Update for SU Visitors: Uhm, guys, in case that you live under the strange idea that we are using SU to drive traffic to this page, I’d like to make a small side note: if this domain gets banned from SU altogether it wouldn’t matter. SU is no longer what it was in the past and in my opinion it should not be used to “drive traffic” anyway. It should be used, as it was intended, to discover interesting pages and to share useful information. SU has some tech. problems and that’s a FACT. If these affect the users then SU should come with an official statement. If they decide to keep quiet articles like these will still follow, and I will not be the one to write them.
Update (twenty minutes after publishing): according to SU staff (but still waiting a confirmation from RJJ) – the main actor of this review is now an active SU user again.
StumbleUpon is one of the most popular social networks of Web 2.0, and until recently also one of the most enjoyable. But things change, empires fall, social networks degrade… StumbleUpon is no exception to the rule. Sure thing, the company tries to keep up the quality standards, but in the process – instead of helping users enjoy a positive experience – they just stumble, and fumble, and tumble, and rumble, and grumble – ultimately to their own detriment.
You will probably not find too many articles that criticize this network: nobody wants to piss-off a great source of traffic. But I no longer care: any network that bans loyal users is no friend of mine.
The average user at Stumble has less than 100 friends on the site, not so many discoveries, double the favorites, and even fewer reviews.
So, let’s define “loyal users” shall we?
A loyal user is a brand evangelist: someone who lives and breathes the brand, often becoming its emissary.
Someone like the recently “ghost banned” (I will define “ghost banned” a little bit later) Rjj, who has over 1500 subscribers, more than 12K favorites and about 8000 reviews (and more than half of these are his own discoveries). Rjj was once a “top stumbler,” but today he is “ghost banned.” SU offered no explanation, other than that his account is “under review” – for the second time, I might add!
This man basically contributed to the SU database with over 4000 pages, and I can tell you from my own experience that at least half of these meet all possible quality standards SU can ever think of. Rob is one of those rare people who actually cares about what you like: he always shares interesting pages, and never votes for pages he dislikes – not even when you beg! For example, I have a thing for LED powered gadgets, and some of the most interesting pages I’ve ever seen were sent to me by Rjj via the SU toolbar.
In the meanwhile, StumbleUpon recently made some updates to its SU toolbar (for Firefox) that officially enable any user to block ANY site, except StumbleUpon’s. Talking about transparency and impartiality!!!
I wonder what criteria will be used to block sites on the SU network from now on. The same used for blocking a loyal user like Rjj? I can only speculate that Rob has some enemies at SU, people who repeatedly reported him as a “spammer” for sending too much stuff (or maybe those he would not vote for endlessly). Truth be told, Rob does share four or five sites a day via the SU toolbar, but wasn’t this precisely the type of user behavior encouraged by SU?
“To become a Top Stumbler, simply use the toolbar on a regular basis, clicking I-like-it at any page other members would like to stumble upon.”
Speaking of people who should be banned, I could make at any time a list of 100 such candidates on demand. In the meanwhile, this article may shed some light on what should be considered bad user behavior.
I have a “friend” who spams me with five shares every day, all links to the same lapis lazuli site, but is he experiencing any trouble from SU? No! And he probably never will.
So the question is, “what kind of a social network decides to penalize its brand evangelists?” Digg? Reddit? Delicious? Mixx? Propeller? MyBlogLog (are they still around – LMAO)? MySpace? Twitter? Facepoop, uhm… Facebook? NO! It’s StumbleUpon, the most praised network of them all. I mean, come on, all other networks have had their share of negative press. StumbleUpon has always managed to keep a low profile as far as bad publicity is concerned. But enough is enough. While I understand why a new and improved toolbar is necessary, I still have some questions:
What is the criterion to decide which sites are being blocked? Some random “user reports” – when these user reports could lead to a situation like Rob’s?
Why is there no option to block StumbleUpon’s own domain? Who’s there to decide that any other site deserves the boot, when SU’s own blog is the subject of negative reviews every now and then?
Is StumbleUpon the web’s new demagogue and censor? When you block a domain, from any social network, you automatically apply censorship to every scrap of content on that domain.
How about the users? Is it respectful to all the users who benefit from content supplied by people like Rjj to categorically block any further great content, and otherwise eliminate the possibility of a “top stumbler” sharing valuable content ever again?
Is it fair to be “ghost banned” by a network you use faithfully every day of your life?
Now let me define “ghost banned” for you. According to this article, shared by some SU employees I will not name, this is what “ghost banned” is all about:
You can thumb up, thumb down, discover… pretty much anything a regular user can do. The only thing is your efforts don’t count. You can tell if you’re “ghost banned” by discovering a page, opening up a different browser, and visiting the review page of the site you just discovered. If it says “Discovered by someone” and not you, you’re a ghost. No word yet on how to reverse this.
So to make all things clear for all of you, readers: there is nothing free online. SU is NOT a source of free traffic. Every visitor to your site is a result of your work: you are a brand evangelist for StumbleUpon, you are a dedicated user and you DESERVE the few visitors the network (spits) allows to see your site without pay. Note that SU makes revenue by selling a rather obscure (but effective) form of advertising: StumbleUponAds allows you to submit a page on your blog to be shown to StumbleUpon users as they go Stumbling. The cost is 5 cents per impression so for as little as $5 you can have 100 SU users see your page. The catch is that NONE of these ads are being disclosed as “sponsored” on the SU network. According to SU, sponsored pages show ” a little green man show up on your toolbar. That’s how you know that it’s coming from our advertisers.” Basically, ANY page you vote for (or against) could be a paid ad. Again the question: how’s that for transparency and integrity? And StumbleUpon DARES to block users like Rjj? Come on!
Enough about StumbleUpon today. Personally, I expect an explanation from this once splendid network. In the meanwhile, dear SU, respecting your loyal users is vital to continue as a successful network. Lose this, and you are most likely to follow the Netscape path: you’ll need serious re-branding, under a different name, to come clean!
Author disclosure: I am a StumbleUpon fan, a very active user and very passionate about the way this tool enables communication with people sharing the same interests.