Thirteen Websites to Keep You Active, Proactive and Inactive Online.

We sheltered writers often forget there is life outside our dimly-lit bookshelved rooms. That beyond our laptop screens glare, there are people who don’t have the luxury of redefining their neuroses as ‘creativity.’ However, it seems, these distant suited people also read Trespass regularly (when they should be working! Can you hear the accountants and lawyers gasp?)

To say thank you for bestowing upon us the delicate art of corporate procrastination, we’ve decided to compile the top ways to be active, pro-active and inactive online.

 

Section 1: Active

Were you one of the poor souls who last week at the watercooler misunderstood the boss’s Christian Bale ‘You and I are done professionally‘ joke and cleaned out your desk? Have you missed the slightly inexplicable humour of Rick-Rolling? Or maybe you accidently asked your best friend how his girlfriend is, when you should’ve known that he changed his facebook status to ‘single’ earlier that morning. Shame on you, real life dweller, it’s time to forget reality and get back to virtuality.

 

I know, nothing new right? But here are my top two tips for maximizing your Facebook stalking experience.

  • When viewing your news feed,click the little Pen tool for more options. By telling facebook what you like and dislike, the information you receive will be way more interesting.
  • Clicking on the arrow at the top feed menu lets you see different lists of your friends, so if you just want to see what your family is up to, you can organise them and check it out here. Also, for everything you do on facebook, you can set privacy limits, so specific groups can only see what you want them to.’

This one follows on from the last. If you love Facebook status updates, you’ll love Twitter. The service is basically a subscription based way to find out what people are doing in 140 letters or less. Twitter was designed for mobile phones and by using a special SMS number (or your computer), you can send your ‘tweets’, and if you so wish (though I found it way too intense) you can receive all of your friends’ tweets via SMS too. The website also allows you to track who is following you, and the tweets you are following.

Top Tweeters:

  • Trespass Magazine – our very own tweet feed
  • New York Times – for your hourly news fix.
  • Stephen Fry – One of my favourite Comedian/Actors updates you on his whereabouts constantly. (Including somewhat arbitrary pics like the one shown right, taken when he was stuck in a hotel elevator)
  • Stephen Colbert – The One and Only. If you don’t know who he is, you’re missing out.
  • The Dalai Lama – If you’re into hearing updates on where HH the DL will be, check it out..
  • Andrew Warner – Owner of Mixergy.com, Andrew Warner is one to follow if you want to know how to work better in business and social networking.
  • Sandi Tighello - One of our favourite Trespassers, and author of the ‘The Small Matter of…’ Column.
  • Sassi Sam – A friend of Trespass Magazine with a bunch of cool products made just for girls.
  • Sam Webster – Yep that’s me.

The best benefit of Twitter’s SMS updates is the faux-fame that it will bring you when your phone is constantly tinkling that warm SMS greeting. Just try not to blow it by saying ‘Oh, that? It’s just the Dalai Lama letting me know where he’s going to be next weekend.”

 

 

Everybody has a friend who knows what’s hip, has heard the latest album and is always up to date on current affairs. Digg is like having thousands of those friends getting together and compiling the things you should see online. From awesome photography to the latest political news, Digg is made entirely of community content, submitted, rated and categorised for your pleasure.

The best place to start is at the top posts for the Last 7 Days to get a feel for it, but pretty soon, you’ll be checking it regularly, moving to the Top in 24 Hours page, and then finally to the Most Recent.

 

This is where the list takes a slight personal turn. Here at Trespass, we’re known to be a little bookwormish and so we can only assume that some of you are too. Bookmooch is a barter system based entirely around books. List your collection of old books you’re willing to give away, list the ones you want to receive and start trading. You get points for every book you post out, and bonus points for international trades. The whole thing links up with Amazon’s database too so you can read blurbs of other people’s wishlists, and get e-mails when a book you really want is up for grabs.

 

 

 

 

Section 2: Proactive

It’s so easy to become distracted by shiny objects online. Like when you’re supposed to be writing an article on being active, proactive and inactive, you end up on a winding journey through the backlogs of YouTube’s extensive Monty Python catalogue. But there ARE worthwhile uses for the wretched computer box.

