I have become totally addicted to StumbleUpon, I have made some very good friends, people with interesting things to read about, people with the most interesting “stumbled” websites, that I would never have known about if I was not on there.
I was also reminded of a lot of things I have forgotten by seeing the things that other people liked and are interested in and the books they read, music and movies they like and quotes and references that make you go: “Hey, now I remember having read that so and so said such and such in this or that book that I read when something or other was happening in my life.” And I think herein lies the power, and the uniqueness of StumbleUpon.
Most “social networking” sites out there today is very much ego-driven, users trying to put the most controversial, foul-mouthed or trashy content on their video or photo sharing site and see it run up the hits. And all the blatant commercialism and flame wars and trolling and trying to be the hottest flavour of the moment type of hype, it all becomes such a waste dump in a short amount of time. And tiresome…
With StumbleUpon, you have real quality interaction with real quality people with real quality and knowledgeable interests. It is not intrusive at all: I will describe my stumbling habits, just from being on there the last couple of days.
After posting my initial introductory profile and filling in what music, books and movies etc I like and a bit of personal background etc. I just “stumbled” around (the Firefox extension toolbar is a “must-have” download), and on your own page, there appear little numbers next to your music, movie, book and things-you-like interests. This is to see how many other “Stumblers” have also listed the same. Click on any of your likes and the names and little thumbnail pics of people on StumbleUpon with the same likes appear on your page, you can then click on any of those to go to that user profile page, read their intro paragraph, see what else they’re interested in. Mostly those that appear will have several overlapping interests. From any of a number of options you can choose to see what they have liked most, or their latest entries or any sites in their “likes” categories or “tags”. Clicking on any of those will bring up links and in most cases a pic of the sites they visited. Most of it is very interesting and you can get lost in a timewarp just following their interconnected web of “likes and favourites”. I certainly have.
Now the magic begins. Each stumbler whose profile or page you visited, will have a number show up next to their network tab at the top of their page, this shows how many people have visited. Chances are if you filled out all your likes (books, movies, music, tv shows, etc.) someone is bound to come and see what you have to show at some point. When that happens, normally you visit the person’s page in return, see what they have on their page, and then you may click on the contact button after deciding to add them as friend and gently introduce yourself, saying you saw on your network page that they visited you, thank you, and that you added them as friend and visited their page as well, that you share similar likes, and complimenting them on beautiful pictures, excellent sites reviewed or anything else and that they must please feel free to chat.
And that is the magic that sets the ball rolling, these people become your friends, their friends show up in your network as friends of friends, and exponentially the whole thing just continues to grow with people more likely to visit friends of friends’ links and people that show up in their networks and everything is cross-referenced with everything else.
I am more and more amazed at the amount of thought and planning that must have gone into programming this site, and designing it in such a way that none of it is intrusive, you have a totally private websurfing experience, you choose whom to visit and whom to ignore or block and there is no need for in-your-face ads, in fact, the site is completely ad-free, a blessing in todays over-commercialized blogosphere, where Google ads and annoying, flashy jumpy crap occludes any quality content that you may have been interested in at some point, but just click away from because of all the fluff. StumbleUpon relies on a “sponsor” model, where for US$20 you become a sponsor, with additional privileges and a specific little block color button on your profile and next to your little thumbnail pic, indicating you as such, in this case green. Anyone else starts out with a little white block that normally fills out gradually in blue as you gain more “fans”, that is friends you have made on StumbleUpon and added you as friend on their pages and or it can also mean how many have reviewed your page on StumbleUpon.
One friend whose profile I visited reminded me of a book I forgot about and did not put in my “likes”. It is Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I read it years ago at a retreat center I worked at before going to Burma to ordain as a Buddhist monk. I remember it very vividly because reading that passage made me laugh until my stomach hurt.
There is a scene where the travellers have to stop at a gas station in the middle of the desert and have the motorcycle fixed, and there are these Zen monks, the older of which can tell what’s wrong with a car by sticking his finger in the engine and listening, he onely has one finger left when our heroes get there. Anyways, Coyote is fooling around as always and comes upon a very serene and holy Zen monk. The monk looks at him and asks him, in a somewhat patronizing tone:
“Does a dog have Buddha Nature?”
And Coyote goes: “Does a fish have a watertight asshole?”
The Zen monk contemplates this for a while, breaks out in an astonishing realization and goes:
Anyways, point is I would not have been reminded of that were it not for StumbleUpon.
To see more of my “Stumbles” and where I have been stumbling around, click on the link and also check out the RSS feed in the sidebar.