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What Is the Point of… StumbleUpon?

May 11th, 2012 05:00 admin View Comments

Whenever a trendy app comes along, there are people who ask, “What is the point of this?” If millions of people are using something, there has to be a reason. In our What Is the Point of… series, we’ll explain it to you.

This week, we’re asking, What is the point of StumbleUpon?

Did you know StumbleUpon was 10 years old? It’s true. It has been learning about the interests of idle geeks since the early days of the Web. It has grown up into a massively influential application available on all kinds of devices. And it’s entering a new era as co-founder and CEO Garret Camp steps down.

What is this thing? Should you be using it? That’s up to you. Do you like fun? If you enjoy fun, you might enjoy StumbleUpon.

Better Than Television, But Just As Easy

StumbleUpon is for those times you just want the Internet to show you things. You don’t want to search, you don’t want to browse, you just want wonderful things to appear. Or maybe you feel like you’re in a rut, just hitting the same old sites over and over. If you can manage to type in “stumbleupon.com” and hit Enter, you’ve already accomplished the hard part.

Or, if you’re really chilled out and not even at your desktop, you can use StumbleUpon’s mobile apps for iPhone, iPad, Android, Nook and Kindle Fire. Once you have an account, StumbleUpon can bring delightful things to whatever device you’re using.

Now that you’re in, just start stumbling. Click the “Stumble” button and StumbleUpon will show you something new. Like it? Thumbs up. Don’t like it? Thumbs down. That’s all there is to it. Thumbs up means “I want to see more stuff like this on StumbleUpon.” Thumbs down means you don’t.

You can also help it along by adding interests. StumbleUpon is bursting at the seams with topics, and you can add as many as you want to your profile so it knows what you’re interested in. But the most important thing is to spend a good amount of time thumbs-upping and thumbs-downing things. That’s how it gets to know you.

A Magic Carpet Ride for Your Brain

You can stumble for anything, or you can filter your stumbles by one of your topics. Recently, StumbleUpon has added some features to help you stumble a bit more specifically. The Explore Box lets you type in any topic and quickly begin stumbling within it, even if you aren’t subscribed to it.

After you stumble for a while, StumbleUpon will be right most of the time. It will be your favorite way to just surf around for things you like with minimal effort. When the iPad version came out, our old friend Marshall Kirkpatrick called it “a magic carpet ride for your brain.” I don’t think it could possibly be said any better than that.

Source: What Is the Point of… StumbleUpon?

Live Drawing SXSW: StumbleUpon, the Traffic-Generating Machine

March 9th, 2012 03:29 admin View Comments

Earlier this afternoon StumbleUpon founder Garrett Camp sat down at SXSW with All Things Digital’s Liz Gannes to talk about a social media company that drives a huge amount of traffic on the social Web. Fun fact: It delivers more than 1 billion personalized recommendations per month. Unified and @visualhero where there to capture the session. (Disclosure: StumbleUpon is one of Unified’s partner for the ongoing drawing coverage of South by Southwest.)

Source: Live Drawing SXSW: StumbleUpon, the Traffic-Generating Machine

How Social Networks are Killing the Internet

March 6th, 2012 03:00 admin View Comments

shutterstock_enter_press_button.jpgShare this on Facebook! Tweet this to your followers! Pin it to Pinterest! Submit the link to StumbleUpon and drive tons of traffic to your site! Digg it and hopefully more eyeballs will see it (and then it will end up on Facebook through the Digg Social Reader). Isn’t it great? You can cross your fingers and hope that the entire social Web sees something you like if you share it to all of your social networks. After all, we are what we share.

Dictionary.com defines the verb (used with object) “to share” as “to divide and distribute in shares, apportion” and “to use, participate in, enjoy, receive, etc., jointly.” The example it gives for the later is: “The two chemists shared the Nobel prize.” They passively shared this Noble Prize, which was awarded to both of them by a committee.

Every social network on the Web asks users to do some variation on sharing. Ultimately, the goal is to get that content in front of other users. Once a user shares, he or she momentarily feels more connected to others. But this momentary connectedness is killing us. And we are, in turn, killing the Internet with our passive, networked actions.

