StumbleUpon: Webtool for surfers with short attention spans

Ever been bored online but there’s nothing else you really want to do? You’re just surfing looking for something fun? I recently discovered “StumbleUpon” which is a free toolbar program that has been providing constant entertainment. Here’s how it works – Once you download and install the toolbar (Internet Explorer and Firefox versions are available), you choose from dozens of subjects you are interested in. Some of the ones I chose were travel, cooking, family and humor. When I click the “Stumble!” button on my toolbar, it takes me to a random page tagged with one of my interests. If I like it I rate it a ‘thumbs up’ and if I don’t I rate it a ‘thumbs down’ or if I’m indifferent I just don’t rate it at all. If I want to, I can submit a text-based review of the page, which I will do for things I really love. StumbleUpon learns what I like and dislike and gets better and better at giving me pages I like with time.

How does this work? It is a user-generated system. As unique as you may be as a person, there are hordes of other people out there share your interests. If you’re surfing one day and find something on your own (e.g., without StumbleUpon), you can rate it. If someone else has rated it before then your rating is recorded as usual. If it’s a new page to StumbleUpon, you get a neat little message saying that you discovered it and asking you to tag it with the appropriate subject. Now this page will be shown to others who want to stumble upon that subject.

When I started using StumbleUpon my expectations weren’t very high. Now that it’s been about two weeks, I’ve weeded through some duds, but also found some really cool websites. Here are a few that I recommend you click on, just for fun:

Another great thing about StumbleUpon is that it saves the pages you rated in your profile. So if you say to yourself, “Hey, what was that cool page I visited a couple weeks ago with that humorous article about the haboob?”, you can easily find it.

Obviously I recommend this fun little gadget, but if you’re going to use it, be sure to give it a couple of weeks’ use so the system can really get to know what you like. You will find some gems, but you will also see some garbage along the way. Enjoy!

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