Google RSS Reader finally allows social bookmarking

One of my guilty confessions is that I’ve been doing less linking and sharing of other sites on places like Stumbleupon recently than in the past.

A major reason for that is that I’m generally going through my reading on the train in Google RSS reader, and not actually visiting sites. Combine the slow speed of the onboard wifi with the hassle of coming out of my RSS feed to recommend things on a regular basis, and you might be sympathetic as to why it’s a bit of a hassle.

But no longer – in addition to the places which allow me to import my RSS shared items (Friendfeed, Publish 2 etc), Google’s Matt Cutts revealed today that Google Reader now has a ‘send to’ option for Twitter, Stumbleupon, Digg etc from within the feedreader, and that you can also set it up for sites which aren’t currently listed.

Like him, it’s a feature I’ve wanted since I started using Google for RSS reading, and combined with the improved social tools for sharing and following with other Google RSS readers (And with an 84% share in one example, there’s quite a few!), and RSS is back in the game alongside sharing links on Twitter etc.

(Incidentally, to enable it, just go to settings, and it’s under the ‘Send To’ tab.)

Edit – Clarification on using Stumbleupon properly

I’ve been thinking about a comment by Ari Herzog on my post ‘Is Digg’s Day Done‘. As part of my discussion, I used the comparison with the ease of use and personal recommendation element of Stumbleupon. Ari raised the valid concern that Stumbleupon is intended for recommending index pages, and Digg is intended for deep diving into articles.

(Clarification from SU in the last 3 paragraphs clarifies index and deep level pages are both fine. The following still sets out good reasons for why the confusion has arisen)

But certainly a lot of users are using Stumbleupon for sharing and recommending individual articles and images. The question is whether this is a bad thing, or whether it benefits Stumbleupon?

A cause for confusion:

Stumbleupon itself has to share some of the blame for this in the terms used for explaining the site. While the submission tool has a ‘submit site’ option, elsewhere ‘site’ and ‘page’ are used interchangeably. For instance, the SU About page.

‘StumbleUpon helps you discover and share great websites. As you click Stumble!, we deliver high-quality pages matched to your personal preferences. These pages have been explicitly recommended by your friends or one of 5,946,251 other websurfers with interests similar to you. Rating these sites you like () automatically shares them with like-minded people – and helps you discover great sites your friends recommend.’

Bearing in mind a website can have thousands of pages, you can understand why there’s a little confusion. Again:

A simple 2-level rating system gives users the opportunity to pass on or give their opinion on any webpage with a single click.’

And certainly the Getting Started page clearly seems to say either choosing websites, or webpages is fine:

When you Stumble! a page or site, first thumb it, then click on to see reviews & comments made by other Stumblers, and to add one of your own

I’ve contacted Stumbleupon for clarification and an official answer, seeing as I can’t find one in About, FAQs, or the Discussion Forum!

Why Stumbling pages makes sense to individual users:

Stumbling individual pages makes more sense in a lot of circumstances than recommending an entire website on the basis of a single encounter with an article or image. If I’ve read some text or seen an image I can make a quality assessment on that piece of work immediately via the toolbar.

But to give an accurate assessment of a website could mean visiting 10, 20, or 50,000 pages or items to be able to get an idea over consistent quality – and that’s not taking into account how random a large site can be when it accepts a wide variety of authors or content submissions. Could you rate the entire Youtube site on the basis on one video? And how much would depend on whether your first encounter was with a rickroll or an mwesch anthropological study?

Why it makes more sense to publishers:

As user recommendation and rating systems become more mainstream and more numerous, publishers either need to offer the world’s longest drop down list – or pick the sites they’d most like to appear on. A site like Yahoo Buzz makes complete sense, as it’s a big gamble with big rewards of hundreds of thousands of visitors to a single article. Stumbleupon makes sense because it tends to drive a significant amount of traffic over longer periods, and with lower bounce rates, than many other sites (such as Digg), but the results are still somewhat transient. The only way to increase the amount of regular readers from such a site is to frequently have good quality content placed in front of them – which only happens when numerous pages are being submitted and highly rated.

And without the ability to raise the profile of a site with numerous pages submitted in this way, Stumblers (and users of other ranking systems) would be far more limited in sources, and only the established large scale sites would get publicity and traffic boosts of enough to make a difference.

My opinion is that Stumbleupon accepts and promotes both page and website submissions, and that’s the correct usage of the site.

Official clarification in a quick time:

And in an incredibly quick time, a message to Mr-SU got a prompt and comprehensive response:

Submitting an index page or a specific page that’s levels deep in a site are both appropriate uses of StumbleUpon. We want our members to submit the best-quality pages they discover so they can be shared with others.

So there’s some clarity. You can submit an index page, or a deep page to Stumbleupon. Therefore Stumbleupon conclusively is the best social website recommendation service as far as I can see!

Am I evil? The dark side of the web…

It’s apparently easy to be seduced by the dark side when it comes to blogging, and I never even realised it had happened.

At some point, an arbitrary line was drawn as a hang up from traditional media. The great and good subconsciously set the ethics of blogging around ‘quality’ content, a lack of advertising, and denying that anyone ever checks the rank of their blog, or sometimes submits their own content to Digg or Stumbleupon. There is a slight get-out clause if you’re already well established as an A, or possibly B-list member of the blogosphere, but essentially you have the basis of the monastic blogging community. Just keep writing open, honest, quality content and relax as the world discovers you.

