Detroit may be wired, but where do those wires lead?
At the end of the 90s, its no longer news that were using the Web. Whats interesting is how were using it. I talked with random readers and friends (OK, my fellow surfing staffers here at MT) to get a read on Motowns virtual traffic patterns. Where do we park our eyeballs online? And more importantly why?
Detroits first wired report is admittedly unscientific think of it as just a tasty slice of online life. But Ill bet youll see a reflection of your current Web habits. Or at least you might find the ideal site to satisfy any future Web jones. Heres the on-ramp:
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 doesnt suck. MT music editor Chris Handyside concurs with this modern axiom and recommends the appropriately named Web zine suck.com. Sucks 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 youre 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. "Its the equivalent to Esquire magazine coming out daily instead of monthly." One look at the depth of Salons story grab bag of politics, culture, arts and sex ("Lots of sex," adds Curt) and youll wonder how they manage to just give all this killer content away.
Online content comes in many flavors, and streaming content audio or video is definitely on metro Detroits educated Web palette. Rochester Hills reader David Lawrence is addicted to 3WKs steaming audio Webcast.
"My 24-hour-a-day site for more than a year now," he calls it. 3WKs 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, youll find an "amazing mass of Americana," including Kims favorite spot the archive documenting folklorists John and Ruby Lomaxs 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 childrens ditties to the heave-ho songs of hard labor at the notorious Parchman Farm prison."
Some other stream dream sites were 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).
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 MTs own Restaurant Metropolis dining guide (sorry, but its an easy plug reader David Lawrence commends its excellent search capabilities), were 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 (GTEs nationwide yellow pages).
Speaking of utility, thats often what the Web does best. MTs Web publishing guru Tom Woodman regularly visits weather.com.
"When I gotta have that weather," says Tom, "I never use the Weather Channel anymore."
So whatever happened to the urge to surf? Without aimless surfing, the Webs countless weird, wonderful or just plain bizarre sites remain sadly hidden. But do we care?
Only a little, it seems. "Ive taken a very utilitarian approach to the Web," says MT marketing assistant Anthony Morrow. "I dont 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). Thats it for Detroits first wired report. But what am I looking at online, you ask? Well, Im 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.")
Its perfect for whenever youre tired of browsing. Instead, just sit back ... and watch the world go by.