Renowned cyberpsychologist Sherry Turkle explains it eloquently in her latest TED 2012 talk. “Human relationships are rich, and they’re messy and they’re demanding,” says Turkle. “And we clean them up with technology. We sacrifice conversation for mere connection.

All that “connecting” is happening on – where else? – social networks. It happens subtly, so much that we hardly notice we are spending more time texting and talking on Facebook and Twitter than we are in real life, communicating with actual living, breathing humans. We hide behind our glass screens. And we seem like it that way.

The Facebook Connection Dilemna

With the advent of new Timeline social apps, such as the Digg Social Reader, WaPo Social News Reader and The Guardian UK Social Reader, it’s super easy to stay on Facebook and read what your friends are reading. It’s so much easier to get interesting recommendations from my quirky friend who shares some of the same tech and weird news interests as I do. Why wouldn’t I leave it up to the Facebook news feed‘s expert algorithm to figure out exactly what I want to read? It’s incredibly convenient, and lets me feel alright about being lazy.

The problem comes when I click on the social reader link, and it asks me to please reveal all of my data. Once I do that, I feel psychologically more connected to, and reliant upon, Facebook. This opportunistic relationship is killing me, and I in turn am killing the Internet.

StumbleUpon: Stop By & Stay Awhile, Won’t You?

The other month, I wrote about a new StumbleUpon feature that greatly upset the Internet. Previously, StumbleUpon users could stumble around the site and then leave if a specific link if they’d like by quickly closing out the screen. StumbleUpon would send users to the original site. The company decided to eliminate that option after users kept accidentally leaving StumbleUpon, thus interrupting their stumble experience.

The user is always right. StumbleUpon exists because of its users, and so why wouldn’t the company change its ways to appease those users who spend hours on end inside the site. Who could blame them? They have everything they need inside StumbleUpon, so why leave? I am not being sarcastic. StumbleUpon is a smart, creative site that perfectly tailors to its users’ individual taste graph.

StumbleUpon’s Marc Leibowitz left a comment on the ditching StumbleUpon for Pinterest story that I wrote. StumbleUpon’s users did not complain about the removal of the Web bar. “Given that our normally vocal members have NOT complained about the current implementation, however, leads us to believe this may not be quite as provocative an issue as this post suggests,” he says. “Nevertheless, as I say, we are exploring other options.” Not long after that, StumbleUpon CEO Garrett Camp blogged the following:

Our previous StumbleBar design included an ‘X’ button (to close the iframe if you wanted to view the original URL) but we didn’t initially make this as part of the redesign for signed-in members. We received several requests for this feature over the last few weeks, so as of today we will be adding this back in for signed-in members. This lets you hide the StumbleBar to see the original link, and simply click back afterwards to return to Stumbling.

There’s an easier way for users to leave StumbleUpon now. But does it matter? Users of the social Web prefer to stay inside social networks, discovery engines and other insular spaces. It’s safe, it’s easy and most of all, it’s convenient.

How We Are Killing the Internet

Not being able to share across the Web and, instead, being able to share only on social networks, isn’t new. Tristian Louis of TNL.net blogged about his experience using Path, which did not allow him to share out. “But eventually, the inability to share over the Web started grating at me as I realize that I was trapped in Path’s truck,” he writes. “I stopped using the service.”

I have daydreams of organizing all of my friends to do a mass exodus from Facebook. But truth be told, we’d probably all quit for a week and then return, hungry for status updates, viral graphics and meandering bulletpoint-y super-sharable blog posts which hardly qualify as articles.

Facebook is an alluring black hole that welcomes us in, and asks us to stay awhile. It’s possible to leave, but no matter what I always come back. I have given up on the idea of leaving. Now I just check the site more from my Facebook mobile app than the Web version, and get annoyed when I can’t easily share stories and images from it. Like a smoker who needs their nicotine fix, I am a social networker and I need my data.