Sat on the other side of the equation are the blogs which offer readers the hope of making money online, or getting to the top of whichever ranking you like using some simple tools, and by downloading an e-book on the best affiliate schemes. They love to self-promote, follow 1000s on Twitter, and are happy to recommend affiliate schemes they’ve just signed up for.  They don’t publish a lot of original content, and tend to reuse ideas from more legitimate sites like Problogger.net.

It’s a simple guide, and easy to believe in. It’s a shame it’s wrong.

For starters, with 140 million + blogs, it’s perfectly viable to publish quality content for months without anyone stumbling across it. And this monastical approach can easily lead to someone giving up, or looking for ways to self-promote themselves to at least get some eyeballs onto their blog, even if it leads to a 99% bounce rate. Increased competition in every niche means it’s ever harder to be the main tech blog, or the first mommy to write about raising a child.

Even harder to accept is the idea that others might have a different idea of what makes for quality – and that our idea of a spammy blog might actually be of value to someone who hasn’t come across the original source of the information, or might have never had the chance to attract readers without a self-submitted stumble once in a while.

That’s the hardest to accept because we’ve been taught to seek out the accepted levels of quality since childhood. We were shown Shakespeare and Dickens to aspire to, we see broadsheets as superior to the tabloids, and essays and dissertations require a minimum length to be submitted. And we act shocked when someone reverts to Anglo-Saxon.

But the truth of the matter is that the quality of a piece of work, whether blog, newspaper, or verbal tirade, is down to the individual looking at it. It’s not about an expert author carefully crafting literature – it becomes about whether it confers a value to the individual. To insert a suitably literary quote: “the death of the author is the birth of the reader.”

If we really accept that modern publishing is solely about the needs of the individual who reads and interacts with it, then we should be happy that every part of the spectrum is represented – from the ad-free academic discussing topics with other scholars, to the make money blogs offering the same get rich schemes that appear on flyers on lamposts and through our letterboxes. And we should leave it to the end users to decide which work provides them with entertainment or value, even if we do placate ourselves by perhaps offering some type of warning for scams and pyramid schemes *. Or we rank down those works we disagree with via the same voting mechanisms we use to promote and share content we value and feel is relevant to those around us.

It’s why those of us fortunate enough to be gainfully employed in roles which allow us the indulgence of blogging and social networking for work as well as pleasure should stop looking down on those who may be looking at blogging as a mechanism for fame and reward to change their lives in some way.

It’s why, when it comes to money making spam blogs: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,”

I’m looking forward to the comment which will hopefully follow. Don’t forget to Digg, Stumble, and even print this post and send it to all your friends!

*Incidentally, if any blog or website offers you the chance to make money without much effort, or with a simple automated programme, the odds are pretty high it’s a scam. Trust me. If you’re seriously looking for ways to make money online, I”d advise only listening to those who are open and honest about the fact it takes a lot of hard work and luck, as it does anywhere else!

(Cheers to @snowcialmedia for the prompt to post…it might not have been quite what you had in mind!)

The Facebook rush…

Well, the votes are in, and it seems Facebook is now the heir to the Myspace generation.
I knew people were using it in preference to general social sites, but increasingly it seems as if it’s also replacing the likes of LinkedIn for business use.

The reason seems to be that despite the attraction of niches, Facebook has enough mass to allow you to connect to a lot of people fairly quickly. It also gently restricts you to concentrating people you actually know, or had lost touch with. And it’s simple to use, to include pics and videos, and to install countless interesting applications.

I did worry the Apps would get distracting, but as long as I can avoid the more frivolous ones, there’s some interesting stuff. So far I’ve added an Instant Messaging App, a Twitter App and the feed from here…who knows what’s next…

In the meantime, I’ll still have my old profiles, and I think there’s still mileage in LinkedIn…

So if you want to drop me a connection:

Badger on Myspace
Badger on Facebook
Badger on LinkedIn
Badger on Twitter

EDIT: 10:19pm:

I just found that my StumbleUpon addiction also has a facebook app. Dammit.

New tool for website promoters/link addicts

There’s a new Firefox add-on for those people who want to submit links to Digg, Reddit, and up to 34 social bookmarking sites, without having to visit each site individually.

You’ll still need an account with each site, but Social Poster allows you to submit the same info to sites including StumbleUpon, Technorati, Newsvine, Furl, Spurl etc.

It”ll be interesting to see whether it has an effect on the sites included, as more of the same links could start appearing across all the social bookmarking sites. I’ll certainly be trying it to promote my blogs and MCN’s website with it…

More convergence for online entertainment

It seems like there’s a new story about media converging every day at the moment. Actually, it seems more like 20 per day. And most are offering something of interest.

  • StumbleUpon Video on the Ninteno Wii (Techcrunch): A good move for StumbleUpon to get word of mouth and entice all the owners of the new Nintendo console. And it’s a more efficient way of getting content that MS licensing individual companies and videos for their Live service.
  • Myspace is offering video filtering. Viacom is looking for a Youtube work around (NewTeeVee): Both these stories in the NewTeeVee round up suggest that the mighty Gootube still hasn’t won over content providers, or scared away rivals enough to be totally secure.
  • Last.fm secure music from Warner.(Downloadsquad). One music company has hitched a trailer to the social music network. How long before the others finally join up, particularly as the conversations about Digital Rights Management are generally allowing that the pirates had it right all along?