The first tutorial covered Digg and Reddit, for this one insha’Allah we’ll take a closer look at StumbleUpon.
StumbleUpon is a very interesting (and addictive) tool of social media, and it is used by a lot of people (their website boasts over 6 million users). As far as MuslimMatters is concerned, the Digg effect has nothing on StumbleUpon in terms of driving traffic to the site, and I know other websites have mentioned similar (e.g. MR).
So what exactly is StumbleUpon?
StumbleUpon is an Internet community that allows its users to discover and rate Web pages, photos, and videos. It is a personalized recommendation engine which uses peer and social-networking principles.[wiki]
Here’s how it works.
Web pages are presented when the user clicks the “Stumble!” button on the browser’s toolbar. StumbleUpon chooses which Web page to display based on the user’s ratings of previous pages, ratings by his/her friends, and by the ratings of users with similar interests. Users can rate or choose not to rate any Web page with a thumbs up or thumbs down, and clicking the Stumble button resembles “channel-surfing” the Web. There is also one-click blogging built in as well.
When you sign up for an account, you can also set your profile according to your interests. The thing I like about their interests is that it actually has a higher level of detail than most other places. You can not only select “Islam” as an interest, but you can further specify “Sunni” if you wish. On the flip side, you can even choose “Paganism” as an interest. If you’re a FOB (or European), you can even choose “cricket” as an interest.
Once you are done setting up your interests, you are ready to start ‘stumbling’ through websites. You simply hit the ‘stumble’ button on your toolbar and it will take you to a random website based on the interests you selected. You can then give the website a thumbs up or a thumbs down. Obviously, the more a website gets popular ratings in that channel, the more times StumbleUpon will display that website to other stumblers. According to their wiki, they have had over 1 billion stumbles in 2008 alone.
Similar to other social media sites, you can also create a network of your own friends and you can send them a stumble that shows on your toolbar. You have the option to add sites to a favorite’s list as well. This is particularly useful when you have a lot of friends, or fans (people who added you as a friend but you did not reciprocate) as they will “stumble” to sites that you have added to your favorites list.
Submitting Sites to StumbleUpon
In the last article, we covered how pretty much anything can be sent to Digg, and that it checks for duplicates. The process is a lot different with Stumble.
First, when you go to a website, there is an icon in your stumble toolbar that lets you know if anyone else has ‘reviewed’ this website, if they have, then you can simply give it a thumbs up or down when you are on it (even though you may not have arrived at that website through ‘stumbling’).
Whether submitting a new site or simply giving a thumbs up, please make sure to add a review of the website. This is one easy way to help a site become more popular.
Second, when you submit a website, you have the option of ‘tagging’ it much like you do with a blog post. This helps provide keywords for people searching for content. As an example, if you were to submit Yasir Qadhi’s Dorrito’s article to Stumble, some good ‘tags’ would be: islam, fiqh, dorrito’s, yasir qadhi, cheese. These tags are descriptive, and help identify the content for someone searching for something. Examples of bad tags would be things like: awesome, almaghrib, halal, jihad, gluttony.
Third, you can’t just keep stumbling your own stuff. This one’s important so please pay attention.
The StumbleUpon website says,
StumbleUpon recommends pages based on correlation and user clustering, rather than average ratings, so people rating their own sites as ‘I like it!’ cannot spam the database.
Members who repeatedly post from a particular site (often their own) find that some of those posts fail to appear on their blog pages.
We have a limit in place that prevents multiple posting from a single source. If you habitually post content from a small set of domains, you may have encountered this limit. You can verify this by thumbing a page from a site which you have not previously rated; if the rating fails only for the site which you have previously rated & reviewed, then it is likely that you have encountered the posting limit.
Note that, once encountered, the limit cannot and will not be lifted.
The only way around it is to purchase advertising. This is a huge difference from Digg, and it has its pro’s and con’s. The con is if you reached this limit without realizing it (like me). The pro is that it prevents a lot of watering down of content. As I mentioned in the Digg article, I personally don’t feel that it’s a good idea to just keep digging each and every article and trying to promote it (it becomes desensitizing after some time). However, it is something that Digg does allow for. StumbleUpon though is built to prevent this type of behavior. So if you’re going to Stumble something, you need to make sure it is solid.
