We've got search engines, decision engines, and internal-combustion engine. But when was the last time you tried a discovery engine?
If you're intrigued by the concept, give StumbleUpon a whirl. The site, a kind of Pandora for content ranging from videos to photos to news, serves up a seemingly random yet entirely customized series of sites based on your personal preferences. It turns everyone on the Internet into editors, displaying only Web pages that have been recommended by other users, who could be your friends or any one of the 12 million StumbleUpon members.
StumbleUpon co-founder and CEO Garrett Camp spoke with The Huffington Post recently about the future of how we get our news, the pros (and cons) of Facebook and twitter, and his thoughts on the cyberbalkanization of the web.
How do you get your news?
It's a combination of Twitter and StumbleUpon. I don't use newsreaders. I try to follow people on Twitter who are interesting sources. I found out about [Google's interest in acquiring Groupon] super quickly because I follow people who would be interested in the Groupon thing.
I have 250 contacts, employees, and investors who anytime they come across something relevant will share it with me. I wake up to 10-15 links that people have explicitly recommended for me. I don't have to look for news anymore, it flows to me.
Do you like getting your news this way?
There are fewer things to think about and the news is personalized--I don't get all the popular stuff, I only get stuff that is relevant to me.
What's the downside of getting our news via social networks like Twitter and Facebook?
Facebook is made up of people you've met, but not necessarily who are similar to you. I have 850 "friends" and a lot are acquaintances, not friends. I dont really know them. If I've met someone one time, how should they be influencing my feed? Facebook does a good job of honing in on what's relevant, but it's not as good as our [StumbleUpon] feed, which hones in on what you like. On StumbleUpon if you skip some stuff, we stop showing it to you.
The way the Facebook network is set up, it's not as suitable for content discovery. Twitter is better, but there are too many over-sharers. Also, on Twitter and Facebook, everything comes from people you know. On StumbleUpon it comes from people that you don't necessarily know but share your interests.
How often do you discover a new site you've never heard of using StumbleUpon?
Every day. Sometimes several times a day. If you don't find a new website when you Stumble, we've failed.
Sounds like you don't spend a lot of time going to www.huffingtonpost.com or www.nytimes.com. Do you predict news organizations' websites and homepages will become obsolete as we increasingly turn to social networks to get our news?
I don't know if they'll be obsolete, but they will be more personalized. There will always be one non-personalized slot [for whatever is a breaking story], but most of the content will be personalized to you. StumbleUpon is an example of 100% personalized content. I think most newspapers will be 80% personalized, with some of the content personalized to the specific publication.
Do you see a trend toward cyberbalkanization--that is, that we're shutting ourself off to content that does not coincidence without existing viewpoints or interests?
That's why we're doing StumbleUpon--so people don't get pigeonholed. We've intentially kept some randomness in there because it will broaden your horizons. We could just show you your 3 favorite sites, but that's not really going to educate or surprise people or expand their horizons.