StumbleUpon (or Where My Nights Go)

I’ve always considered myself a night owl — much to my chagrin, I also wake up very early (thanks, mom).  One of my favorite things to do late at night after a long, hard day of … well, whatever it is I’m doing that day … is to Stumble.  Stumble?  Yes, Stumble in that old-fashioned, TV way.  It’s channel surfing for the internet.
When I came across this service, it was only a Firefox plug-in.  Luckily, Firefox was the browser I was using (though recently, there has been some market-share growth in my browser loyalty from others) and I thought it sounded interesting.  I came to find there are multiple levels to being part of StumbleUpon, though I finally settled on the outermost one.
It’s built (or billed) as a social networking site — meet people, share interests, grow the community.  There are three main buttons on the toolbar that is installed with the Firefox plug-in: Stumble (Logo), I like it! (thumbs up), and Not-for-me (thumbs down).  But before you start using these buttons, you create a profile that allows you to check certain boxes of interest.  Let’s say, for instance, that I’m interested in Soccer, Linux, Technology, Video Games, Acting, and Theatre (there can be more, but for the sake of brevity we’ll use these).  When I check these boxes and click the Stumble button, it gives me a seemingly-random page from one of these categories.
How do these pages get into these categories?  This is where the social networking part comes in…  (They have a neat little diagram that explains it).

Basically, all the users find these pages and then categorize them.  What’s really amazing about this is that even if you search for a specific page you’ve found whilst stumbling, you will usually have a difficult time finding it.  So, it opens your world to new and exciting pages you’d never find on your own — even if you were looking for that specific page!
When I first started, I was using the “I like it!” and “Not-for-me” buttons, however, these days I just click the Stumble button — making me what’s known as a “leecher” in the torrent world, but in this respect, I feel it’s not as bad — true, I’m not adding anything to the pile of pages, but at least I’m spreading the word about it, right?
StumbleUpon has now opened its doors to many other browsers.  It is no longer Firefox exclusive, however, I still feel the most satisfied in my stumbling experience whilst using Firefox (it seems the most stable and the fastest).  My advice to you is to try out this wonderful service.  You can be as involved or as uninvolved as you want, and of course it’s FREE.  You have nothing to lose but your time… and you will lose time to this.  But I wouldn’t necessarily consider it “losing,” more like “finding a new outlet.”
My favorite story of stumbling is the time I discovered Ubuntu.  I never would’ve discovered it (well, I would’ve have now because it’s blowing up, but I found it while it was still in infancy) had it not been for this service.  So, thanks StumbleUpon!
Come join the legions of Stumblers and click your way into new and exciting worlds.  Who knows, you might just “stumble upon” your next hobby.