The internet is entropic: it gets over-familiar and even dull unless it is constantly refreshed, regenerated and re-explored. There is so much out there, though you wouldn’t necessarily believe it if you observed most people’s browsing habits. Only rarely do you see people, in libraries for instance, straying beyond corporate (hotmail, yahoo, google) limits.
This is why Stumble Upon is so revolutionary. With Google-awareness reducing randomicity, this truly random (but also community-minded) extension for Firefox and Internet Explorer brings fresh horizons within the contexts you’re interested in. Also, by giving it a thumbs up or a thumbs down and by trusting your fellow stumblers, you prevent spammers from overwhelming the system.
By way of example, here are the sites it has thrown up in the last twenty minutes:
Stereotypes – a simple exercise in morphing features from different people into uncanny, mongrel combinations. Thumbs up.
Peter Stanwick – Vector art, commercial product. Thumbs down.
Rock, paper, Saddam – silly, American flash joke. Send it in an email if you’re David Brent.
The Invisible Library – A Borgesian exercise in cataloguing all the books that only exist inside other books. Fascinating.
Inter-Face – Briefly amusing manipulation of a face.
Instant Jackson Pollock – clever, but ….
Very occasionally, I will bookmark these Stumble Upon pages but more often I’m glad they are one-offs – brief moments of surprise, pleasure and play …
I realise with this last word that I’m still buzzing with ideas gleaned from the interview I conducted this morning with Pat Kane, whose Play Ethic book was partly inspired by these incredible extrusions of internet collaboration.
One site Kane recommended was World Changing, which is apparently a collection of open source geeks combining knowledge to save the world. 21 stumblers agree so far.