Stumbleupon.com as a Reference Alternative

Stumbleupon is a wonderful and interesting way to find new content on the Web.  Simply click the “stumble” button and off you go.

It’s an information discovery tool, per it’s About Us page.  It uses the recommendations of your friends or others using the service with similar interests to yours in their preferences.  By using the thumbs-up or thumbs-down buttons on its navigation bar, users can indicated if they recommend it to others or not.  By doing this, Stumbleupon.com has created a database of likes and dislikes for its users via its community, it is a “people-driven technology”.

What makes it fun is the randomness of the whole process.  Some of the randomness can be mitigated by selecting those topics you are interested in, such as technology, entertainment, and the like.  However, you never really know what to expect exactly when you are using this service.

Yes, that is right, it is a Web service.  Although at first glance it seems more like a novelty, which I think has presented as a roadblock to more users signing up, which they will need to work on in the future.  In a way it provides multiple services to its users.  While it is obviously providing entertainment, it also provides a method of information discovery and consumption.  These are the more interesting aspects of this service for me, especially how they relate to libraries and research.

Mainly this information discovery service as great potential as a library reference tool for providing reference services to patrons.  There are many aspects of this service that do not readily lend it to effective use as a reference tool, for instance the Web sites presented via this service cannot be easily verified as scholarly or refereed and the their credibility cannot be easily established.

However, since this is a “people-driven technology” and when users stumble using the community it could eventually create a trusted source of reference tools.  This is not the services intended use, but it does have the potential.

My own use has been mostly experimental so far and I have only ‘stumbled’ onto one Web page that could be considered a credible source, NASA’s HubbleSite.  I would have to say that using Stumbleupon.com is enjoyable and there is so much to be said for what end-users consume and recommend to others online and what that can tell us (library folk) about our users, which is way off topic for this post.

As far as using Stumbleupon.com for providing reference services to library patrons, the service has a long way to go.  However, I think its potential in this regard is substantial.  I found one library blog that makes a brief mentioning of it as an alternative to using search engines, CSU Library.

If nothing else, the service might serve as a less secular way to show users how to evaluate Web sources for use in their research.  At the very least it is a wonderful alternative to using online search engines.

The verdict:

Will I use Stumbleupon.com as a reference tool?

No.

Will I continue to use it to consume information on topics I prefer, allowing the recommendations database to quasi-randomly choose my next source of information and discover Web content I would not otherwise discover using a more conventional online search engine?

Yes, it’s fun.

You can learn more about Stumbleupon.com and how it works by visiting its About Us Web page.

What are your thoughts?  Will or do you use Stumbleupon.com? If so, for what purpose (library related)?

As always, thanks for reading.

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