Louis’ essay delves into the dangers of quietly moving from the Web version to the mobile app, rather than trying to figure out how to fix the Web. It’s easier to just think about the apps. Smartphones are must-have accessories. He continues the essay, pointing out the user-hungry move into Facebook territory, which contributes to the death of the Internet at large, and the continual push of users into social networks – like cows into a slaughterhouse:

When­ever I bumped into a silo like Face­book, I may have grum­bled but I didn’t leave. In fact, I pushed more con­tent into it, not ask­ing that it push con­tent back out. I did that because that’s where the read­ers were, where I could get more users, etc…

Then PIPA/SOPA/ACTA happened, and we all freaked out. For a minute. Then it went away and we forgot, content to passively share on our social network of choice.

How to Save the Internet, Social Networks, All Of It: Make It a Two-Way Street

I will not summarize all of Louis’ smart article here. Instead, I will send you out to the Internet, to the original site where this story lives. I hope you won’t share the story to Facebook; instead, email it to your friends. Tell your friends to go online and Google it. Print it out and pass it around to some of your Internet-obsessed friends, in person. I promise you won’t kill too many trees in the process. Do not tell your friends to do anything that feels like sharing it on a social network. Then think about it. Reminder: Don’t share it on Facebook.

Go to this link: http://www.tnl.net/blog/2012/03/03/i-killed-the-internet/

Scroll down to “Will you revive it?”

And follow the instructions.

Source: How Social Networks are Killing the Internet

‘Pinning’ Has to Become Bigger Than ‘Liking’

February 16th, 2012 02:00 admin View Comments

pinterest150_good.jpgPinterest has officially become a household social networking name in the U.S.

As we’ve already reported, the majority of users are female. According to data from Google’s DoubleClick Ad Planner, of 19 million U.S. users, 82% are female and only 18% are male. With all these eager-to-shop female audience members who are most likely interested in fashion designers, style, collections and craft, it’s rather surprising that Pinterest hasn’t really figured out how to cash in. “We have one hundred ideas but no execution yet,” Jeremie Levine, a board member of Pinterest and a venture capitalist at Bessemer Venture Partners told the Wall Street Journal. If Pinterest is going to succeed, “pinning” has to become the Internet’s new favorite thing to do.

Sites are seeing a huge uptake in traffic. Pinterest has also been utilizing affiliate marketing, which allows merchants to drop in links to their Web stores in exchange for a percentage of sales from such links. Take Amazon.com, for example. Every time someone clicks through to the Amazon.com site from Pinterest and actually buys something, Pinterest collects a percentage of that sale.

StumbleUpon was once a major traffic driver for many sites. Its latest redesign is focused on keeping the StumbleUpon user on the site – the company explained that many users were accidentally leaving the site during their stumbling experience, which turned out to be quite frustrating. StumbleUpon sends traffic to outside sites, however. As a result, more marketers may be turning to Pinterest for new ways to increase traffic.

British Ladies Aren’t Flocking to Pinterest… Yet

As of January 2012, Pinterest UK users numbered 320,000, with 55% are male and 45% are female. The crowd is still mostly early adopters, as evidenced by this infographic from Visual.ly. Note that the numbers on this are culled from December 2011 data.

Visual.ly-Pinterest-infographic.png

“I bet you in a few months, the usage will change,” says Visua.ly Editorial Director Aleksandra Todorova. “It will be just like Twitter and Facebook. Companies are going to start using it, professionals…it’s not going to just be women planning their wedding or scrapbooking or sewing quilts and all that.”

In any case, perhaps the shift toward Pinterest will move social networking fiends away from what everyone else is doing or not doing on Facebook and into the land of pictures, ideas and interests.

Source: ‘Pinning’ Has to Become Bigger Than ‘Liking’

It’s Time to Ditch StumbleUpon for Pinterest

February 3rd, 2012 02:48 admin View Comments

StumbleUpon-new-logo-150.jpgStumbleUpon is one of those sites we’ve had on our radar for quite sometime. We covered the company’s redesign last year, which re-focused the site on topic features. So when StumbleUpon snuck in a strange change the other day without telling anyone, we were shocked. This update made it impossible to get direct links for the pages one is stumbling unless they choose to not sign-in to the service.

