Sep 02, 2013, 06:13AM

Perusing StumbleUpon Interest Categories

The 523 topics are varied, if nerdy and paranoid.

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Part of my job as an editor is to put our Splice Today content out over social media. I was not a big “Stumbler” until my boss asked me to put more of our stories on StumbleUpon. So I did, and I honestly started enjoying the act of “Stumbling,” wherein you basically hit the Stumble button and random things come up based on what categories or interests you’ve chosen as relevant to you.

When I post a Splice (or any other) story to StumbleUpon, I am asked to select an “Interest,” meaning a category or story topic. So I have to scroll down this list every day. To give you some perspective, Splice Today has 12 “departments” or categories on our front page. My personal blog (Pajamas and Coffee) has 15. StumbleUpon has 507. Five hundred and seven. Plus another 16 under “NSFW” for a full total of 523.

Founded in 2001, the site was sold to eBay at one point and then bought back. Rumors of its demise (30 percent of the staff was laid off in January, going from 110 to 75 employees after a 27% decline in outgoing traffic) seem exaggerated; though current numbers are hard to find, StumbleUpon announced over a year ago that they had more than 25 million registered users. It’s no Twitter (they went from 100 million to 200 million in a year) or Facebook (1.1 billion), but StumbleUpon traffic has made a huge jump this year according to their Alexa ranking, which shows them at #118 in the US and 185 globally. Not shabby.

Okay, that was probably the most numbers I’ve ever put into a paragraph. I now have a math headache.

My point is this: in using the site every day, I have noticed some interesting trends among the categories, for which I honestly wish they would create drop-downs (if there were 50 instead of 507, I could go down to Sports to look for Baseball, Beverages could have Beer, Wine and Alcoholic Drinks nested under it, etc). Suddenly I want my job to be organizing StumbleUpon topics, but they’d really need someone with more OCD.

Consider: Facebook and StumbleUpon have their own categories, but not Twitter, and annoyingly there’s no Social Media category. Who are the people choosing these? You can actually figure out some things about them based on their topic picks. Birds and Bird Watching have separate categories. Do Fish, Fishing and Flyfishing all need separate slots? We can guess a little about where they are in the world by the fact that Cricket and Squash have their own spots, but you have to look in the A’s to find “American” Football; plain old Football doesn’t have a category. Judging by the relatively high number of technology-related categories (Hacking? And Windows and Windows Dev have separate slots), it seems likely those choosing categories tend to the nerdy (see also: Roleplaying Games). There are categories for things I’d have to Google if I wanted to know what they are: C.A.D., Nanotech, P2P, PHP, Perl. They also may be a little oddball/paranoid, considering these topics: A.I., Conspiracies, Chaos/Complexity, Encryption, Futurism and UFOs.

What needs to be fixed? It may be nitpicky, but it drives me nuts style-wise that the first letter of the second word in a category name is capitalized sometimes, sometimes not. Other pet peeves: For Kids shows up in “F” where no one would find it and there is already just Kids. The Babes category needs to come out. It’s sexist. Really. And besides, the NSFW drop-down that shows up when you check the box offers all kinds of porny stuff: BDSM, Fetish Sexuality, and whatever the hell “Hentai Anime” is. I’d have to Google it, but probably wouldn’t Stumble it.


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