Sunday, April 20, 2008

We're Going On A Blog Hunt - Part Six

The following concludes my exploration of the 25 best blogs, as named by Time Magazine. Since we’re getting down to the blogs that caught my attention the least (with one notable exception), I’m only going to have a quick look at them and rely mainly on the Time commentary.

TechCrunch is dedicated to profile new Internet technologies and companies. If you want to learn about 8hands, Fandango, Jookster, and sodahead, this is the place.

In contrast, Web 2.0h really? proclaims itself to be ‘a skeptic’s guide to emerging web technologies’. One of the (reportedly) most popular posts on this blog argued that newspaper bylines should be done away with, in line with New Media thinking. I like the idea, although I can’t say I notice the bylines anyway.

Wired’s Threat Level deals with privacy and security issues. According to Time, the Senior Editor was a hacker in the 1980s that spent 51 months in jail for fraud charges. On Threat Level, he uncovered 744 registered sex offenders with MySpace accounts, leading to one arrest. Click on The Ridiculous to find out about the producer who got busted for selling adult content to adults, and the Egyptian government’s plans to obtain royalties for replicas of the pyramids.

It’s a pity I’ve run out of steam by this stage, because The Daily Dish looks like it could be a good find. Time reckon that the author has the rare quality of admitting his mistakes, for example, his support of the Iraq war (take note, Hillary!) And supposedly he supported Bush in 2000 and Kerry in 2004. I’ll come back when I have a bit more time on my hands, say, when I’m at work or something.

And finally, there’s Freakonomics, the blog version of possibly the greatest non-fiction book in human history. For anyone who is unfamiliar with Freakonomics, it aims to uncover the hidden side of everything through innovative use of statistical techniques. It’s fair to say that I’ve basically been ripping it off for the past eighteen months. But this little exercise has confirmed for me that Freakonomics has what I think are all the best qualities in a blog. It has a small number of contributors that between them contribute a few quality posts a day. It has a clear theme and vision of what it wants to do, without becoming a one-trick pony. It treats all subjects as worthy of notice, as long as they are of interest and are likely to provoke discussion. And despite the big names that write for it, it is not a victim to the cult of celebrity.

That’s just like this blog, right? Wait, don’t answer that…

We're Going On A Blog Hunt - Part Five

For some inexplicable reason, I’m up early today, so let’s zip through some blogs.

Let’s wake up to The Huffington Post. HuffPo seems to more closely approximate a newspaper website than a blog, with scores of articles on politics, media, business and entertainment. But then the question is this: why should I be reading this rather than, say, the New York Times? I assume you would eventually work out which columnists you prefer reading, and which to avoid, but it could be tough going working out which is which. Time picked out a few ‘highlights’, such as Alec Baldwin writing on why Hillary Clinton would screw up the US dollar. I’ll file this one under ‘maybe’.

Metafilter is even more of a labyrinth than HuffPo, since basically anyone can post on it. I thought that looking at the most popular articles would be a good way to go, but that seems to be just as random as the home page (or the ‘random page’ – I got an article about 70 year-old performing triplets). I think the key phrase here is ‘community weblog’ – it probably works from a social standpoint. However, most of the posts appear to be of more interest than some person’s photos of their cat, so I might come back to this one as well.

Unlike Gigazine, Beppe Grillo’s blog has an English version, renewing my faith in the homogeny of the world wide web. Beppe appears to spend a lot of his time fuming about the crooks in the Italian Parliament, and probably rightly so. Type ‘psychodwarf’ into the search engine to get a good sample of the range of his concerns – I have no idea who he is talking about, but it’s an excellent image nonetheless.

Engadget is, of course, a blog for all the latest electronic toys. Since I still have minor heart palpitations every time I try to use my VCR, I’ll give this one a miss.

Ace of Spades is supposedly the right’s answer to the Daily Kos, and that looks to be true to the extent that Obama has as much hope of being complemented on the former as McCain does on the latter. But it doesn’t take itself nearly as seriously, which makes it the more entertaining read at least. And the Top 10 lists are great, such as the Top Ten Euphemisms for Self-Abuse in Star Wars (yeah, I know, I’m really fifteen), and the Top Ten Signs Paul Krugman Has Lost His Freakin’ Mind. Like listening to Eminem and watching South Park, I don’t care if I go to hell for liking this.

