I’ve found two different kinds of posts on Tumblr.

Not different due to content, but different due to how they spread.

There’s likable content, and mimetic content. Both are great, but both are quite different.

Likable content gets reblogged primarily from one tumblelog. A lot of people reblog it from this one person; the conclusion is that they have a lot of followers, and they post pretty cool stuff. But anyone who would like what they post probably already follows them, so it doesn’t get reblogged. It doesn’t spread. A lot of posts I’ve seen like this are pictures of cute cats, cute dogs, and so forth. 

Mimetic content starts out slow. It gets reblogged by one or two followers of the original author. But they find it interesting enough to share as well. This is where most of these posts die - they get reblogged a few times and there they lie. But some of these posts catch the attention of the likable curators. These authors have a lot of followers, and at least a couple people reblog every post they make. These curators are a unique lynchpin in the tumblr (and, I suspect, twitter) reblog ecosystem. 

What if you could tell at a glance whether a post’s reblog graph was likable or mimetic? Would it fundamentally change your decision to reblog or not?

If tumblr stored the reblog data in a graph database like Neo4J, it would be trivial to determine - just find the longest path in a (directed) reblog graph, and divide by the number of nodes in the network. That gives you the viral ratio of the original post. 

To take it a little further, you could probably find the tastemakers on tumblr in a similar manner. Tastemakers aren’t necessarily those who post a lot, or who get reblogged a lot. Tastemakers are posters who consistently:

  • Produce or post content that is consistently mimetic in nature
  • Consistently have a high centrality within the graph of posts that they reblog. This means reblogging the post soon and having a lot of people reblog from them. 

How cool would it be if Tumblr could tell you who the tastemakers for a given post were?