Stumbleupon Vigilantes – Friend or Foe of Stumble?

by Jeff Quipp December 31st, 2007 

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).

Stumbleupon Negative Review Screenprint

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 …

Stumble Vigilantism:

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".

Stumbleupon Vigilantes - 21st Century Witch Hunt

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.

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17 Responses to “Stumbleupon Vigilantes – Friend or Foe of Stumble?”

  1. elaine says:

    What in the hell are SEO, SMM and SEM? I clicked this article to discover what horrid profession is worthy of attack, and after reading the whole thing I still don't know. Could you be a little more specific for the benefit of us lesser beings who are not a member of the club?
    Thanks, Elaine

  2. Elaine, those acronyms are search marketing phrases. They refer to niche industries whose mainstay is based around search engines and social media. The acronyms stand for Search Engine Optimization, Social Media Marketing, and Search Engine Marketing.

    Jeff, I only see 2 negative reviews of you, and honestly, after looking over their profiles I don't understand why it affected you as much as it seems to have done. They both belong to an anti-spam group on SU:
    http://spm-free.group.stumbleupon.com/forum/

    While it seems to originally have been formed for resources to combat or bitch about email spam, it looks like those guys and others have taken to use it to vent over finding things they just aren't interested in on SU. Quite frankly they sound very similar to the fanatics over at ihelpyou, bunch of low self esteemed individuals trying to convince themselves how much better they are than everyone else because others have committed fictional wrongs in their eyes. Yes, spam is not a good thing, and yes, even SU gets spammed sometimes… doesn't mean every person who bitches and moans about it is in the right.

    I wouldn't let them bug ya. One thing you might want to consider doing though is if you do submit an industry blog post, do it under either the Search or Marketing tag, instead of just generic Internet, which it looks like you have done in the past.

  3. Jeff Quipp says:

    @ elaine – thanks for the comment. I've added the full terminology into this document to clarify for anyone else :)

    @ Michael – I know there's only 2, and to be quite honest it doesn't upset me that much, I just believe there's potential for this to get outta hand. I like to address things well in advance of them becoming more serious issues. Agree with you completely about being low self-esteemed and misguided individuals; that's why I compared them to witch hunters. Great advice though … thanks Michael!

  4. Simonne says:

    StumbleUpon is a great place. Just don't pay attention to those witch hunters, because they are anywhere. If we spent our lives trying to please everybody, we'd have a very difficult time, so I'd say you shouldn't bother at all. This would have been a warning in case somebody you respect would have thumbed you down. But this is not the case.

  5. The good name of SEO has been ruined for a while now. When I introduce myself at parties tech even, people snob me or get quarrelsome. Unfortunately, for some, SEO has the same ring as "injury lawyer" or "ticket scalper." The prejudice towards known SEOs and linkbaiters on Digg / Reddit / SU is well-known. If the flack becomes too much, it helps to camouflage your site and remove references to SEO, as this will strike up strong negative opinions by some community vigilantes. While I feel your frustration, as a social media community member as well as a marketer I understand why some people get over-protective of their favorite sites and want to keep it free of commercial content.

    One thing I have noticed is that the Digg community is much more open to social media and blogging tip articles than they were a year ago, when it was almost strictly forbidden.

  6. Matt Ridout says:

    Great post Jeff.

    You actually beat me to it for the topic. I have even received personal threats because I stood up to one of them.

    I suspect that more people will start thumbing down as SU basically suggested doing so as a measure of quality control.

    All I do is report these people to SU and flag their account, I imagine if they do it enough they will eventually get banned. NC2K is the same guy lol.

  7. Jeff Quipp says:

    @ BrettFromTibet – agreed Brett … SEO has got a bad rap. I thought this was what SEMPO should be trying to fix, but see virtually no effort in that direction from them. As you've alluded to, fortunately there are ways to hide my profession … unfortunate as is may be. Thanks for the comment!

    @ Matt … thanks for the comment. Yeah, I saw he targeted you too. What a fool though … your piece had nothing to do with scamming Stumble. In fact, it generated money for Stumble since your post raised the possibility of paying a fee to sponsor … so I did. In the end, you helped Stumble.