The entire point of StumbleUpon, for the user, is to build up a taste graph that will better deliver stories that the user would like. But many sites depend on referral traffic from StumbleUpon, which is something outside of the StumbleUpon user’s direct stumbling experience.

“As part of redesign that spawns user experience that you write about, we look a lot at how users are using our service,” said StumbleUpon’s VP of Business Development and Marketing Marc Leibowitz. “We have some things in mind to address this concern.”

StumbleUpon’s response is that, well, they were “just trying to improve the user experience.” And besides, they told us, two-thirds of users use the Web bar.

“Signed-in users, when they’re encountering the Web bar it is about their stumbling,” Leibowitz said. “Visitors can easily close the Web bar.”

In other words, if you do want to see direct links, just don’t sign in.

What a great solution. Truly. Not only will StumbleUpon not be able to get an idea of that user’s taste graph, that user will miss out on the entire community aspect of the site.

Leibowitz cited accidental clicks on the “X” button of the Web bar as StumbleUpon’s main reason for getting rid of the Web bar entirely.

“People would accidentally click the button – they don’t have an extension such as Chrome or Firefox extensions, so they can’t go back to their Stumbling unless they go directly to StumbleUpon.com.”

This sounds like a complicated solution for a pretty easy problem. It would it have been pretty easy for StumbleUpon to just add a box that pops up when the user clicks “X.” It could say something simple like: “Are you sure you want to close this page and leave StumbleUpon?” Instead, StumbleUpon says, it is thinking only of the users – not the people who receive tons of referral traffic from the StumbleUpon discovery engine.

“The trade off is that we have to make some concessions around the way we show the URL,” Leibowitz tells us. “There’s no way we can change the way the URL is displayed in the address bar, but there are some ways we can make it easier to copy and paste the source code.”

For StumbleUpon users who are still looking for a way to see the direct URL, try using a StumbleUpon Firefox add-on or Chrome extension.

What Will Happen to StumbleUpon Referral Traffic?

Unfortunately for sites who depend on StumbleUpon for referral traffic, there aren’t too many alternatives.

“My website used to get 70-80% of referral traffic from StumbleUpon,” writes ReadWriteWeb commenter Jeffrey Davis. “After the redesign, that percentage dropped to 40%. I suspect now that it will drop even further…especially since SU is now hijacking the pageview.”

Pinterest is now Davis’ number two referrer.

This is only one isolated case, but it’s telling. Perhaps it’s time for marketers to start shifting their strategy from StumbleUpon to Pinterest. Because it doesn’t look like StumbleUpon will be backpedaling on its latest decision anytime soon.

Has referral traffic to your site suffered since the StumbleUpon redesign? Tell us about it in the comments.

Source: It’s Time to Ditch StumbleUpon for Pinterest

StumbleUpon Says Goodbye to Direct Links

February 2nd, 2012 02:15 admin View Comments

StumbleUpon-new-logo-150.jpgWhen StumbleUpon did its big rebranding, reorganizing and redesign late last year, we figured that the 20-million-plus discovering engine was done making big changes. At least, for a little while. Boy were we wrong.

The newest SU update removes all direct links. Previously, once you were inside StumbleUpon, you could “X” out the page and go straight to the original site. Now if you’re logged in, you have to say in the iframed version of the site. There is one way to get out, but it’s super clunky.

SU-No-X.jpg

As you can see, there’s no “X” option. If you want to go to the direct link, you’ll have to copy and paste out the link above and delete the StumbleUpon URL. Here’s what one of those clunky SU link looks like:

http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1PrjAd/www.modernarttimeline.com/

Would you really take the time to copy and paste the tail of that link into another tab or browser? That’s what it’ll take to get the direct URL.

StumbleUpon is trying to build up its ecosystem, keeping users inside rather than sending them out to the Web and other social sites. By keeping everyone inside, StumbleUpon will no longer offer prized SEO value that it once did. This will negatively impact referral traffic, especially for sites that rely on StumbleUpon for that nice traffic jolt.

Remember when this happened at Digg? Users revolted, and then-CEO Kevin Rose decided to make the DiggBar optional. Rose even said that framing content “is bad for the Internet.”

