This is a very rare rant ... I almost never do so, but have been so inspired by the actions of a few narrow minded and misguided individuals who propose to speak for the masses when questions about Stumbleupon are asked.
For those of you who know me, I've become an avid stumbler. I absolutely love Stumbleupon. Where I used to sit on the couch and watch History and Discovery Channels late at night, I have now at least partially replaced that time with time spent Stumbling and Digging. I want to be clear too ... I'm not stumbling just anything and everything. I'm a quality kinda guy, rather than quantity. I've been fortunate to have some great submissions over time, and I'm getting better weekly at knowing where to find more. There is absolutely NOTHING questionable about my SU profile ... it is spotless!
So, imagine my surprise when I see a couple of negative profile reviews for myself. Immediately, I suspect these people have not read my profile or submissions, because I'm quite proud of everything I've stumbled and submitted. As I said, I spend considerable time trying to find new and interesting pieces. It seems they're focusing in on me not because of specific issues they've found, but rather because of my profession (SEO, SEM, SMM - Search Engine Optimisation, Search Engine Marketing, and Social Media Marketing) ... which I've been very open about (I link to our site from my profile ... I'm not trying to hide anything).
In the end, I couldn't really care one way or the other about the comments posted by a few naive individuals. I'll take it as a necessary right of passage ... I'm on the scene baby! I'm just disappointed that Stumble permits such cowardly behaviour from completely anonymous profiles. I can also see where if unchecked, this will ultimately lead for Stumbleupon, and why they should start to address such issues now, rather than maintain the status quo. Let me explain ...
Types of and Reasons for StumbleUpon Vigilantes:
1) Real vigilantes only exist, because they perceive that they are being wronged, and that those with the bestowed power to help prevent those wrongs, are doing nothing to right the situation. Therefore, the vigilante feels powerless, and takes matters into his/her own hands. Cudos to them right?
2) False Vigilantes are something I suspect occur in the real world too, but certainly Stumble provides them with a superior forum. False Vigilantes want you to think they are acting as vigilantes, but in fact are up to something far more sinister. They are often personal enemies or competing businesses, but the possibility of anonymity on Stumble permits them to carry out their evils under the guise of vigilantes. These false vigilantes utlimately want to do damage, and within the Stumbleupon realm, this means engaging in a campaign of slander with the intention of undermining someone's creditibility.
Who Do These Vigilantes Speak For?
I spent some time thinking about exactly this question, and it occured to me; these vigilantes are really just self-appointed high priests of Stumble ... unannointed as they are. They are accountable to noone, which is presumably why they maintain anonymity. Anonymity has a way of permitting people to act out their own alter egos ... they can try behaviours they wouldn't possibly attempt in real life.
Go with me here for a moment here and lets assume these are the real vigilantes, and not competitors. In reality, these people are 21st century witch hunters. They burn me at the stake because they believe my profession is to blame ... burn first, ask questions later. They presume to speak for the population at large and accordingly place themselves as the head of censorship and propoganda, as well as rule maker, cop, judge, jury, and executioner. Its a good rouse really ... at least in a virtual world. Because they are not acting as themselves, they do not have to be responsible nor accountable.
"In reality, they (Stumbleupon vigilantes) are the 21st century witch hunters".
The truth of the matter is that the vigilantes speak only for themselves, their own self interests, and a small group of followers giving them a gang type mentality. They disguise their actions as 'best for the masses', but spend no time considering the consequences of their actions, or they would have come to the innevitable conclusion that in fact their actions are harmful to Stumbleupon.
Implications of Stumbleupon Vigilantes:
To be truthful, I've always had a sympathetic ear for vigilante types. In this case though, there are some serious concequences to letting such Stumbleupon Vigilantes continue unchecked, such as:
- a) Stumbleupon becomes a forum for the misguided and/or dillusional to have their voices heard, and since they can maintain complete anonymity and live out their alter ego ... they can become near virtual terrorists for those trying to maintain a real (ie. not anonymous) profile.
b) Enemies and competitors are certain to seek you out in such a forum, as once again reputable people are subject to the intimidations and slander of those anonymous profiles
c) as we are already seeing with Digg, posses of vigilantes will form, to snuff out submissions that are contrary to their beliefs. Just as friend networks evolve, so too will the vigilante posses. There will be a substantial amount of collateral damage (completely innocent Stumblers harmed in the process).
Ultimately, the legitimate profiles (those of actual people ... using real names, and showing restraint, responsibility, and accountability) will be increasingly pushed underground to use anonymous profiles. This is almost an inevitability given Stumble's current status quo mentality. Virtually everyone will have to assume one or more fake personas.
What Can be Done About Stumble Upon Vigilantism?:
In the end, the solution resides solely with Stumbleupon. They, and only they, have the power to put an end to Stumble Vigilantism. The Real vigilantes are doing what they think is best. False vigilantes will attempt to get away with whatever they can. The responsibility therefore resides solely with Stumbleupon.
So I'll leave the question with Stumbleupon, as well as one piece of advice.
Stumbleupon, what are you prepared to do to prevent these types of vigilantes from carrying out witch hunts, leading to the degredation of your site?
Here's my tip; anonymity is a huge part of the problem. Restrict (not remove) the abilities of anonymous users, and permit real users with real accountabilities will be permitted to reign. Otherwise, many innocent people will be burned at the stake in the name of Stumbleupon, only to realize later that it wasn't in fact witchcraft, but actually science.