The old ‘links’ page used to be stuffed with about every site I knew about at the time when I started creating my first website. Of course, in these days of efficient search engines, that practice has become completely pointless. So instead, here's a concise set of websites that I either visit frequently or deem important, and that could be of interest to most people.
It may be rather pointless to introduce Google to most people, but in case you've never heard of it you should really update your internet awareness. Google is, at the time of this writing, the most popular search engine. A search engine collects as many pages from the web as possible and tries to return the most relevant ones when someone enters a search term. The success of Google is partially due to the fact that their engine is very efficient, contains a massive amount of pages, and seems to be able to rank the results in a way people find helpful. Over the years, Google evolved from just a search engine to a player on multiple markets. They also have free e-mail, maps, webmaster tools and much more.
You can search Google directly from this search box:
News for nerds, stuff that matters, and a gazillion idiots who are waiting like vultures to reply to your comments with some self-indulgent remark to show how much more intelligent they are than you, and how much better their way of life is. My strategy is to read the articles only, and the first comments that aren't stupid “first post!” attempts. If I really feel brave, I might attempt a comment on a fresh article. Don't waste your time posting on an article that has a large amount of comments already: chances are nobody will ever read your text.
- BBC News
I live in Belgium but I rarely check the Belgian news sources, because experience tells me they give watered-down versions of the BBC's news with a delay added on top. I mostly use the RSS feed instead of browing through the site itself.
An online encyclopaedia that can be edited by anyone. The result is that you can find information about pretty much anything there. The only disadvantage is that the quality of the information may be lower for less popular topics, and for political and controversial topics it is not unusual for the text to be biased. It is an immensely useful site, but you should always read it with a critical eye. There are translations in various languages but for non-region-specific information the English pages are most often the most elaborate.
Music & Movies
- All Music Guide
An extensive database of music releases and artists, with reviews by people who mostly know what they're talking about (be aware that some reviews are extremely subjective, hence utterly worthless, though). The search function is useful, but unfortunately the site runs on Microsoft software and can't always handle the load. If you search something and there are more than ±200 results, don't bother opening them, the server will timeout. Also, it's a bit biased towards releases/artists in the USA and UK. Anything else, especially when sung in a language different from English, is mostly labeled “World music” even when it's plain rock. Information about mainstream artists is generally correct but you may want to double-check anything about lesser known artists.
Kind of a rougher version of AMG, built by anyone who wants to contribute. There are fewer reviews and their quality varies even more, but there's often much more detailed information about specific releases. If you can't find it on AMG, you may find it here.
Useful information and ratings for nearly all movies that have ever existed. Don't be fooled by the user reviews, however. People can vote if they find a user review “useful”, and by default the reviews are sorted according to these votes. Unfortunately, it seems like there's an army of voters which constantly scour the reviews for movies they like. If a review praises the movie like they do, they vote it up. If the review is negative in any way, they vote it down, no matter how crappy the movie itself is. So “useful” doesn't mean “does this review help me to judge the quality of the movie” as you might expect. I'm also pretty certain that every film studio has a whole army of drones who both filter reviews in the same way and rate their own movies maximum and other movies minimum. This explains why recent films often have suspicious peaks at 10 and 1 in their rating histogram.
To get a slightly more funded idea about the quality of a particular movie and whether you may like it or not, don't just look at its score. That score is just an average and the peak in the rating histogram is often a much better indicator. Next, you should sort its reviews according to both ‘Liked it’ and ‘Hated it’. Read multiple reviews of both types, and see if people come up with actual good reasons why they liked or hated it. Avoid the reviews that are just emotional stream-of-consciousness dumps, or overly detailed analyses by film academy students. And of course, the suspiciously generic positive reviews that are likely to have been copy-pasted by studio drones.
By the way, if you are (or know) the guy who writes all those orphaned subordinate clauses in the goofs. Like “When actor X is in the patio.” When I see such a partial sentence. It is annoying. When you were in high school. Didn't you learn about the comma?
- Radio Paradise
If you hate advertisements and have a broad non-commercial musical taste, this may be the best internet radio station out there. If your idols are Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera and Lady GaGa, by all means stay away. If you become a regular listener, don't forget to donate to keep it running.
True, it mostly contains unimaginable amounts of uninteresting garbage — the not-so-surprising result of giving the man-in-the-street access to video recording and publishing tools. Worse, reading the comments may cause more brain damage than beating your own head with a baseballbat. I believe some people on this planet have actually committed suicide after losing all faith in mankind by reading YouTube comments. In fact, YouTube is a nice illustration of why I believe the internet should be separated in a section for babies up to immature teenagers, and grown-up people. Nevertheless, if you dig deep enough, there are some real masterpieces amidst all that crap, like clever parodies or real works of art. And of course, you can also find about every highlight of every good movie ever made.
- Calvin & Hobbes
This is one of the most beautiful comics ever made, but it was killed by the paradox between its success and the very commercialization that it tried to criticize. I don't include a link because the ‘official’ site on which the comic resides is an insult to the spirit of the comic. I recommend buying the paper version or (if you're that poor) downloading a complete archive somewhere.
This is definitely not for everyone, because this comic is built around the storyline of the computer game “Half-Life 2”. You must have played that game (and preferably, also Counter-Strike) to appreciate this comic, which mocks many elements of the game and computer games in general.
This comic alternates between a storyline involving computer gamers, and loose comics about other games and computer-related stuff. If your experience with computers doesn't go beyond e-mail, web surfing and chatting, you'll hardly find this one funny.
The neverending story of an employee in a corporation where nobody (including the CEO) knows what they're actually doing. It's amazing how recognisable the situations in these comics are, whatever your own job is. Despite the limited scope of the comic, Scott Adams seems to have an infinite amount of inspiration.
I can recommend the comics in the archive from the years 1990-2003. The quality has unfortunately been declining lately, probably because the comics are now produced by some kind of ‘collective’ and as David Bowie would word it, “Garfield has grown up a cow”. If the horrible Flash-animated website annoys you, you can also browse through the comics at the GoComics site.
- General Protection Fault
One of the lesser known webcomics, but of high quality. The story line seems to start out very simple but becomes pretty complex. Despite the name there's something for everyone in here, although you will appreciate it more if you're a bit ‘nerdy’.
- Jesus Christ: In the Name of the Gun
This comic is best described by summing up a few keywords: Jesus Christ, guns, Ernest Hemingway, nazis, gore, and fecal incontinence.
- The Perry Bible Fellowship
A true little gem, with wildly varying drawing styles and, unlike some other comics, a healthy dose of sarcasm. Unfortunately the update schedule is, well, … completely random. Even worse, lately there have been virtually no new comics, although a new one might pop up from time to time. I hope it comes back to life soon.
One of the oldest web comics. When going through the archive you can actually re-experience the Dot Com Bubble bursting. It's not for everyone, but for people involved with ICT in some way, there are some true gems in here. Don't worry if the “comments” under each strip don't seem to make sense to you, they have become a kind of message board for insiders aka UFies. Unfortunately this comic too has started stagnating somewhere in 2010.
“A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.” That pretty much sums it up. It is quite possible that you'll find this comic weird, nerdy and incomprehensible. If the previous sentence made you curious, you'll probably like it.