Marco Arment is still the lead developer of Tumblr. His code sucks. He won’t explain why, preferring to act all high and mighty. Nor will he fix it. But Arment merely provides the latest evidence that stupid code pays. The worse your adherence to Web standards, the more money you make. So do your users.

Arment also brought you Instapaper, the iPhone application. The Web version has marginal code at best (no H1, inline styles, mixed XML/SGML tag closings, DIVitis). But Instapaper’s revenues are more than enough to buy a new MacBook (“a 15″ Instapaper 2.0 congratulatory launch present”). Not a huge payday, but a nice one – and that’s despite the obstacles Arment faces getting apps approved by Apple. (Fake Steve told him to just suck it up.)

Tumblr is his day job and Instapaper is his sideline business, but put the two together and what you’ve got is an ecosystem of stagnant tag soup. And it pays. Not just for him, but for Tumblrizers in general.

Start with the fact that the N+1-style literary elite all seem to run Tumblrs. It’s just expected, and it’s obviously peer pressure at work. I don’t know how this half-assed reblogging platform suddenly became au courant with New York intellectuals. But it strikes me as something that the young women who populate this demimonde feel resentful about having to do. Maybe it’s like being expected to develop just the right tan (but not melanoma).

Even blogging doyennes run Tumblrs, like the offputting and imperious Elizabeth Spiers. Her bosses always put off firing her way too long, and new bosses are always far too eager to snap her up. Ask Jesse Oxfeld what it’s like working for her.

Tumblrs, then, are a vehicle for in-group fame, a kind of Internet celebrity in miniature. Internet celebrity already is celebrity in miniature – comparable to the way a celebrated intellectual swims in a rather small pond. As we are dealing here with Tumblr-wielding intellectuals, the effect is multiplicative.

The hammerhead in this ecosystem is surely the book agent, who skims through the most “outrageous” Tumblrs, contracts in hand. An egregious example is of course Look at This Fucking Hipster, a kind of Hot Chicks with Douchebags for ’09.

It’s gotten to the point where the stupider you are, the farther away from real writers you situate yourself on the career axis, the likelier you are to score a book contract. By the same token, the stupider your blogging platform, the faster you get hired.

The exception that proves the rule here is Christian Lander, who is anything but stupid and, save for his book’s half-assed graphic design, deserves to be famous. Perhaps significantly, he conquered the globe using not Tumblr, which wasn’t popular then, but WordPress. What’s his second act? What is the Tumblr user’s? Care to bet on which of the two will turn out stupider?

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2009.07.28 12:29. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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