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December 28, 2006

Stumbled Upon


Ordinarily the end of December is a low point for blog reading.  Somehow people seem to have other things to do which are more important to them.  So I was pleasantly surprised to see Fractals of Change readership as measured by SiteMeter spiking upwards and had to drill down and find out why.


What clearly happened, according to MyBlogLog is that a post I wrote last May has been Stumbled Upon.  Some member of www.stumbleupon.com liked what I wrote about Why a Great Programmer is Worth 50 Good Ones and recommended it.  Other members of the social network agreed with this opinion and the site began recommending the post to both members who stumbled similar sites and members who say they like things which are stumbled by the members who stumbled this post.

One of the differences between stumbleupon and other social networking sites is that stumbleupon does NOT keep an overall list of the 100 most popular posts or even give average ratings for sites.  In their FAQs, they explain why:  “Because these statistics foster a competitive atmosphere that would promote spamming among owners of the sites in question. StumbleUpon is based on showing people sites personalized to their particular interests, not on absolutes like average rating and top 100 lists.”

The key part of this answer, I think, is the second sentence.  How relevant or worthwhile a site is depends on your interest.  A rating is only relevant in terms of what stumbleupon can infer about your likes and dislikes from the stumbling you’ve done and the people in stumbleupon you’ve chosen to associate with.

Judging from very limited experience, the differences in technique between reddit which uses overall ranking and stumbleupon which looks for individual relevance results in a difference in reader behavior.  Below is a graph of a spike in FOC readership which came when it was heavily recommended on reddit.


Interestingly, it was the same post that was recommended both times.

Here are some differences:

  1. The reddit spike came almost immediately after publication; the stumbleupon one came seven months after.  I’ve noticed that something which doesn’t make it to the top of digg or reddit almost immediately, never does.
  2. The reddit spike was much briefer; the one from stumbleupon spread out and relatively long lasting.
  3. The stumbleupon members typically read multiple posts; the reddit members (like most casual visitors to the site) just the one they were pointed to. (look at page views vs. visits in the stats above).
  4. You can’t see it in the charts but someone stumbled another post yesterday - Managing Programming for CEOs Part 1 – Decompiling Programmer-Speak - and significant traffic is now going there as well.

Too soon to know whether the new stumbleupon readers become regular readers (not many from reddit did) and/or email or rss subscribers.  But I’m impressed by this use of dynamic peer clusters for finding apparently interested readers so you will notice that, at the bottom of  each post, it is now very easy to stumble that post.

Will also keep writing from my programmer (nerd) POV.

You Can’t Get There From Here talks about the technique of dynamic peer clusters as does Dynamic Clusters – Maybe You CAN Get There From Here.

Social Tagging and Fractals of Change is a previous post about social networks.

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