  8. Hopefully the positive, active, dare I say "real" users will always control the flow and power of StumbleUpon, unlike Digg. This is horrible though, I joined Stumble a few months back in hopes of avoiding vigilantes.

  9. robwatts says:

    Just to echo what I said at Sphinn, I'd ignore them too Jeff. I too once had a neg review on my SU account from someone who objected to my reaction to her negative comment, who then followed it up privately in an email that betrayed her soul for the dark place that it was.

    SEO for some it seems, still has that snakeoil like connotation that some people will feel more than happy to jump on and say hey, look at this evil guttersnipe.

    Best ignored if you ask me, anyone who knows your SU profile knows the true score of the matter.

  10. Jam and Jelly says:

    I am confused when you say, "[you 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."

    I still couldn't find in your article who these people are that you are referencing as speaking for StumbleUpon.

    Were you speaking about the two negative reviews of you?

  11. Jeff Quipp says:

    @ Jam and Jelly … yes I am talking about the negative reviews of my profile. I'm didn't want to identify them … not really my style.

  12. Jam and Jelly says:

    Okay. Well I guess I fail to see how you think the two negative reviews are speaking for StumbleUpon. [In other words, why aren't any of the positive reviews you received speaking for StumbleUpon?] In the image alone, I see 4 pros and 2 cons.

    Every one Stumble member has the ability to thumb down and negatively review any site based on their opinion. Even if that opinion is based in ignorance or education or hate or love or whatever…

    I have never seen in the TOS where it states, "…and be careful when you review because you are speaking for StumbleUpon as an entity."

    I guess my problem is your perception. I understand your feelings were hurt. I do so get that. But then you make this long post almost like it's a "lynch mob who are going around and speaking for StumbleUpon" when it just looked like two people did not like your content and shared their opinions on it.

    I say, hide the reviews and move on about your business. As an SU member for 4 years or so and getting my first negative review three years after being a member and based in something completely absurd…I had to realize then two things:

    A.] There is no such thing – even on StumbleUpon – as being pleasing to all the people all the time. and
    B.] Stupid people are on Stumble with greater frequency than non-stupid people.

    Once this perspective has been reached within yourself I think you'll let reviews like this just glide like water off a ducks back.

    Be well.

  13. Tyfus says:

    Are you sure we are witch hunters? You couldn't find any comparison that would be more inappropriate? Why not call us nazis, so you can be a poor persecuted jew or gypsy?

    Burned at the stake, what a laugh.

    As for the negative reviews: suck it up instead of whining to high heaven. Some people do not like your kind, they are just expressing that feeling.

  14. Tyfus says:

    Also, I noticed you have a positive review by artsytina wedged between the two whole negatives that prompted you to write this screed. Why don't you write an article about what people like her are doing to SU, if you're really worried about that.

  15. Jeff Quipp says:

    Ahhhh Tyfus … nice of you to enlighten us with your opinion. I'm quite ok with the negative reviews Tyfus … considering the sources. I just think that type of ignorance could be a bigger problem for stumble in the long term if left unchecked for the reasons I mentioned, so thought I'd raise it on the radar of some. Anonymity is something that passive agressive paranoids will thrive on, and be drawn to!

    Witch hunt is the perfect comparison … a few or a group of people seeking out people of a certain profession … and attempting to punish them to protect the rest of the masses. You call it what you want. Yes … you're certainly cleansing Stumble.

  16. Tyfus says:

    Dude, I'm not Anonymous. There's a link to the webpage of my house in my profile, I've never tried to hide my identity and I'm perfectly fine with people knowing who I am on the internet.

    I like how you're still protecting your choice of ridiculously overwrought metaphor. How many SEO people have been tortured to make them confess their sins against the internet and their pact with Satan? Don't you see the difference between a couple of pixels on a screen and thousands and thousands of people being burned to death?

    Also, I love how you hint at my passive aggressive paranoia, while your whole article is literally dripping with the stuff.

  17. Jeff Quipp says:

    Tyfus … cudos to you at least for engaging me in debate. I think the conversation has run its course now though. You'll obviously continue on your path, and I on mine. Do expect such reactions though when you slight people (and not their actions) with no real justification, much as I'll have to expect it being an SEO.