Hot on the heels of a posting titled 'Differentiate (Your Avatar) or Die' by Michael (aka planetc1) over at Sphinn, and following the unique experince had recently by one of the ladies here in our office, I was prompted to create an avatar experiment and then test it. Essentially, she (our female staff member) changed her StumbleUpon avatar, and upon doing so, her friend count increased very quickly with virtually no effort.

Now, I'm sure many of you have theories about this, but it certainly caused many of us at SEP to chat and theorize in the office. After much debate, we hypothesized that:

The Hypothesis:
a "Cute woman" avatar would likely result in more friends, given the same effort, than an absolutely drop dead gorgeous woman, as its more likely that the cute girl is real and wasn't created specifically to garner friends. We also hypothsized that both women would generate more friends organically than a guy's avatar.

So ... we thought we'd design an experiment to test our hypothesis.

Two Girls and a Guy
Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox from Movie "Two Girls and a Guy"

The Experiment:

a) Create 3 separate Stumbleupon profiles with 3 different avatars, one for each character:

    1) Drop Dead Gorgeous Female - subjective yes, but all the straight guys in the office agreed
    2) Cute Female - again subjective, but all the guys in the office agreed
    3) A Guy - just an average guy ... but the gay guys in the office liked him

We decided to keep the text profile for each remarkably similar to reduce the probability that something other than the avatar would impact the experiment.

b) Next, we identified 200ish Stumblers in the given space. I can't release specifics to protect the innocent :).

c) Then, we monitored and reported the number of people who became "mutual friends" of each profile.

The Results:

The Avatar (Mutual Friends)
The Guy (14)
The Cute Woman (17)
The Gorgeous Woman (18)

meaning the extremely attractive female secured 29% more friends naturally, than did the man. Not certain whether or not its statistically significant, but it is significant none-the-less.

Disclaimers:
We isolated as many variables as possible, but are not scientists ... so take everything with a grain of salt.
Do not try this experiment at home! :)

Conclusions:
1) Indeed, your avatar does appear to affect your organic popularity on StumbleUpon ... something I think we all intuitively understood anyway. Now, I'm not advocating creating false avatars, but certainly you should always portray yourself in the best possible light.

Other Interesting Findings:
2) Females are much less likely than males to befriend someone they don't know ... even other females.

3) Between 5-10% of the StumbleUpon population will friend you if you friend them first, even with absolutely no history. These percentages will obviously increase if you communicate with them in some fashion.

All in all, and interesting and fun study.