Jul 15 2007
To write a completely authoritative guide on the nuances of StumbleUpon would take a week – not to mention tons of screen shots! So as a compromise, I’ve outlined what I think are the most important features to understand as a beginner, and you can start exploring from there.
I purposely haven’t researched any other posts about StumbleUpon, as I wanted this to be from my perspective, but when I’m finished I will do so and add some relevant links.
The Overall Concept
StumbleUpon is all about discovery, sharing, and “peer recommendation”. The idea is that you are randomly served up web pages according to one of a number of options – such as pages on a particular area of interest or those of your friends (you get to select how you want to stumble and can change this easily). There are currently over 2.7 million people using the service, which reflects its popularity.
People who join up to StumbleUpon (herein “SU”) are called “stumblers” and will have a nickname – for example mine is “MegT”. My SU page is therefore megt.stumbleupon.com.
If you come across a webpage you like, the idea is that you “stumble” it (aka give it a “thumbs up”). Similarly you can also rate a page with a “thumbs down”, though I don’t know that this is widely practiced (well I don’t anyway). These are known as your “stumbles”.
I don’t think anyone is *really* sure exactly how the “system” works, but there are many theories. The general idea is that the more people who stumble a page (vote positively), the more it gets “offered” to other stumblers as being a quality recommendation (and of course the more traffic it generates for a web page).
The first thing to note, is that in order to add stumbles you WILL need to download a toolbar – there’s no way around it. If you’re not prepared to do that, then you might as well stop reading now!
I can’t remember the exact Sign up steps (and I don’t want to create another account, as that’s frowned upon). But it looks like you create your user name and then download the toolbar. I’m gathering it will run you logically through the steps.
What IS important, is that you take time selecting all your interests (called topics). This is how you get to meet “like minded” stumblers. If you don’t get to add them all during the sign up process, you can update them in your preferences (Preferences / Stumbling / Update Your Topics).
You’ll notice there are quite a few pages in the preferences, it’s a good idea to go through and make you profile as complete a possible. I think it’s “acceptable” to have a link to your blog (if you have one) on your profile page.
“General” – this covers your biographical data – age, location, about me blurb, name, and the obligatory avatar (I say “obligatory” because without an avatar your functions are greatly limited).
“Stumbling” – where you choose the topics you’re interested in.
“Interests” – Books, music, movies, tv (I haven’t been overly bothered with these)
“Personal” – personal info, ie, work, education, sexuality, politics, etc (these are optional)
“Settings” – What your profile looks like, colours, and content filter (eg restricting R rated content)
Other Menu Options
You’ll see other menu options to the left of the “preferences” tab.
“Home” (MegT) – This is your “about” page, which displays your interests, personal details and groups you’ve joined.
“Pages” – By default this displays your “blog”. It isn’t a blog in the traditional sense, but includes any entries you’ve made here and pages you’ve reviewed. You can add an entry by clicking on the “post to blog” button. Clicking “all thumbs” will display any pages you’ve stumbled. “Discovered” shows pages that you discovered (ie were the first to stumble). Tags give you a cloud view (where text size reflects popularity) of all the tags you use when reviewing pages.
“Friends” – the friends page displays three types of friends.
Mutual friends, are people you’ve added as a friend who have also added you as a friend.
“Friends showing you pages” are friends you’ve added, who haven’t added you back (unreciprocated friendships).
“Fans” are people who have added you, that you haven’t added back.
SU have this to say about friends:
“Adding a friend is essentially subscribing to their content. You will stumble upon pages they have rated, filtered according to the shared [topics] displayed on that person’s profile.”
You can only have 200 mutual friends, so it’s good to chose people who like similar topics, as this will influence the pages you may get shown (similarly, the pages your friends get shown and perhaps their likelihood of “thumbing up” your pages). You can always remove someone from your friends down the track.
“Inbox” – when you get a message this little icon has a flag on it. You can access the message by clicking on the icon.
“Network” – this shows who has recently visited your profile, and will display the last 10 stumblers to visit.
“Matches” – this displays people who are interested in similar topics. You can filter the results (e.g. females from Sydney interested in weblogs who are between the ages of 35 and 40) .
