I recently noticed a spike in my traffic that brought more than double my daily traffic. Looking into it, I found the spike came from StumbleUpon, which is a service designed to help surfers discover new sites. I knew about StumbleUpon, and if I recall correctly, it’s been around for more than 5 years. However, I have an aversion to tool bars, which is why I never considered the service before.

I’m always looking for new tricks to add to my bag of promotions, so I decided to install their toolbar, which is when my problem began. The problem is that StumbleUpon is really cool and is sucking away hours of my time. I’ve tried surfing the internet in the same way I watch T.V., but I could never decide to start a surf session—it just had to happen, like finding a great new blog full of cool links or happening to hit a new topic vein. I know some people visit sites like Digg, BoingBoing, Fark; but they don’t inspire surfing for me.

I like StumbleUpon because the Stumble! button is easy to push and fun to see what comes up. I told StumbleUpon what my interests were when I first signed up and they started feeding me sites within those interests. The toolbar has a thumbs up and thumbs down feature ala Digg.com. Now that I’ve said what sites I like and which ones I don’t, StumbleUpon seems to be getting smarter about the sites it shows me. I used to like Furl for the fact that it would recommend sites to me based on what I’ve bookmarked. I like that I don’t have to have anything bookmarked before it will recommend things to me. I also like that I don’t have to fill out all of the fields in traditional social bookmark services, I can just hit the thumbs up and StumbleUpon saves that site for me to retrieve later. I can tag quality sites I like for even greater organizational control. The fact that I can simultaneously discover, rate, tag, and save sites in a push button manner makes StumbleUpon a great research tool for me. I can even discover sites at a granular level by stumbling within a single topic or based on a keyphrase.
I haven’t started tapping the networking possibilities, but they do offer profiles that I can customize and fellow stumblers that I can befriend.

All in all, I have really been taken with StumbleUpon. They refer to it as a great way to discover new sites, but I’ve found it’s also a great way to organize and share bookmarks as well. I think I hit Stumble! more than I enter a URL in the address bar these days.

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