I’m not Jewish and never will be, so I don’t think The Velveteen Rabbi is meant for me. But that’s not to dismiss it, because it seems to do what it does pretty well. There are poems, recipes, and various musings about Judaism, and while I would rather watch the football, I admire the author’s dedication.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

We're Going On A Blog Hunt - Part Four

Reading back over Part Three, I noticed that I said that the Daily Kos had more detailed arguments than your ‘average leftist blog’. What I really should have said was your average political blog, since the right can be just as reductive as the left can. Usually I would just take advantage of the edit function on Blogger to cover over my imperfect choice of words, but the post has been up for a few days now, so I guess I can’t pretend I never typed that. Anyway, let’s move on…

Gigazine sounds like it’s run by Family Guy’s Glen Quagmire (man, that would be a cool blog), but it’s actually a Japanese site about… er, I don’t know…

TROY: Lauren, how do you translate websites?!
LAUREN: Use Babelfish.
(Troy googles Babelfish, fiddles around with it for a couple of minutes, and…)
TROY: Cool, it worked.
LAUREN: It’s good, isn’t it?
TROY (after about twenty seconds, bursts out laughing): The English translation isn’t very good.
LAUREN: Is it in Engrish?
TROY: Yeah, you could say that.

Well, I’m sure this blog is a hit in Japan. According to Time, past features on the site have been David Beckham condoms from China, and a luxury sports car knitted from wool.

Lifehacker apparently has the answers to all of life’s little questions, which should, in theory, make it my new favourite site. A lot of the topics appear to be technology-related, which I neither have the patience or the nous to deal with. But some of the non-technobabble could come in useful. My advice would be to look at the subject headings in the archives and see what takes your fancy. I’ll definitely come back and explore further at a later date.

To show how sorry I am for my previous leftist swipe, I’ll head next to the Treehugger site. (No, wait, the right can be just as enviro-conscious as… ah, forget it…) Being the sort of person I am (i.e. male), the ‘How To Green Your Sex Life’ section immediately caught my eye. Some of the tips seem distinctly unsexy to me (e.g. eco-undies), but I’m sure they do something for someone. Still, credit this blog for trying to do something useful, and apparently it’s one of the most popular going around. I’ll file it under ‘blogs I should visit’ (but will I? We’ll see…)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

We're Going On A Blog Hunt - Part Three

We’re up to number nine of my journey through’s 25 best blogs. If you’ve come this far, you may as well go a little further.

One of the most prolific blogs out there (65 posts in the last 24 hours!) has to be the media, gossip and pop culture blog, Gawker. Personally, I prefer the media and pop culture posts to the gossip, but there appears to be more than enough of all of them. Interesting features that I spotted were the ‘Gawker Stalker Sightings’ and the Open Caption threads (basically the same idea as the Cartoon Caption Contest on, but with a celebrity photograph instead). But what’s this… one of the main category headings on the home page is ‘Tom Cruise’. Surely there’s not enough Cruise posts to warrant a category of entertainment unto himself? Let’s refresh the site… but no, there it is again! Weird…

My partner-in-crime has suggested that I try the Daily Kos next, so any long-term damage I suffer as a result is on her head. The messages are fairly simple: Obama is a hero, McCain is a conservative and bordering on senile, and while I admit that the arguments are more detailed than your average leftist blog, it all pretty much amounts to the same thing. Of more interest is their dKosopedia project, a political encyclopedia which has useful articles on topics such as ‘How To Run For Office’ and the set-up of the US Government. If you were ever befuddled by what was going on in The West Wing, this may be the resource for you.