Source: StumbleUpon Says Goodbye to Direct Links

@BreakingNews Launches Its Own StumbleUpon Channel

December 13th, 2011 12:30 admin View Comments

breakingnews150150.jpgThe Twitter handle @breakingnews has approximately 3,379,339 Twitter followers. Today, it announced the launch of its very own StumbleUpon channel, a new feature available in the StumbleUpon redesign. This makes discovering @breakingnews content less serendipitous and more Twitter-like.

In its blog post, @breakingnews acknowledged that it was the only branded channel that curated stories from other sources. Other publications on StumbleUpon Channels, such as BuzzFeed, CNNMoney, ELLE and Seventeen, just to name a few, either aggregate content or produce original content. BreakingNews picks up on organizations that do break stories, sending more traffic back to them. The new StumbleUpon channel will give those publications an extra boost in traffic.

BreakingNews-SU-Channel.jpg

As of August, StumbleUpon was delivering half of U.S. social media traffic. If the @BreakingNews StumbleUpon channel grows – right now it only has 51 followers and 78 pages – sites that end up on it could see a decent uptake in traffic.

The MSNBC-owned @BreakingNews went international in November, expanding to a London-based UK team. Way back in 2009, when we first covered @BreakingNews, it was run by a 19-year-old named Michael van Poppel. It wasn’t long before BNO handed over management to MSNBC. It’s a good thing since MSNBCC’s own breaking news feed only had about 41,000 followers at the time, while @BreakingNews had 1.4 million. Today that number is at nearly 3.5 million, and that’s not counting the new StumbleUpon channel.

Is it essential for publications and Twitter feed aggregators like @BreakingNews to have a StumbleUpon channel? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Source: @BreakingNews Launches Its Own StumbleUpon Channel

Your Tiny Mobile Screen Drives StumbleUpon and Twitter Redesigns

December 9th, 2011 12:30 admin View Comments

This week, serendipity engine StumbleUpon launched an entirely redesigned site, complete with a new logo and a focus on topic features. A few days later, Twitter announced big updates to its user interface, completely changing the experience to focus more on a supposedly simpler user interface that tries to change hashtags from a symbol for trending topics to a space for discovery. The race for top discovery engine is on. What’s more notable is that this entire experience is focused on grabbing the mobile user’s attention.

“Twenty percent of monthly Stumbles are from mobile devices,” says StumbleUpon’s Director of Communications Mike Mayzel. “Mobile is the fastest growing part of StumbleUpon, growing at 35% month over month.” StumbleUpon arrived on the iPhone and Android in August 2010.

StumbleUpon_mobile_growth.jpg

In Twitter’s young history, some have preferred to call it a “micro-blogging site,” while still others like the term “social network.” Both of those labels can get thrown out the door, however. The über-über-new Twitter (how else are we going to differentiate from past updates?) hasn’t rebranded like its discovery engine cousin StumbleUpon, but it does want to start being seen as a “discovery tool” that’s focused first and foremost on mobile.

Naturally, Twitter released the redesign to iPhone users first. And why wouldn’t it? Twitter is baked into the iOS5 platform, making it a key social layer on iOS devices. The fusing of Twitter into iOS5 tripled Twitter’s daily sign-ups, and added to its focus on mobile.

Source: Your Tiny Mobile Screen Drives StumbleUpon and Twitter Redesigns

StumbleUpon Rebrands, Redesigns & Reorganizes Topic Features

December 5th, 2011 12:00 admin View Comments

StumbleUpon-new-logo-150.jpgStumbleUpon is on a roll. As of August 2011, the U.S.’s biggest serendipity engine drove drive half of all social media traffic, surpassing Facebook, the social network that formerly held that bragging right.

Today StumbleUpon announces a complete overhaul of its platform and logo, as it aims to make the site more visually oriented and simpler to use. Now the user profile makes visible all connections, comments, interests, channels, likes, shares, inbox and history. All of a user’s thumbs-up are visible through the profile. The new StumbleUpon also features channels, which are essentially sponsored Twitter-like accounts that a user can follow. Plus, the layout looks a lot more like its social network cousin, Pinterest.

