Joe Lavin

December 13, 2005

The Year Online - A Comprehensive B-H Guide


Yes, it has been yet another great year on the Information Turnpike. Just think of all the strides we have made. No longer must we suffer through endless spam, spyware has at last been eradicated, and your computer never ever crashes anymore. On second thought, it hasn't been that great, but here are just some of the things we can now do online that we couldn't way back in the halcyon days of 2004.

Blog Weddings - Yes, you can now get married online, at least if you live in Texas. This past summer, Kathleen of Fashion Incubator exchanged vows with Eric of Grim Reader. Welcome to the 21st century where proper etiquette demands that one's wedding announcement always includes the name of one's blog.

As the bride explained, "The state of Texas has a little known law governing 'informal marriage.' For a marriage to be legal, we must publicly declare that we consider each other as spouses and this fact be known to other residents of the state of Texas. We got our certificate this afternoon and have now fulfilled the requirements as there's bound to be a Texas resident or two amongst our joint readership."

It may not be romantic, but hey it's at least cheap.

Cartography by the Masses - Thanks to Google Maps, now anyone can make their own map online. Chicagocrime.org, combining a Chicago crime blotter with a map of the city, was one of the first, but now there are hundreds. For example, GMap-pedometer.com allows you to track your exercise route and calculate the mileage. Another site points out famous spots from around the world, ranging from important ones like Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch to the purely frivolous like the Great Wall of China. With some sites, you can even see the locations of people with whom you are chatting. So far, the detail isn't quite good enough for the purposes of stalking, but progress like that is presumably just a few months away.

Downloading out of Laziness - The other day, I wanted to listen to a song that I already owned. I was pretty sure it was on some collection in a box of CDs way in the other room, but I didn't feel like searching for it. I'm slightly ashamed to admit that I opted instead to pay the 99 cents and just download a new copy. Similarly, last week, I could have rushed home to watch "The Office," one of the few primetime television shows I like. But since the show is now being sold on iTunes for $1.99 a copy, I decided just to pay the money and download it later.

Incidentally, I probably could have downloaded either of these for free, but frankly that seemed like a lot of work when I was already on iTunes anyway. I believe this is the main reason for iTunes' success. For the truly lazy, it may well be the best option.

Editorials by the Masses - In an interesting experiment last summer, the Los Angeles Times began allowing its readers to edit its editorials, much like the popular site Wikipedia. By harnessing the cooperative spirit of the Internet, these new editorials created a participatory yet fair forum for the free and dynamic exchange of ideas. And then two days later, somebody posted all sorts of porn to the site, the newspaper took everything down, and the gig was up. Well, it was at least fun while it lasted.

Fantasy Fashion - Ladies, are you sick of watching your guy spend all his time obsessing over his fantasy leagues? Now, with the Fantasy Fashion League, you can have a fantasy obsession of your own. Instead of players, you draft a team of designers. Whenever one of your designers gets mentioned in the press or gets a dress on the cover of a major magazine, you gain points. The current inaugural season is 24 weeks, starting with the Emmys back in September and "ending with the Super Bowl of Fashion, The Oscars, on March 5, 2006!" It costs $18, but the site does all the math for you, so you can concentrate on the glamour.

Going Blind - They always said you could go blind from looking at dirty pictures. Now, there's scientific proof. The Economist reports that looking at erotic photos can cause "a temporary condition known as emotion-induced blindness." Granted, the blindness only lasts about eight-tenths of a second, but those eight-tenths of a second can be crucial while trying to close a browser window when someone unexpectedly walks into your room.

Hacking Another's Identity - Thanks to Wikipedia, we can all be experts. Wikipedia bills itself as "the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit." Unfortunately, that also means ANYONE can edit it, including even that guy on the edge of town who believes that his pet goat was recently abducted by aliens.

Journalist and elder statesman John Seigenthaler Sr. found this out the hard way. The former aide to Robert Kennedy recently discovered that his Wikipedia entry claimed he had been suspected of assassinating Robert Kennedy and John Kennedy. This is clearly untrue. Incidentally, the 78-year-old Seigenthaler was also never a contestant on "American Idol," and rumors of his backstage affair with Paula Abdul have been greatly exaggerated.

Seigenthaler responded to all this by writing an angry editorial in USA Today denouncing Wikipedia, which, while not nearly as convenient as hitting the edit button and changing his Wikipedia entry himself, does have its advantages. After all, it's not like most of us had ever heard of the guy before any of this. Who says Wikipedia isn't useful?


For Part Two, click here.

©2005 Joe Lavin

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