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10 February, 2007

Augmented Serendipity

Serendipity is a wonderful thing. Don’t you just love it when it happens? Well, I’ve discovered a way to make it happen more often – on the Web at least.

Those of you with keen eyes and not much to do will have noticed the button, labelled ‘StumbleUpon’, down at the bottom of the right-hand column of this page. StumbleUpon is a Web service that allows you to find websites that might be of interest to you and to record the fact that you found a particular page interesting. Honestly, you should try this. Go to the StumbleUpon site and download the toolbar for your browser (only Internet Explorer and Firefox are supported, I believe – sorry, Safari users.) You will be asked to select a range of topics in which you are interested. Don’t be satisfied with the first lot offered but click the ‘more topics’ button and tick as many as you like.

When the StumbleUpon toolbar is installed, you will have a new set of buttons across the top of your browser. The leftmost of these is called ‘Stumble!’. Click this and it will pick a website, based on your preferences, that other StumbleUpon users have recommended. The very first time I clicked it, I got The Size of Our World which is a wonderful and disturbing page (or, to use Daughter's favourite word, it is 'awesome'). I clicked again, just now and found a site called Breathing Earth – which is just plain scary! (or 'awesome' as Daughter would say.) The point is, this service really works. It delivers the kind of pages I find really interesting.

Further along your new toolbar, you will see a 'thumbs up' button called ‘I like it!’ (It should be called 'Awesome!' really, I suppose.) Whenever you come across a page you like, just click this button. This then adds it to the pool of recommended pages for others to discover. (I’m hoping that kind and generous people will give my blog entries the thumbs up from time to time – it’s a kind of advertising, you see.) If StumbleUpon delivers a page that you don’t like, you can click the thumbs down button, to let it know – thus fine-tuning your preferences and helping serendipity along just a little more.

Augmented serendipity. Don’tcha just love the Web?

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