StumbleUpon is the inverse of a Google Web search. Instead of typing in a keyword and searching for relevant links within that search, StumbleUpon asks the user to define the parameters by selecting a topic, and then voting the content up or down. Using the Explore Box, users can type in an interest that’s more specific than one of the many comprehensive topic options. It gives a list of related interests, which broadens the breadth of topics to stumble. Over time the user develops an interest profile specific to them.

StumbleUpon-front-page.png

The new channels, which allow users to follow content from sites (The Atlantic Wire), celebrities (Tom Hanks, Jim Carrey) and brands (Gilt, Campbell’s Kitchen, Audi), mirror more of a Twitter model. For celebrities and brands, this form of advertising is more subtle and, as a result, less intrusive. The new site also makes it easier to keep track of all the pages, photos and videos that a user has liked in the past; the old version only gave users easy access to posts they had shared.

Channels-screenshot-SU.png

Earlier this year StumbleUpon launched the Explore Box, a tool that’s useful for helping Stumblers find topics related to a single topic. If a user is trying to find topics related to “Sleeping Beauty,” for example, type in “Sleeping Beauty” and then a list of related interests pop up, such as “Sleeping Beauty Castle,” “The Sleeping Beauty,” “Sleeping Bag,” “Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore” (OK, the last two were a bit odd, but that’s alright). The Explore Box also suggests things it thinks you might like based on the original interest; in this instance, the suggestions are “animation,” “France” and “Paris.” In the new relaunch, the Explore Box is integrated right into the user experience.

Explore-Box-New-SU.png

StumbleUpon is a prime example of the read/write web. Why? Because the user literally writes their own “taste graph” by signaling to the service what interests they want to follow. In the e-commerce space, EBay acquired recommendation engine Hunch to do just that – serve up more relevant content to users.

StumbleUpon launched an iPad app back in July. In November, StumbleUpon came to the Kindle Fire.

How do you like the new StumbleUpon? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Source: StumbleUpon Rebrands, Redesigns & Reorganizes Topic Features

StumbleUpon’s Garrett Camp On What It’s Like To Buy Back Your Company

March 17th, 2011 03:46 admin View Comments

There aren’t many startup founders that have done what Garrett Camp has done. After selling content discovery service StumbleUpon to eBay for $75 million in 2007, Camp and investors decided to buy it back for a reported $29 million in 2009.

After the initial Series A that was folded back into the spinoff, Camp raised $17 million from August Capital, Accel, and others in a Series B just last week, making StumbleUpon the most rare of comeback success stories.

Thus far buying yourself back after an acquisition is a feat that’s only been accomplished on a large scale by Webshots (which bought itself back from Excite@Home and resold itself to Cnet) and TicketFly, formerly TicketWeb, which bought itself back from TicketMaster and proceeded to directly compete with its former owner.

I sat down with Camp during SXSW to talk about the process of reacquiring your company, what he plans on doing with the StumbleUpon’s rare second chance, and which startup he likes better, StumbleUpon or Uber (of which he is a co-founder).

Highlights:

On the motivation behind the acquisition: “A desire for flexibility. I think bigger companies require more approvals, it takes longer to get stuff done. So I thought we would grow a lot faster if we were a smaller company.”

On the advantages of being part of a larger company: “The great thing about eBay is that I could totally focus on product, totally focused on engineering, I didn’t have to deal with fundraising, I didn’t have to deal with all the operational issues you have at a company. Because I was focused on that we actually grew really well. We tripled in size during out time there. We were there times bigger when we left than when we came in.”

On whether he’s more excited about StumbleUpon or Uber (the company he co-founded with Travis Kalanick: “That’s like saying ‘which is your favorite kid?’ I mean that’s hard to pick. Uber was basically a side project …”

Advice to other founders that find themselves bored post acquisition: “The decision you want to make is ‘Do you want to keep working on what you’re working on?’”

Pulling a “phoenix from the ashes” is that simple, except when it’s not.

Source: StumbleUpon’s Garrett Camp On What It’s Like To Buy Back Your Company

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