The Consumerist is a worthy match for Gawker in terms of prolificacy, in this case centering on the various ways us poor consumers are swindled. Posts from the day that I visited include: a man being refused an early termination on his lease for the apartment in which his fiancĂ©e was murdered, a Lonely Planet writer admitting to basing his book on information from his girlfriend, Sears refusing to refund the money for a television that they never delivered, and a Wal-Mart employee trying to coerce a customer by holding his credit card. Some will be pleased to learn that there are special sections on ‘Banks’ and ‘Airlines’. And once you feel that you an informed consumer, you can click on one of the flashy ads.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

We're Going On A Blog Hunt - Part Two

Continuing my exploration of’s 25 best blogs:

I’m going with The Sartorialist next, because of its nifty-sounding name, and I’d forgotten it’s about fashion. The basic concept behind this blog is to take photos of what people are wearing on the street (as opposed to the catwalks), and then give others the opportunity to comment on the pics like one, giant magazine-flicking session. Y’know, it’s not too bad… the selection of outfits is usually pretty good, and I reckon I could browse around this blog for five minutes or so, which for me is, like, well… huge. For the truly fashionably-inclined, I could see this becoming just as addictive as Indexed.

To us Aussies, Bad Jocks sounds a bit strange at first, but fortunately it’s about the transgressions of sports stars rather than iffy underwear. Or not… I can’t say I particularly care about scandals of any kind, even the athletic variety. However, I did enjoy the list of all-time blood alcohol content rankings that Time mentioned, with former Detroit Tigers broadcaster Larry Sorensen reaching 0.48% (he also recorded a 0.36% and a 0.24%). Otherwise, this one’s not for me.

I find Boing Boing (A Directory of Wonderful Things) both intriguing and depressing; it’s got some interesting stuff, but it makes me feel nauseous to realise just how much junk there is out there. A random week: Cuban taser glove from 1935, motorcycles made from watchparts, tactical food fight spoons, Donkey Kong monster truck… I can’t take this abject pointlessness. Guess I’m not as postmodern as I thought I was.

Postsecret is another one of those one-trick blogs, but it’s a pretty good one: people send in homemade postcards with some sort of personal secret written on the front. In contrast to Bad Jocks, I find this blog oddly compelling. I think it’s because of the startling variety of ways people choose to express their secrets; of the postcards that I saw no two of them seemed anything alike. Definitely check this one out. And no, I don’t plan to be a contributor (or do I?)

Regret the Error is devoted to compiling various media stuff-ups, mostly from the US and UK, but I spotted some Australian entries there as well. Most of them are fairly humdrum to me, but the year-end highlights are good for a laugh. I think I’ll come back to this blog in about eight months.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

We're Going On A Blog Hunt - Part One have recently compiled their First Annual Blog Index, which as far as I can tell, is not so much an ‘index’ as a list of what the author considers to be the 25 best blogs out there today. Since I’ve been looking for some new sites to visit, I’ve decided to trawl through each of the blogs on the list, and see if I find them of interest or not. And since I’ve been looking for some new subjects to write about, I’m going to record my impressions here. Hopefully, you’ll find something interesting as well – those who find my blog naivete amusing and/or infuriating are best advised to turn away now.

The ‘Powerpoint Anthology of Literature’ feature on sounds impossible to resist, so I’m going to start there. It’s pretty cool in a geekish-bookwormish sort of way (I personally like the Lolita slide), but sadly, there’s not nearly enough of it (hmm, this sounds like a job for…). Elsewhere, to coincide with the Time listing, Mr. Radosh has helpfully put up a list of ‘greatest hits’ for newcomers. His voluminous writings on the teenage girl band Huckapoo (yes, Huckapoo) again prove that satire has not a hope in hell of keeping up with reality, as do the various entries on media censorship. Make sure to check out a few of the ‘New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contests’, where readers are invited to ‘submit the worst possible caption’ for a cartoon from the New Yorker magazine. Funny site – shall visit in future.

The Reverse Cowgirl sounds like the second-most impossible thing to resist, so let’s go there next. As the title implies, the subject of this blog is pornography (yeah, don’t try looking at it at work, folks), with ‘Porn Valley’, USA, on centre stage. The author’s more recent posts have tended to focus upon the creative process involved in writing a novel based in this infamous area of the world. Alright, alright, I had actually never heard of ‘Porn Valley’, and that pretty much explains why, although I think this blog is well written, I’m probably not going to be a regular visitor. Worth a look though.

According to voters at the site, Indexed currently has the highest average rating of the 25 blogs. It’s certainly a clever idea – using Venn diagrams and other graphical tools to make comments about the world – but how can you sustain that for over 1000 posts? Well, apparently you can… I can see that one might become addicted to it, but I wonder if reading too many entries could start making you go a little loopy. User beware.