The wired report 

Detroit may be wired, but where do those wires lead?

At the end of the ’90s, it’s no longer news that we’re using the Web. What’s interesting is how we’re using it. I talked with random readers and friends (OK, my fellow surfing staffers here at MT) to get a read on Motown’s virtual traffic patterns. Where do we park our eyeballs online? And more importantly – why?

Detroit’s first wired report is admittedly unscientific – think of it as just a tasty slice of online life. But I’ll bet you’ll see a reflection of your current Web habits. Or at least you might find the ideal site to satisfy any future Web jones. Here’s the on-ramp:

KING CONTENT

To paraphrase that real estate rule, the three most important elements of any Web site are content, content and more content ... as long as it doesn’t suck. MT music editor Chris Handyside concurs with this modern axiom and recommends the appropriately named Web ’zine suck.com. Suck’s snarky-but-smart mix of satire, media criticism and cartoons changes daily.

"Suck keeps it fresh by having no sacred cows and a wit and wisdom few online ’zines can match," notes Chris. Stop by his desk at lunchtime and you’re sure to find him pouring over the latest in suckiness.

When searching for a higher cut of content beef, MT news editor Curt Guyette pays a regular visit to the Salon. "(Salon.com is) a truly amazing effort," says Curt. "It’s the equivalent to Esquire magazine coming out daily instead of monthly." One look at the depth of Salon’s story grab bag of politics, culture, arts and sex ("Lots of sex," adds Curt) and you’ll wonder how they manage to just give all this killer content away.

SLIP STREAMING

Online content comes in many flavors, and streaming content – audio or video – is definitely on metro Detroit’s educated Web palette. Rochester Hills reader David Lawrence is addicted to 3WK’s steaming audio Webcast.

"My 24-hour-a-day site for more than a year now," he calls it. 3WK’s self-proclaimed "underground radio" is like that traditional radio station you wish existed – playing deep tracks of indie rock, punk, techno and even weirder stuff with no apparent playlists or rotation.

MT managing editor W. Kim Heron is an enthusiastic fan of the Library of Congress’ American Memory site. According to Kim, you’ll find an "amazing mass of Americana," including Kim’s favorite spot – the archive documenting folklorists John and Ruby Lomax’s 1939 recording expedition across the South.

"It includes field notes, correspondences and especially audio recordings – 686 of them," says Kim. The Real Audio format sound clips include everything "from children’s ditties to the heave-ho songs of hard labor at the notorious Parchman Farm prison."

Some other stream dream sites we’re hitting: ifilm.com ("A really cool site to view short indie films right online," says MT graphic designer Brandon White), listen.com (a directory to online music), and that mainstreaming mainstay mp3.com ("Tons to listen to," writes reader Diane Small).

DIRECTORY ADDICTS

Apparently, we love online directories. These browsing, searching, drill-down-deep-till-you-find-it tools are the perfect Internet applications – minutiae to the masses, if you will.

Yahoo remains a perennial favorite in this category, but newer, more specific, search tools are coming on strong. In addition to MT’s own Restaurant Metropolis dining guide (sorry, but it’s an easy plug – reader David Lawrence commends its excellent search capabilities), we’re stretching out to sites such as mrshowbiz.com (more than 30,000 movie reviews), iuma.com (find your favorite indie bands) and even the utilitarian superpages.com (GTE’s nationwide yellow pages).

UTILITY VEHICLE

Speaking of utility, that’s often what the Web does best. MT’s Web publishing guru Tom Woodman regularly visits weather.com.

"When I gotta have that weather," says Tom, "I never use the Weather Channel anymore."

Other utility sites making the grade: ups.com (track the delivery of your new snowboard), deja.com (easily search newsgroups) and anywho.com (find out who’s name goes with that phone number).

SURF CITY

So whatever happened to the urge to surf? Without aimless surfing, the Web’s countless weird, wonderful or just plain bizarre sites remain sadly hidden. But do we care?

Only a little, it seems. "I’ve taken a very utilitarian approach to the Web," says MT marketing assistant Anthony Morrow. "I don’t even really surf anymore." Several responses echoed this sentiment, but the odd-yet-appealing nuggets we sometimes unearth online still make an appearance.

Michael Quint, from Eastpointe, reports visiting the unofficial Web site of Charles Manson ("Very cool and chilling," says Quint).

Other visit-’em-just-to-see-’em sites include: The Hunger Site (one click donates free food), SuperBad (but is it art?), and broken monitor fest jodi.org (try it and see). That’s it for Detroit’s first wired report. But what am I looking at online, you ask? Well, I’m watching all of you. You can too – visit the WebCrawler search voyeur. Like a ticker tape machine, it continuously displays actual queries people are making with the popular search engine (from a recent visit: "where is iFarted.com," "how do I break windows 98" and "give me Britny Spears.")

It’s perfect for whenever you’re tired of browsing. Instead, just sit back ... and watch the world go by.

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