“Forum” – displays discussions in any groups that you join.
“Your Reviews” – you’ll notice in the screen shot below, that there may be reviews on your profile. If you click this button, you’ll not only see what other people have written about you, but also which stumblers have given you the “thumbs up” (the most recent will be displayed first). I think it’s nice to reciprocate these where possible. The process is the same as “how to stumble a web page below”. Every one loves a first review when they’re starting out – it gets the ball rolling, and only takes a few extra seconds. These stumbles are usually submitted with the tag of “stumblers”.
This is what my toolbar looks like (I’m not sure what it looks like by default). You can customise what is shown by clicking on the last option “tools”.
The first thing you’ll notice is a red number “1” next to the Stumble! button. This indicates that a friend has sent me a page directly that he or she thinks that I might be interested in. By clicking that button I’m taken to the page. You’ll notice a “send to” button with a drop down box – this is how you chose a friend to send it to. BE VERY CAUTIOUS of overusing this function. It’s nice to ask someone if they mind first, particularly if referring your own posts or website.
Generally, clicking the Stumble! button, will take you to a random page, depending on the preferences you’ve set. You can Stumble many ways including; by topic, channel (web page, video, friends, news or images), a particular friend, tag or all your favorites. Explore a bit!
How to Stumble a Web Page
Firstly, if you see a web page you like, click on the “thumbs up” button. If it has already been discovered the thumb will turn to green. You have two options, leave it at that, or click on the little speech box (which I think now looks a bit like an ear! – it’s the one on the end).
Clicking on the speech box will show you people that have stumbled that page, and any comments (reviews) that have been left. Your stumble will be at the top (directly under the avatars of people who have stumbled it). You can add your review by clicking “edit review”, and here you can also add tags to describe what the page is about (separate these with a comma, but if it’s a two word tag just separate with a space eg “blog, internet, social networking, StumbleUpon”). Using tags (relevant tags) really adds value to the whole experience.
How to Discover a Web Page
So if you click on the thumbs up and the site hasn’t already been discovered you’ll get a dialog box which will pop up. It’s nice if you can take the few seconds to fill it in properly. Here’s an example:
The URL and Title are automatically added to the discovery page. You’ll notice that I highlighted some of the text from the web page. This text is automatically added to review area as a quote (note: sometimes the formatting goes a bit wonky with apostrophes and quote marks, so you might need to tidy it up).
Next you select a topic, the most popular ones are already there so you can just click on one, or chose a more appropriate one from the drop down box. Add a few tags, and don’t forget to click the corresponding button as to whether it’s an adult site or not and the language, if other than English. Hit “submit this site” and you’re done!
Other Places to Explore
There are lots of places to explore on StumbleUpon. They’re not always easy to navigate to from your profile.
The Buzz section lets you see what’s popular at the moment, and you can filter this by topic. You can also search by a particular tag.
You can explore people currently online, and popular videos (and they have a terrific selection of Australian videos). Also you might like to see if there’s a group that appeals to you. You can find out a little more about the technology and they also have a comprehensive “help section”
Tim Nash has a post about the “send to” function being more effective than when your friends stumble – “Organic Stumbling Tip“. He has a few other posts too, which are a good read; Stumbling Voyeur, Reputation Management and Digg vs StumbleUpon.
A Comprehensive Guide to StumbleUpon – doshdosh
How to Use StumbleUpon to Promote – Webby Online
The reason I put this guide together was because a lot of the feed back I have been receiving here is that many people don’t quite “get” StumbleUpon. It’s like any social networking site, in that the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. I hope this might have helped.
One question that was raised by AgentSully in comments, is the following
Regarding StumbleUpon, I’d be interested to hear everyone’s opinion on this:
what if you send a post link of your own blog which is relevant to stumblers who are in a specific SU group? If the post is relevant and the message offers to review material that the recipient might want to share in return, could this not be ok? I’ve actually met some great folks this way on SU. For people who don’t like this messaging can be set to “off” or “only messages from friends” (I believe).
What do you think?
So I’ll turn that question over to you. And I’d love to hear of any tips, questions or feedback you have regarding StumbleUpon
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