How Tumblr turned social media polls into a game design challenge

Tumblr’s poll game phenomenon often shares a likeness with the infinite monkeys on a typewriter theorem. | Image: im-a-freaking-joy / Tumblr

On February 3rd, Tumblr user Relientk used the site’s then-recently released poll feature to list several common baking ingredients. “Okay let’s bake a cake,” the poll urged. There were no further instructions, no rules. Users’ votes just implicitly set the percentage of things like butter, flour, sugar… and vanilla extract.

If you’re already a Tumblr user, you know how this went. The resulting cake recipe was 44 percent vanilla — briefly turning the phrase “vanilla extract” into a sitewide meme. While the gag was short-lived and the cake (based on one real-life baking test) far from delicious, it’s become part of a much larger trend on Tumblr: turning the site’s polls into sometimes surprisingly complex — and often very funny — games.

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