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StumbleUpon: The New Google? 
 
by David Hansen October 10, 2005

Do you often find yourself sitting in front of Google hoping for entertainment? Maybe it’s just me, but I expect my computer to entertain me. The problem is that search engines, the typical portal to anything new on the net, don’t give me fresh feedback without fresh input from me. StumbleUpon gives me my fix of entertainment with minimal effort on my part. Not only that, but it's a legitimate information source.

StumbleUpon is the new way to "channel-surf" the web

Basic Facts

  • “Stumbling” through the Internet adds new dimensions to web-surfing that cannot be found with traditional search engines such as Google.
  • StumbleUpon allows you to choose general categories from which it will select websites for your viewing.
  • One-click web surfing – just click the “Stumble” button and StumbleUpon brings you not-so-randomly selected websites. You then choose between “I like it!” and “Not-for-me” after which StumbleUpon automatically caters to your taste in the further selection of websites.
  • Selection of websites is based on your ratings, the ratings of similar users, and the ratings of users in general.

Reasons to Stumble

Boredom – Plain and simple. StumbleUpon is a wonderful cure for boredom as it cracks the web wide open.
To see how interesting the web can be – I'm a seasoned surfer who's been surfing since the very beginnings of the public web, and for years I've been feeling like I know what's out there and I've seen it all. Nothing could be further from the truth, and this is an attitude that stems from relying on search engines for information.
To see how strange people can be – Okay, so we've all seen some strange things on the Internet, from Homestar to the Hampster Dance, but until you've delved into the “Bizarre/Oddities” category of StumbleUpon, you've really seen nothing of the stranger side of humanity.
You often find yourself sitting in front of Google wondering what to type – Maybe it's just me, but I expect my computer to entertain me. The problem is that search engines, my typical portal to anything new on the net, don't give me fresh feedback without fresh input from me. Sometimes this is more effort than I'm willing to give. StumbleUpon gives me my fix of entertainment with minimal effort on my part.

and of course the best reason to stumble…

It's one of the most informative web experiences -- I confess that when I first used StumbleUpon, it was entirely out of boredom. At first glance it's a similar experience to clicking through the channels on TV – the perfect medicine for the short attention span. Then I noticed something: StumbleUpon isn't just a tool of entertainment, it's a legitimate source of information.

For instance, if I wanted to become informed about stock-trading, I would select stock-trading as one of my categories. StumbleUpon will then bring up stock-trading websites and then my research can be further refined by the ratings I give to individual sites; StumbleUpon “learns” what type of site I'm looking for, cross-references this information with similar surfers, and then predicts websites that I would be interested in.

Getting Started

The good news – StumbleUpon is compatible with Mozilla and Mozilla-Firefox web browsers.

The bad news – Internet Explorer users are out of luck.

The other good news – Mozilla and Mozilla-Firefox are free for download at www.mozilla.org, and setup is simple. So get over there and grab a copy; these web-browsers have many other documented advantages over Internet Explorer, so it will be worth your time.

Installing StumbleUpon:

Head over to www.stumbleupon.com and click “Join Now”

On the next screen click “Install Now,” and then restart Mozilla

Now you should see a new button in your browser's menu bar that says “Welcome to StumbleUpon!” Click this button and follow the directions to create your new account

Be sure to select a good variety of categories so your Stumbling doesn't grow stale

Click “Stumble!”

Okay, I'm Stumbling, Now What?

So you've clicked “Stumble!” several times, got hooked, and you're wondering how it can get any better. Let's take a look at features contained in the other buttons:
  • All” – Clicking this button brings up a menu that shows all of the categories you've previously selected. Maybe you've selected robotics and rock music as categories, but today you only feel like browsing robotics sites. Use this menu to select exactly which category you want to browse now.
  • I like it!” and “Not-for-me” – Use these buttons to rate sites you visit.
  • Page Reviews” – No more browsing in the dark, this button let's you see what other Stumblers have to say about the site you're visiting. This is also where you can add your own review about a website. You may even want to visit your own website and see what Stumblers have said about it.
  • Send this Page to” – Notify your friends about a page you enjoyed.
  • My Reviews” – Displays your website reviews starting with the most recent
  • Friends and Fans” – Brings you to a page where you can see and add Stumbling friends. You can also see people who have added you. Clicking the “Network” tab let's you see people who have viewed your list of favorite websites, and a list of similar Stumblers.
  • Menu” – This is where you find the real guts of StumbleUpon. From this menu you can login or logout, view stumbling history, top stumblers, toolbar options, or change your password. Of particular interest is the “Suggested Topics” button which displays topics suggested to you by StumbleUpon based on sites that you've rated. This is a good way to expand your stomping grounds.

StumbleUpon includes an adult content filter that is enabled by default, so it should be safe for kids and those who would prefer not to see every corner of the web. You need to be careful though, because there is some gray area with artistic nudity slipping through the content filter. If this is of concern to you, just make sure to leave art sites out of your selected categories. This filter is accessible by clicking "Menu" and "Update Topics." A browser window will come up with a button in the bottom left corner named "Adjust Content Filter."

Conclusions

Now that I've touted StumbleUpon as one of the greatest web-tools ever created, I want to leave you with a small warning, and I say this without exaggerating: If you have trouble pulling yourself away from channel-surfing the TV, then StumbleUpon might be too much of an addiction for you. With that said, this program comes highly recommended; I believe that for most people StumbleUpon will change the way you view the web. I would like to throw my hat in with the people at PcPro in saying that I'm hooked on StumbleUpon and think of it as the second most useful browsing tool next to Google itself.

Happy Stumbling!


 

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