Marco Arment

How did you get involved with David and Tumblr?

Davidville was still a consulting company, and he wanted to see my work, so he subcontracted a feature from a client project to me. He liked my code and working with me, so he offered me the job.

I waffled for a while, as I was deciding between Davidville, Amazon, LiveTechnology, and Bloomberg. Amazon eventually declined to hire me after a far-too-lengthy process. LiveTechnology didn’t wow me. I declined a great offer from Bloomberg for many reasons and concerns, all of which proved true.

I started work at Davidville in June, 2006, and Tumblr was an idea that David had queued up for a while. We had a few-week gap between big clients in the fall of 2006, so we started making Tumblr.

What do you do for tumblr?

I have no official title. In a two-person company, it doesn’t really matter. When prompted for one in a newspaper interview, David and I quickly agreed on Chief Scientist, a title I always liked and respected (but didn’t hold) at my previous job. So I’m the Chief Scientist of Tumblr, which I consider quite an honor, even though it probably doesn’t matter.

I write the majority of Tumblr’s back-end code, design the architecture, and administer the servers. I generally don’t touch the design or front-end, since David is much better at that.

How do you use Tumblr?

I currently follow 194 people. I live in my Tumblr Dashboard — it’s the first site I visit in the morning and the last site I visit at night. I’ll go back 15-30 pages every morning just to catch up to where I stopped the previous night. I read every post.

So I use Tumblr differently, or at least on a different scale, than many people. I don’t have a small group of favorites: I have a huge group of people as my collective internet filter. I don’t read Digg, Reddit, or most high-volume tech blogs (Engadget, Gizmodo, etc.) - the signal-to-noise ratio is too miserable, and with my read-every-post obsession, there’s just not enough time in the day for those.

The people I follow filter through the internet and post the items I’m likely to care about. I also love people who publish original, meaningful content instead of just reblogging a hundred posts I’ve already read or mass-importing their feeds from other services. I choose which tumblelogs to follow (and later un-follow) based on whether they’ll post mostly signal or mostly noise.

Where did reblog come from? Why is it so awesome?

Reblogging was a feature we had planned from the start, but cut it from the first version of Tumblr at the last minute because we weren’t happy with its implementation. (The version of reblogging that appeared in Tumblr’s second version was completely rethought and much better.)

Reblogging is not a new idea (see, but it doesn’t fit very well with traditional blog software, interfaces, and expectations. Fortunately, tumblelogs are a perfect fit for reblogging with their blend of original and referential content.

It’s so awesome because of the great icon. Just look at that thing. Follow the arrows. Keep following them…

What other companies in the web industry do you like?

I like the role Vimeo has chosen to take. They’re the only video site I’ve seen that successfully distinguishes themselves from YouTube and can be successful without becoming a TV-piracy haven.

37signals paved the way for paid, subscription-based web applications. There’s a big future for paid web apps. People are suffering from advertising overload, and there are plenty of instances where advertising doesn’t make sense.

Amazon’s Web Services division has been great, and they have huge potential for the future. Many modern web apps wouldn’t be feasible or economical without S3 and EC2, and the new Flexible Payments Service is an untapped goldmine.

Meetup is fantastic - not because of anything particularly noteworthy about the site, but because it’s one of the only modern web apps that successfully bridges the gap between real life and the Web 2.0 echo chamber. I respect Meetup’s co-founder, Scott Heiferman, for his rare insight into the way everyday people use (and don’t use) computers and the web.

And while this is a weird context, I have to pledge my support here for PHP. Language snobs insult it or pretend it doesn’t exist, even though it’s the most-used programming language on the web, because it’s easy and often used by novices (similar to the flak Visual Basic received in the 90’s, despite its huge usefulness for many people and businesses). PHP isn’t perfect, but it’s a very good language in the right hands with a mature, stable, and insanely fast platform that’s cheap to run and easy to administer. With the right framework or library to fit your needs, it’s just as easy to develop for as the newer, trendier alternatives.

Thanks Marco!


I’m so proud of you, honey.