Sunday, December 17, 2006

Stumbling onto the best ... and worst ... and most indifferent ... of the web

I was just named Time's Person of the Year. Before you congratulate me (or assume I'm joking) - so were you. For its annual honour, the magazine chose all Internet users. I'm still working on my acceptance speech.

Despite that, and despite the fact that I've obviously embraced the Internet as a hobby and partly as a career, I've never been much of a web surfer. Nowadays, I generally keep track of my favourite sites through RSS feeds, only regularly visiting those without easy RSS access or whose comments are part of the fun. My favourites evolve gradually, but it tends to take a lot for a new site to enter my consciousness and, more importantly, my news reader.

I still haven't even really jumped on the YouTube bandwagon, because I don't have the patience to navigate the site to find the gold hidden in the dross. Friends and my favourite sites are my own personal filter to the madness that is online video, which means I see the videos everyone on the planet has already seen first.

Because of that, or in spite of that, I was happy at the news that StumbleUpon has introduced the new StumbleVideo. The beauty of StumbleUpon is that you can rate the random sites you land on and it learns your tastes in order to refine the sites it shows you. I think it uses magic. Or it compares your tastes to other users' tastes.

Like the original StumbleUpon for websites, with StumbleVideo you can narrow down the categories you're most interested in, or stumble across all of them. You'll still end up sorting through a lot of mind-numbingly bad videos, but a quick thumbs down and stumble can rescue you from boring videos and improve future results.

While my addiction to StumbleVideo is likely to be as brief as my addiction to the original flavour StumbleUpon, for now it opens up a whole new world - but a targeted world - that my relatively small cyberworld wouldn't normally expose me to. Have you seen the one about Diet Coke and Mentos?