, unfiltered, all types of content, about people’s inner lives, their feelings, their loves and their worries, their beauty and their hard work, shared and remixed and liked and reblogged.

To be clear: You’re not just talking about making sure there’s no child porn—that’s a red herring issue that’s mixed in here, and of course I (and ethical people everywhere) support your work banning and filtering and removing that. Your app was removed from iOS recently because of troubles with filtering / blocking child porn, and you better get that sorted out ASAP.

But getting rid of all “adult content” is a different issue entirely.

What you’re saying is that your vision of community doesn’t include “adult content”—content made by adults, for adults. Content that is perfectly legal, powerful, interesting, provocative, stylish, stimulating, original, specialized, artistic, helpful, ... but somehow not acceptable anymore to you, or perhaps to your corporate parent (Verizon) or to the prudish government that currently holds sway in the U.S.A., or to credit card processors… frankly, I don’t know who you’re trying to impress here, because it certainly isn’t the people using your site.

For you to get rid of all adult content is cowardly, it’s cruel to everyone in your audience who spent their time building on your platform and trusting you to protect their work, and it shows a real lack of care about the people who make up “[your] community”.

I mean, imagine if you said “we are getting rid of all religious posts” or “all posts about alcohol” or “all posts about parenthood”—that’s essentially what you’re doing. You’re removing legitimate, legal content because you want to ... be like Facebook? Get more advertisers on board? Not have to fight with governments that don’t like nipples? I read your blog post five times, and I still can’t tell exactly why you’re doing this.

You said, “It is our continued, humble aspiration that Tumblr be a safe place for creative expression, self-discovery, and a deep sense of community.”—well, that’s what I *was* doing with it, and that’s what I’m NOT going to be able to do now.

It makes me so, so sad that the “adult content” blogs I’ve worked on in my 30s and 40s—fascinating chronicles of my own growth and change, intimate parts of several of my relationships, allowing me to explore and discover and talk about things I never would have found otherwise—are now going to be gone in two weeks because “you’ve given serious thought to who [you] want to be.”

Well guess what: I was giving serious thought to who I was as I made those blogs. And now I’m having serious second thoughts about what Tumblr no longer seems to want to be.

And I can 100% promise you that on December 17, if you don’t rescind this policy, I will erase Tumblr forever and go to a site that does allow adults to be adults.

Sincerely,

Travis Smith

Overheard

“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

...who said it?

“Almost every American I know does trade large portions of his life for entertainment, hour by weeknight hour, binge by Saturday binge, Facebook check by Facebook check. I’m one of them. In the course of writing this I’ve watched all 13 episodes of House of Cards and who knows how many more West Wing episodes, and I’ve spent any number of blurred hours falling down internet rabbit holes. All instead of reading, or writing, or working, or spending real time with people I love.”

...who said it?

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

...who said it?

“I play with variables constantly.”

...who said it?

“Only the person who has learned Continual Love coming from a heart of Gratitude/Worship can effectively deal with the problem of loneliness.”

...who said it?

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