What StumbleUpon Says about Search

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There are two news items today that speak to a similar theme: the limitations of search. Search is a remarkably powerful tool and has become the de facto way people find their way around the Internet (bookmarks are dead, though RSS/feeds are on the rise). But it has numerous limitations as a content discovery tool.

Here are the items:

Item number 1: eBay is reportedly acquiring StumbleUpon (per TechCrunch).

Item number 2: Google is introducing “queryless search” (personal recommendations based on search history and group behavior for registered Google users).

As Chris Sherman points out, Google’s personalized recommendations is similar to StumbleUpon. Google in introducing this is seeking to offer a way for users to discover content that doesn’t involve their active “searching” for it. In the frenzy surrounding search as a kind of metaphor for everything what has been lost is a kind of “serendipitous” discovery of content. This is like the difference between reading the print newspaper (where you “browse”) and an online newspaper (where you go right to specific sections or stories: “search”).

Social media also figure in here (and as part of StumbleUpon) as a mechanism to compensate for some of the perceived “deficiencies” of search. In StumbleUpon the community surfaces sites and content that you might never have discovered on your own but are very interesting and potentially worthwhile.

Think also of the “most emailed” news stories on a newspaper website (e.g., the NY Times). This is an enormously popular feature and helps people discover content they might not have seen themselves. It’s the community in action.

We need search as a tool to get us from here to there online or for quick information lookups. But we also need alternative mechanisms to help us discover content and information we otherwise might not have known.

After all, I don’t know what I don’t know.

3 Responses to “What StumbleUpon Says about Search”

  1. adriennezurub Says:

    Thanks for this article. Stumbleupon is great! It’s true that when I access the site, I indeed ‘stumbleupon’ information of interest to me that I was not previously aware of!

    Warning! Stumbleupon is addictive. I admit I have a ‘link addiction’ whereby I go from link to interesting link reading for hours and hours! 🙂

    Adrienne Zurub

  2. Catherine Morgan Says:

    Are you at a greater risk for getting onto a site with some sort of “virus” when you use Stumbleupon or a similar site?

  3. Lisa Says:

    I agree with Adrienne who commented above. Stumble Upon is addictive. I, too, go from link to link to link.

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