Visualizing StumbleUpon Top Users And Their Friends

Stumble Network

There has been some great analysis of StumbleUpon top users and of the StumbleUpon algorithm, but there has been little examination of the relationship between StumbleUpon users and their friends. After coming across interesting complex data visualization tools we wanted to visualize the stumblesphere of top users.

“Data visualization is the new rock and roll”. Hmm, ok, maybe that’s a bit much, but data visualization tools can certainly help to make complex data easier to understand. After seeing some pretty impressive data visualizations of social networks for and Scouta, it occurred to us that it might be interesting to try and visualize the StumbleUpon network.

We’re still getting to grips with more complex tools, but using the excellent Many Eyes tools by IBM, we were able to examine the relationships between top StumbleUpon users and their friends. We decided to look at StumbleUpon top users because we hadn’t seen a visualization of the top users network before, but you can use the ManyEyes tool to look at your own relationships in social networks. Here are just a few benefits of visualizing your own social circle:


See a network as a whole
It’s much easier to see how a network interacts as a whole when you can visualize it.

Relationships are much easier to spot
t’s much easier to spot mutual friends and other connections you may have with people.

Makes you think differently
A visualization of a social network makes you see the world in a different way. It’s easier to reflect on the nature of your relationships with people when you see it mapped out in front of you.

You don’t need to be a scientist
Traditionally you would probably need some computer skills or a scientific background to be able to visualize data. While some tools have quite a steep learning curve, we found Many Eyes to be very easy to use and it proves that you can

If you click below you can see the StumbleUpon top users network for yourself. If you use StumbleUpon, try to see if you can spot yourself on there.

  • All the data was taken on March 1st 2008 so there could have be a few changes to the top 40 over the last few days.
  • It wasn’t possible to look at two of the top 40 profile pages as StumbleUpon said these accounts were due to be deleted.
  • The ManyEyes tool allows you to use the data that we’ve collected. If you do decide to use the data for any purpose then leave a link in a comments section and we’ll add it to the page.

Top 38 Users


In theory, it should be easier to identify potential influencers on StumbleUpon using this data.So lets look at two different StumbleUpon users, BlackLotus90 and SvetlanaG. BlackLotus90 was on the top stumblers list when the data was collected and SvetlanaG wasn’t. Lets look at SvetlanaG’s friends network and see how you don’t need to be a top stumbler to be influential:

SvetlanaG StumbleUpon Network

SvetlanaG was not on the top users list when we collected the data. When you look at the picture, the larger the circle is, the more friends that user has. So you can see that SvetlanaG is friends with 5 top users (1 user is missing from this picture, but you can check for yourself)

Compare this to BlackLotus90 who is a top StumbleUpon user. As we can see from the picture below, he isn’t linked to any other top user.

BlackLotus90 StumbleUpon Network
Does this mean that BlackLotus90 is less influential than SvetlanaG because he doesn’t know as many top stumblers? In theory, it does, but the closeness of the connections matters more than the number of connections. You could make friends with all the top users but if you have nothing in common it’s really a pointless exercise. It’s far better to become StumbleUpon friends with people who share similar interests to you and try to make genuine lasting connections.

After examining the data, I agree with this article on DoshDosh that breaking into the top stumblers list shouldn’t be your main goal. Work on building up lasting relationships instead.

Quality content correctly tagged will eventually send you traffic anyway.The benefits of StumbleUpon are not in the traffic it can send but in the connections you make.

Despite this, obviously some people are competitive by nature and want to break into the top users list. If you’re more competitive than Rocky, and you want to be a top StumbleUpon user then the following tips will help you:

Be the first to stumble quality content
Being the first to stumble a page that subsequently becomes popular is more likely to help you become a top stumbler than having lots of friends, reviews and fans.

Only stumble quality content
Trying to frantically stumble any post you see won’t make you a top stumbler and isn’t necessary. Just use StumbleUpon to submit quality articles that you think people might like to read. This will make your own StumbleUpon experience more enjoyable as you’ll only be shown pages you actually have an interest in.

You don’t need lots of friends, fans or reviews
There were some people on the top stumblers list with fewer than 10 friends and not very many reviews of their page. If the top users list is based on anything, then the number of friends, fans or reviews of your page don’t appear to play a very important role in becoming a top stumbler.

Anyway, don’t concentrate on trying to become a top stumbler, just have fun and make some friends!

We’re still getting to grips with some other data visualization software and we’ll be following up with some more detailed analysis of networks over the next few weeks. Signup for our RSS feed if you want to keep updated.

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16 Readers have left their thoughts

  1. That’s a really great article! I didn’t know about the “many eyes” application, I’ll check it out now.
    I agree that you don’t need to have many top stumblers as friends to promote your content, but I also have some objections.
    You say that ” the closeness of the connections matters more than the number of connections.” It is true, but there have been studies, which prove the opposite.
    If we apply Granovetter’s study about the “strength of weak ties” on social networks, we will see that in social networks, distant acquaintances (occasional friendship with top stumblers) can bring you much more traffic than the one from your strong ties (your good friends in SU). That happens because it is very likely that your best friends are actually friends with each other. So the information is actually recycled among them.
    But getting stumbled by a top user, who actually doesn’t have the same interests as you, will bring your post to a completely new audience.

