As someone would have said if he were still alive, the Internet is big. Very big. (he may have even said it while he was alive, he was like that). I would add that, if you’re not careful, it can be pointlessly big. Lets face it, the way most of us use the Internet is a bit like the Monopoly view of London, round and round the same set of places, rarely drifting off the beaten path.
It might be something like:

  • BBC/CNN/geographically significant source for news to see what’s going on in the world
  • The Onion/The Register/you know the type of thing for offbeat laughs
  • Amazon/Play/your favourite retail therapy location to see what you fancy wasting money on
  • IMDB/Wikipedia/info site to answers questions and then pretend you knew all along
  • Your favourite forum(s) to share some wisdom with like-minded people
  • Places you end up as a result of ad-hoc searches, bookmark and then forget about
  • Sites sent to you for the 14th time by email that you eventually decide to click (generally yet another video of someone falling off/on/through something)
  • Oh hang on, I’ve not been to the BBC site for a while
  • You know what I mean, I’ll not labour the point

Essentially, its a loop, round and round. I’d hazard a guess that we all work on a basic subset of a maximum of a dozen sites. On our Monopoly board, we get to see even less of London.

And this presents a problem. There is an awful lot of good stuff out there that we don’t get to see (Obviously, there is an order of magnitude more rubbish stuff too).

This changed for me the day I discovered the StumbleUpon toolbar. (Note: this isn’t a new thing, I’m not claiming a discovery, this is more on an homage type thing). But I felt inspired to write as today I was nursing my sick daughter, who had fallen asleep on my left arm, leaving me with only the ability to click on the mouse button on the laptop (typing was tricky). This is, just one of the many occasions, where Stumbling comes into its own.

The Internet remains, for the most part, a pull medium. You have to go look. There is no schedule, index or order of service. This is often good, it gives immense freedom with a 24/7, on-demand vibe. Trouble is, when you don’t really know what to demand, you can easily get lost in the Internet Loop (which is only made worse by this multi-tab Firefox thing).

It reminds me of an old Jerry Sadowitz joke (probably the only clean one) about a guy who goes into a bookshop and asks for a book on making Persian rugs, he is told they don’t have any so he replies “OK, what else do you have?”.

In short, this is what StumbleUpon does. You can walk into the Internet and say “OK, what else do you have?”. And, the joy of it is, its very simple.

Install the toolbar, tell it what you like, click ‘Stumble’ and away you go. Find a page you like, click “I like it”, if its pants, click “Not for me”. Over time, you’ll get more and more of the kind of things you are after with the added benefit that everything you liked is stored on your page which can then act like a mobile favourites page.

Its hugely liberating, massively useful and is as near as you can currently get to making the Internet a push medium. You get to places that would otherwise have passed you by. No more will you look at your computer and think, “all that Internet out there and I’ve no idea where to go”.

Just imagine what life would have been like if you hadn’t seen something like this, a random Stumble during the writing of this post.

As an aside, and as previously trailed, Stumble is great for parents of young children. When the TV is monopolised by the toddler generation, StumbleUpon creates a ‘channel’ away from the TV that can stop the adult mind turning to mush after the 15th consecutive viewing of High School Musical.

Its already a big thing and I predict it’ll get bigger. Get Stumbling, you won’t look back.