Additionally, you need to make sure you are stumbling a wide variety of things to be a “real contributor” to this online community.
Fourth, and this echoes the point above, is that Stumble is not a good tool for ‘time specific’ issues. Interestingly enough, one of the top stumbled articles on MuslimMatters is actually the post about Kaffiyeh Day. It is a 5 month old issue, but we still get regular traffic on that posting because it is still being stumbled. Not that we’re complaining mind you, but it just seems kind of strange. :)
Why This is an Important Tool
The obvious reason is the number of people using it. The other reason though, is that it is one of the few “mainstream” sites that has an Islam category built in. With the number of people using social media tools to get their information and find content based on their interests, it is essential to get representation of good Muslim websites in StumbleUpon.
Using These Tools with MuslimMatters
Similar to Digg, the stumble links are built into the top and bottom of each post.
At the top,
And at the bottom,
Why I Turned to Tech to Catch Laylatul Qadr
Make sure you maximize your sadaqah
My life, just like yours, is sooo busy. So naturally, as the tech nerd I am, I turn to tech to help me manage my regular routine including project management apps to manage my daily tasks. I even have a sleeping app that wakes me up at the optimum time (whatever that means!). But even though tech has changed everything in all sectors and helped make efficiencies in my daily life, it had had little impact on my religious activities.
A few years ago, whilst I was preparing for the last 10 nights of Ramadan, it hit me – why doesn’t something exist that automates my donations during these blessed nights to catch Laylatul Qadr. Rather than putting a reminder on my phone to bring out my bank card every night and inputting it into a website – why doesn’t something exist that does it for me, solving the problem of me forgetting to donate. After all we are human and it’s interesting that the Arabic word for human being is ‘insan’ which is derived from the word ‘nasiya’ which means ‘to forget.’ It is human nature to forget.
So the techie in me came out and I built the first scrappy version of MyTenNights, a platform to automate donations in the last 10 nights of Ramadan (took two weeks) because I wanted to use it myself! I thought it would be cool and my friends and family could use it too. That same year, nearly 2000 other people used it – servers crashed, tech broke and I had to get all my friends and Oreo (my cat) to respond to email complaints about our temperamental site!
I quickly realised I wasn’t alone in my need – everyone wanted a way to never miss Laylatul Qadr! Two years down the line we’ve called it MyTenNights, and our team has grown to 10, including Oreo, senior developers, QA specialists, brand strategists, creative directors and more. It fast became a fierce operation – an operation to help people all over the world catch Laylatul Qadr!
Last year alone we raised almost $2 million in just 10 days – and that was just in the UK. We’ve now opened MyTenNights to our American, Canadian. South African and Australian brothers and sisters and we’re so excited to see how they use it! We’ve made it available through all the biggest house name charities – Islamic Relief, Muslim Aid, Helping Hand, Penny Appeal, you name it! All donations go directly to the charity donors choose – all 100% of it.
Looking back at the last couple of years – it feels surreal: The biggest charities in the world and tens of thousands of users who share my need to be certain they’ve caught Laylatul Qadr. Although I hear many impressed with the sheer amount MyTenNights has raised for charity (and that excites me too!), it’s not what motives me to go on. What excites me most is the growing number of people who catch Laylatul Qadr because we made it easier.
I often tell my team that the number of people that use MyTenNights is the only metric we care about, and the only metric we celebrate. It makes no difference to us whether you donate $1 or a million – we just want you to catch Laylatul Qadr and for you to transform your Akhirah, because (after Allah) we helped you do it.
Ismael Abdela is a Law & Anthropology graduate from the London School of Economics. He spent some years studying Islamic Sciences in Qaseem, Saudi Arabia. He is now a keen social entrepreneur. Ismael likes to write about spiritual reflections, social commentary, and tafsīr. He is particularly interested in putting religion in conversation with the social sciences.
