Saturday 27 November 2010

Why I love the internet

This post was inspired by @timolloyd and his rather wise post on A Victorian advertising director in which he reminds us that we must not lose sight of why we love the web in our constant determination to know as much as is humanely possible about our areas of work.

So, cos 10 is a nice round number, here are my top 10 reasons why I love the web.


Well of course? It's solely responsible for my getting consistently dragged into work related stuff, but of course that's entirely because I follow people who talk about the things I am interested in, and the things I am interested in, happen to be entirely aligned with the subjects I work with. This makes me lucky. This also makes it difficult to escape. But somehow, I don't mind.

You see, Twitter keeps throwing me curveballs. It's the gift that keeps on giving. For me, it has become the first tool I log into and the last I log off. There are 3 different apps for it on my iPhone. I follow ridiculous amounts of people and read nearly every single persons tweets at some point during the day though I must confess I can't keep up during work time any more. It's allowd me to argue and discuss, commiserate and sympathise. It's become a little of a support network during the current difficult times. But most of all, very most of all, because of Twitter 2 very important things have happened.
a) I have changed as a person and I think for the better
b) My life has changed and is almost unrecognisable to how it was 12 months ago.

The explanations for those two things are a post in themselves. I've been meaning to write it for weeks.

'Different' shopping sites

I was spoiled in London. Hours at the weekend disappeared in the markets at Camden, in Covent Garden and in 'vingtage' shops around Waterloo and down the Holloway Road. Moving away from London has done wonders for various areas of my life but my shopping habit wasn't one of them.

So,, Folksy and Etsy rock my world on a regular basis, among many others. Want something to wear to a party without getting into that discussion about getting out of bed on the same side that morning? Etsy. Want a coffee table that people wont instantly recognise as coming from a certain store beginning with I but will look fab and is a reasonable price for something designed elegantly?

Stack magazines

I know it's not strictly speaking a website, but without the web it wouldn't work, it wouldn't exist and if it did I would never know about it. Pay £4.90 a month. Sit. Wait behind the door (well, not really but....). Every month get a magazine delivered. What's so different about that? Well, each month, I don't know what I'm going to get. And I absolutely love that. For some reason, the more digital I've become, the more fascinated I've become with print magazines. With design. With colours and fonts and layouts and the choice of paper. It's not quite an obsession but I have no idea where I'm going to put them all, so I've resorted to recycling them by finding people to pass them on to, because they're too beautiful to simply throw away.

Last month I got Shook. This month I got Oh Comely and a lovely freebie called Article. Next month? Who knows. In a world full of predictable media, I really quite love not knowing.


It's where the geeks go to laugh at themselves. It's where every geek has gone and wondered, 'can they mind read?' It's a comic of such searingly accurate observations and life experiences that occasionally I can't deal with the wince factor, in much the same The Big Bang Theory gets to me (flowcharting how to ask a girl on a date anyone?). The particular strip is linked for a reason. I <3 it very much. I started in tech support and I don't think it ever really leaves you. And hey, someone recognised girls can do tech support too. They may also be entirely responsible for my own pathetic attempts at stick figure comics.

The #uksnow map

It's geeky. It's a mash up. It's a crowdsource of epic proportions which resulted in some very ruffled Americans last year when #uksnow suddenly trended in the midst of their tea party randomness and they were forced to acknowledge an unusual weather event was happening somewhere outside their continent....sorry, country. All you have to do is tweet the first part of your postcode, a rating of between 0 and 10/10 for the rate the snow is falling, and hashtag it #uksnow. The beauty is in the simplicity - instructions a non geek can understand, useful output that a non geek can understand. If all crowd sourcing could be this simple, quick and elegant, we could be doing beautiful things.

In the meantime, if you're me, you can sit mesmerised by the gentle drift of the snow falling outside, while watching the rapid movement of data from all around the country on your screen. Data isn't beautiful? No? Sure?

Design Boom

I've always been fascinated by interesting structures and buildings. The web means I can use sites like Design Boom as a window on a world I'm never likely to see, but which I find fascinating - the world of architects who see no limits, only possibilities. I find most of the buildings inspiring and intricate in their complexity - but also their simplicity, because making living spaces simple seems to me to be a fine art all of itself. It's like a window into a world that you only used to be able to see into if you had a really niche magazine seller around the corner. What the web does best - niches.

The Ashmolean Museum

But it could as well be any other museum which has spent untold time, hours and energy in catalogueing their collection so that sad people like me can wonder at art and archeology from the comfort of their chair, leading to discovering such gems as this neo-Babylonian line art. It's not just the Ashmolean doing it, of course, the power of history can reach out and grab you from many museums across the globe. But for a museum I've never visited (and I do love a good museum), I know a remarkable amount about their collections, and it's entirely down to the world wide web.

Trip Advisor

Mundane. But for one reason or another, booking cheap hotel rooms seems to be a skill I've acquired by necessity and when faced with a page of hotels I've never heard of, all charging me £40 a night for a room, knowing which one to pick used to be down eeny meeny miny mo. Not any more. Now I get to spend hours obsessively pouring over peoples reviews, trying to work out whether the person reviewing the hotel everyone else thought was wonderful had been shoved into a star below what they were used to on a business trip and were just determined to find fault, balanced against whether a room which is fab for £40 a night is actually fab for £40 a night or I'd be better off staying a tent. In a field. In the middle of nowhere. In January. In a snowstorm.

As a result of Trip Advisor (combined excellently, I must say, with, I can attend free unconferences in London, see the Foo Fighters in Milton Keynes and generally swan around the country willy nilly, for not very much money at all. And get a shower in the morning on the way out to Sonisphere. What on earth is there not to love?


Not for who they are now. But for who they were in 1998 when I first discovered them. I love books. I didn't have very many when I was younger for various reasons. One of the greatest pleasures in life is still the smell of coffee mixing with the smell of fresh paper and ink. It triggers a relaxation response in me whether I want it to or not. But before I could afford to walk into any bookshop and buy any book I liked, there was Amazon. The biggest bookshop in the world. A start up in the dot com world who succeeded and persister and quite rightly too. The shop of whom I can ask to source the most random books imaginable, back then, and who would deliver every time.

It is, perhaps, testament to the magic of Amazon, that 14 years after launch, I can walk into Foyles on Charing Cross Road and ask for a copy of Freakonomics and be told to try Amazon.

Every computer game walk through site ever created

Me and computer games. You'd think I'd be brilliant at them, probably. Geek, computer games. Surely I'd buy loads, play loads, actually complete all of them.

Wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. Until I discovered the free game walk throughs littering the web, I'd never actually completed a computer game - even the ridiculously simple RPG's on my Nintendo DS - I always got stuck. I either couldn't find the dungeon I was supposed to find, died so epically that it became pointless to carry on, or ran around in circles for an hour without finding an exit. It wasn't until someone pointed out walk throughs weren't cheating if you were genuinely stuck and were going to waste the £30 you spent on the game in the first place without them that I actually managed to finish a game. And then another one. And another one. Suddenly, I could see the point of buying a computer game again. I'm sure everyone else has been doing it for years, but they've been a complete revelation to me which is why they're here.

So. 10 reason why I love the internet. I could list 100, probably a 1000 if pushed. I've been here a while. But this is my current top 10. I'd love to know yours?


  1. I can't believe that I have never heard of Stack Magazines...I'm off there now!

  2. Enjoy the magazine roulette ;O) It's a teeny tiny bit like Xmas each month.