    If we want to keep the subject explicitly in traffic terms, one should try to keep an equilibrium of strong and weak ties.
    Have many close friends but don’t exclude other, weaker connections.
    But in the end, I agree with you:
    “don’t concentrate on trying to become a top stumbler, just have fun and make some friends!”

    sorry for the extensive comment…

  2. Hi robojiannis, no need to apologise for an extensive comment, you’ve raised some interesting points…

    I think it’s hard to say definitively if strong or weak ties are more important. I was going by the recent study on social networks and obesity carried out by Nicholas A. Christakis,

    And the greatest influence of all was between close mutual friends. There, if one became obese, the other had a 171 percent increased chance of becoming obese, too. …

    I do agree that if you want to attract more traffic that you need to go beyond your close circle of friends. The power of your friends thumbing up a page seems to diminish each time they stumble the same domain. I just think it’s a bit pointless on StumbleUpon to make lots of weak connections with people for the sake of traffic as if content is correctly tagged and good enough you’ll usually get visitors anyway.

    But your points definitely raise interesting questions. I think the nature of networks means they are difficult to study. I like the comment in the article by Alan Alda, who says that the only way to study the influence of people on one another is for people from a number of different fields to begin studying networks.

    I think he’s probably right; it might have to involve A.I, such as Swarm Robotics along with the studies of animals/insects, psychology and sociology to even begin to understand the complexities of a network. Thanks for the comment, it’s definitely something to think about. If you come across any other interesting studies, then feel free to email me.

  3. Thanks for the mention. I appreciate it.

  4. It is interesting to see how different studies on social networks bring different results. I suppose it depends on the social network.
    Granovetter is referring to individuals looking for a job in their social network, while Cristakis speaks of a more tight social network.

    I also find it very interesting in the web’s social networks, that at a first look there are no weak or strong ties. They are all the same. You cannot click on a friend of yours in SU and make him/her a very good friend (although I think I saw such a plugin lately).

    Anyway, once again great post.

  5. I’ve got a lot of time for StumbleUpon. It’s so damn easy to use and the rewards are manifold.

    But I’ll be damned if I can see the sense in the 200 mutual from cap.

    That said, I’ve been told that there’s a way around it, which to be honest, I’d rather not incur the wrath of the powers-that-be.

    I use StumbleUpon to find good stuff, to share good stuff and make good contacts.

    Not being a very competitive person, ranking highly is someway back there in my rear-view mirror…

  6. An interesting article, and it was cool to see myself mentioned :) I’ve been a top stumbler for many months, and never really thought much about it. The SU system rewards people who use the toolbar to genuinely share their interests.

    As far as I know, “top stumblers” don’t have any more influence simply because of their title. It is really not something worth striving for (although it feels good to see your name up there).

    I have contributed a huge amount of sites to SU. I stumble almost every day (almost out of my body’s own volition; one time my toolbar was gone and I just kept reflexively moving my mouse up there as if to click “stumble). I think I’m a top user because I stumble sites that a lot of people like me also find very interesting. I try to write a thorough 1 or two sentences about new sites that I submit and I give them many tags. It’s about being a user who can contribute a lot to the overall community, and being balanced in reviewing, liking, friends, etc.

    I did not aim to get into the top 30 for any reason, it simply happened. I think that you stand a good chance if you rank and tag a lot of new pages as well as rating most that you come across, but I also stick to my opinion that you should only stumble pages you like. Having photo stumbles will often increase the aesthetics of your blog, but don’t worry about it if that’s not your thing, even with only a couple webcomics interspersed in my text stumbles, I made it to the top 30. Another thing is to be transparent. I see the majority of stumblers as being people who are interested in finding out about others’ interests, so just be yourself.

  7. Hi Wayne, thanks for commenting. Yeah, I know a few people who are disappointed by the 200 friends limitation. More annoyingly, StumbleUpon seems to make you enter a security code now when you want to leave a review.

    Hi BlackLotus90 – I think you hit the nail on the head with this line, “It’s about being a user who can contribute a lot to the overall community, and being balanced in reviewing, liking, friends, etc.”

    Glad you enjoyed the article. I like the idea of the “reflexive stumble”. I can see that becoming a medical condition over the next few years…

  8. Hi Chris, a friend of mine hit the CAPTCHA t’other day. She wasn’t best pleased.

    In principle, it’s a great idea — for those new to StumbleUpon.

    But given that I’m a paid member, aren’t I trusted enough to not spam everyone?

    I find it odd how so many people can misjudge something so badly…

  9. Hi Wayne – have you agree with you about the CAPTCHA code. Seems fair enough for new members or people with not many stumbles, but for anybody who has been a member (especially a paid member) for a longer period of time or has stumbled lots of interesting pages it seems like a really unnecessary.

  10. Hm..some things are really dificult to understand, but all in all it’s very useful :)

  11. really a great article. I did not know that before. everything to see visualized is very interesting.

  1. friends - Mar 8th, 2008