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Social Media And The Struggle for Tomorrow
Muslims have never gotten over losing Andalusia (Spain) to the Reconquista. No discussion about Islam and Europe can take place without us pining like BoAbdil – the last Muslim ruler of Granada who cried like a child as he was exiled from his homeland. We lament about how we brought enlightenment to Europe and then managed to find ourselves totally eliminated from the Iberian Peninsula.
If only we knew.
We cry at the loss of Andalusia and rarely reflect on the true enormity of what happened. The whole of South America, the Philippines and indeed the Americas were conquered or “discovered” by the forces of Catholic Spain shortly after they sent the Muslims packing. Were it not for our own ability to play ourselves, the world would look very different today.
The next Andalusia?
Today, we are in the midst of making another monumental mistake. And it may end up making the loss of Andalusia look trivial by comparison.
This mistake, this error, this battle that we cannot afford to lose is for the control of the Social Media narrative about us and our faith. The advent of the Social Media revolution is no less a game changer in the history of the world than the Industrial revolution before it. And just like the Industrial revolution made previously insignificant nations into world powers and reduced world powers into colonised outposts, the Social Media revolution will do the same.
Until just over a decade ago, the control of information – and therefore the levers of power – were in the hands of the wealthy and elite few. It was Fox News, CNN, and the BBC that set the agenda on TV. It was the Washington Post, Time Magazine, The Times of London and Le Figaro that set the agenda on Newspapers and Magazines. The editors of these channels and publications and their owners could decide whether a genocide was worthy of coverage or not. They could choose to paint a leader as a villain that needed to be deposed or a hero that needed to be obeyed. In the court of public opinion, they were the power behind the thrones, pulling all our strings.
Today, their dominance is almost over. Instead, we get our information and news from Social Media. The BBCs YouTube channel has just over 1 Million subscribers whereas Zoella (a lifestyle blogger just out of her teens) has more than 10 Million. Fox News has over 15 Million Twitter followers while Justin Beiber has more than 90 Million. The numbers are staggering, but it is a fact that individuals and small operations are having their voices amplified and heard on Social Media at a level that was previously virtually impossible.
The possibilities are amazing. For the first time, we can talk about ourselves rather than being talked about by pundits from other communities or by talking heads with their own agendas. We could put across discussions regarding long held grievances without having it filtered through the lens of a news organisation with a biased eye. For once, marginalised sections of the Muslim community could speak for themselves rather than be spoken for by “community leaders.”
While this is a great thing for transparency in the sharing of information and giving more power to the people – there is a huge downside to this whole enterprise.
The next Reconquista?
The individuals and organisations that are proving most adept at exploiting Social Media for their own purposes are those at the extremes of society. The extremists amongst the Muslim who advocate violence against civilians and organise to carry out acts of terror are possibly the single most effective and coordinated group of Muslims online. There may be far more Muslims sharing a Mufti Menk tweet or a catchy video by Maher Zain, but it’s the extremists that are getting things done. They are using Social Media to not only propagate their ideas, but to coordinate them. 
But even these precocious violent new kids on the block are being left in the shade by the white nationalist–Nazi-Anti-Muslim brigade.  You can’t fail to spot them if you’re ever online. You can see them commenting on every article, sending torrents of vile abuse towards anyone who stands in their way and backing each other up to the hilt.
A recent study by the George Washington University study on extremism “revealed that the social media presence of white nationalists and Neo-Nazis is growing at an exponential rate. According to the study, the white nationalist movement on Twitter increased by a whopping 600 percent, surpassing that of ISIS sympathizers.” 
What happens if we lose the social media war?
If we lose the social media war against extremism, the best-case scenario is that we continue down the slippery slope we’re on now. We see ever increasing attacks followed by reprisals, followed by attacks.
That is the best-case scenario.
The worst-case scenario would mean the marginalisation of the middle ground to such an extent as to have profound psychological, political and theological consequences for generations to come.
To put it bluntly, the longer the moral majority of both Muslims and non-Muslims remain disunited, disorganised and lacking in coordination – the longer the extremists on both sides of the spectrum will continue to set the agenda, be the loudest and most persistent voices in the room and ultimately succeed in their quest for a clash of civilizations.
Organised evil will always defeat disorganised good. However, if the good got organised… well, that would be a whole different ball game.