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AdamThis week I’ve been spending a lot of time covering the first StumbleUpon viral, as the story broke and from the perspective of an internet marketer. For my last post on the subject it seemed fair to interview the person who created StumbleCards, Adam and get his point of view. Why did he do it, what for and how does he answer his critics?

Hi Adam. Lots of people have called StumbleCards spam. While recent copycats have been adding Adsense or links to their sites, your intentions were less obvious. Why did you create StumbleCards?

I was reading about an online viral campaign that involved solving a mystery. People were given clues to work out, some very abstract and random. Yet the buzz it generated, inspired people to interact with the viral and pushed them to solve the mystery. I felt inspired by this communal, online type of event and thought maybe I could create my own. Being a seasoned Stumbler I thought, wow I would love to stumble onto something like this, a mystery to work out or a puzzle to solve.

As for the content, I’ve always liked collecting trading cards, zines etc. and thought why not create a digital set of cards that people could collect and trade online. Some I would make easy to find and others I would bury deep in the web.

It’s fair to say that no one invents a viral. Sometimes ideas just catch on and spread. When you were making the first StumbleCards though, did you expect this to explode?

I did think I was onto something new in StumbleUpon. However I thought that Stumblers who were into collecting and solving puzzles might be in the minority for that audience. So no, I didn’t anticipate the way the cards took off.

Since you launched the concept, lots of copycats have appeared and flooded the SU system. I’ve read some reviews that are less than flattering about the person who invented this meme. Do you have anything to say to them?

I thought there was a chance people would copy the idea; I just didn’t think they would do such a blatantly bad job of it. My only gripe with the copycats is that they are most likely creating these ugly and even offensive versions intentionally, as a means of killing off the meme or gaming StumbleUpon. The original spirit of the idea is now lost, with most people calling it spam. This was never my intention!

Many of the early reviews to your StumbleCards were positive. What do you attribute that too, the quality of the artwork, the fact the meme was new or other factors?

Maybe it was the quality of the design or the new idea, as these were the first cards to hit the web. The reviews started to turn negative when the copycats came along. The fact of the matter is the original cards are being stumbled less because I have deliberately made them harder to find.

Most people’s experiences of StumbleCards have been through the copycat versions whose sole aim is to upset the StumbleUpon community by spreading their versions as quickly as possible.

People seem to be attributing this meme to SEOs or online marketers but from my own investigations, you come from an artistic or web design background. In fact your website doesn’t offer any marketing services at all. Do you find it strange that the first StumbleUpon viral came from a non-marketer?

I don’t think it’s strange at all. I’m a web designer so it’s important that I have at least a basic understanding of viral marketing. However, my intentions were always coming from a desire to inspire, entertain and engage Stumblers in the hope they might participate. I don’t have anything to sell or advertise, only the idea itself.

When the meme first started there was a definite sense of excitement for some users, who were confused by this viral and keen to see where it was going. Since then, a backlash has developed as the fakes overtook the system, and the meme seemed little else than a way to game the StumbleUpon system. So tell us now, is this going somewhere?

I have created a set of 25 original uP’n’@tOm StumbleCards. My hope is that for those Stumblers who are genuinely interested in collecting the set, will ignore the fakes and go on to find the original 25. To those Stumblers that would like to participate, not all the cards will be easy to find, but isn’t that what collecting is all about? No one wants it to be too easy… it kind of spoils the fun.

As to where they are going, I can’t say too much right now. Unfortunately there may be more fakes, there isn’t much I can do about that. But I know there are people out there who would like to participate and will go searching for the cards nonetheless. Maybe it’s because they have a keen sense of adventure and would like to solve a mystery, just like me.

Thanks Adam and good luck with the game.

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Lead SEO, Group Optimisation at Vodafone. Founder at E3 Business Incubator, a consultancy group helping enterprises and start-ups. Digital strategist and veteran SEO/SEM. Views are my own and not representative of my employer (more).

13 Responses to Interview With StumbleCards Creator, Adam Atom

  1. Thanks again for the interview Adam. When I first saw these cards, I could see how much work you had put into the project. It’s a pity so many people have copied the idea and spammed the SU system.

    I believe people do like mystery and games that require some effort. I still think the best website for a film was Donnie Darko. Impossibly cryptic but loads of fun.

  2. Pingback: Stumblecards - a new “trend” of the StumbleUpon Community #

  3. The concept of “stumblecards” may be a viral marketing idea for SU, but check out the “limited edition” gold border cards on , seems like the same type of idea, adding in the true “hard to find” factor to it (cards are available on the website for only a few days, then you must rely on getting them elsewhere on sites or via e-mail from friends).

  4. I’m sorry to say, that I still don’t get the purpose of stumblecards. Adam says, that there is a puzzle to be solved; searching the cards deep in the web.
    No one really searches for the cards and there is no puzzle in it.
    We are all puzzled of their existence, but that’s just about it.

  5. @Robojiannis

    You make a good point about searching for the cards. If the first person discovers the card and submits it to SU then everyone would ‘discover’ it in time. If the point is to find it and not submit, then why involve StumbleUpon?

    I can’t answer that one but as always, Adam is welcome to comment here.

  6. @Robojiannis & Nick

    Let’s say for example that I am playing the ‘stumblecard’ game. I’ve been collecting the cards as I stumble them… if I was aiming to get an edge over another stumbler I might hang onto the link to a particular card just in case it’s a rare one. That means BOOKMARKING it, as opposed to thumbing it up, because like Nick said… it only takes one person to submit the link to SU before everybody else starts to stumble onto it.


    You are correct! You cannot technically search for the cards… because I have been using different naming conventions for each one. The idea is that YOU MUST STUMBLE THEM. If you don’t stumble them, then you must rely on someone generous enough to pass you the link? or even swap links? This was the original way I envisaged the game would be played.

    The trick is in the tags! I can tag a card so it is only stumbled by certain people with particular interests or I can make the card easier to stumble by tagging the card with ‘stumblecard’ for example, which basically means everyone will soon have it.

    The reason SU is involved is simply for the randomness of finding a card. It’s a platform for circulating the cards on the web. However, due to the amount of negative reviews the cards are getting, I’m thinking of branching out of SU altogether… stay tuned.

    SU was just the beginning… next stop, the whole world! ha, ha, ha, ha… just kidding :)


    There IS a puzzle to solve… you only have to look a little deeper into the cards!

  7. @ Adam Atom

    So you say there ‘is’ a puzzle to solve, but once solved is there a prize to be won?? Ifso, what?

  8. @Adam Tom
    My objection lies on the fact, that all games are supposed to have a purpose: reach a certain goal, win the most points, collect many cards.
    This puzzle is supposed to be a game without any clear goals. Noone knows what to do with it.

    When the web is full of attention grabbers, why should I care more about SU cards than any other puzzle or game?

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  10. Stumblecards really piss me off. I use Stumbleupon to find new and interesting sites, but lately I’ve just been incessantly spammed by them, seems like every 10th site is a one of these abominations. And they keep coming no matter how many I thumbs-down.

  11. You knew about this Nick? Prior to Tuesday? You kept that quiet ;)

  12. I just hate stumblecards.
    There are really no purpose to them.
    Annoing and useless.
    Can’t trade them, can’t eat them, can’t sell them, can’t win anything big.
    And uhh, when you have “collected” all off them you have to solve the puzzle.
    Just give me all off them and 5 min. and it solved !
    Don’t waste my precious time.
    Life starts with a push on a button (1) and goes out with a bang (25), all in between are just fill.

  13. Pingback: Stumblecards – A Selection of favourites | uP'n'@tOm Design

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