 

RSS

If you spend way too much time online just trying to keep up, get an RSS feeder. Now.
Back in the early days of the internet you had to visit the sites you wanted to see to check if they had changed, then products came out to track changes, and mailing lists grew in size.

Someone came along and decided that this was still way too complex and created RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, an easy way to track the content of websites automatically. Trespass has one, the New York Times has one, your blog probably has one too.

By far, the two favourite online RSS readers are ‘Bloglines‘ and ‘Google Reader‘ and they’ll track every feed you like. Simply find the link which says ‘RSS’ or ‘Subscribe’ and take the link to the application of your choice. From there, you’ll have options to categorise your feeds into sections (For example I have Friend’s, News, Culture, Photography, Design, Comics and Tech  Blog all split up for easy reading).

The RSS reader takes the content from your favourite websites and catalogues them to make it extremely easy (and time effective) to catch up. If you’ve got an iPhone there are also Applications which will sync with your google reader so you can read your favourite articles (including this one) on the go.

If you have a facebook but don’t want to spend too much time stalking people’s profiles exploring the virtual landscape, you can subscribe to your news feed through your RSS feed reader and avoid the temptation altogether.

 

For everything that doesn’t have an RSS feed (and some things that do) you can use Netvibes.

After you set your home page to your Netvibes page, you can create your own personalised information hub. Add widgets for local weather, news articles, RSS feeds and search engines with ease. Rather than having to look up small pieces of information, it is displayed as soon as you open your web browser, saving you time and avoiding distraction.

 

Why not spend some of your time online being reminded of the things you need to do. If you work freelance, or are just constantly on the go, Toodledo is perfect for you. You can prioritise and categorise your To Do list and even share it with people. If you already use Outlook for your calendar and tasks, Toodledo has a tool to sync to that database. If you have an iPhone, Toodledo also syncs up to the ‘To Do’ application.

Possibly the coolest thing about Toodledo is that they have a browser add-on for Firefox that allows you select text or a link and add it as a to-do option, very handy if you work or research online.

 

This last one is purely for the freelancers among us. If you are working for yourself and have to invoice multiple clients with billing hours and other information, Freshbooks takes the pain out of it. The easiest way to learn about it is just to go check it out.

 

Section 3: Inactive

Everybody needs to tune out. Employers hope that it will be done on the lunch break, employees know it’ll happen just about anytime they can get away with it. It’s why Facebook has been banned in companies across the world. But we’re friends right? So let’s talk candidly.

 

Comics:

What better escapism than a quick punchline. My two current favourites are xkcd and Cyanide and Happiness. Both a little nerdy but always entertaining.

XKCD oscillates between quick gags to elaborate set-ups using terms like ‘oscillate.’ The main demographic is definitely on the nerdier side, but aside from the very obscure computer science strips that come across every so often, most of the comic is witty and accessible to anybody with a little bit of geek in them (see the image to the right.)

 

Explosm.net – Cyanide and Happiness.

As the name might suggest, C&H isn’t exactly a tug on the heart-strings kind of comic. It’s got a similar nerdy vibe to XKCD but tends to revolve around awkward jokes and unexpected scenarios rather than science humour.

 

Videos:

I’m not going to talk about YouTube, you already know that. Go there, search, find candy mountain.

 

You MUST check out the video updates from The Onion News Network. It’s hard to explain what they do without ruining the pure genius of it so please just take my word on that. Seriously, go now… I mean it.

 

 

If there was one site that matches the Trespass mantra for me, it would be TED. Basically, TED is a convention where the top speakers in their field come and present on a topic of their choosing. The most recent publicity they’ve received is courtesy of Bill Gates who after advocating his philanthropic foundation’s commitment to curing malaria, released a swarm of mosquitos on the audience.

They have had poets, inventers, CEOs, and jugglers. These talks are guaranteed to impress and inspire. They’re also available to download for your iPod via the TED talks podcast.

Here are some of my favourites:

Images:

Most of you will know Flickr as a source of images, a place to share your own and to comment on other people’s photographic moments. I will possibly do a follow-up that goes into detail on how Flickr works, but for the outsider, the greatest place you can be is on their ‘Explore’ page.

They basically filter down the most popular images by a secret formula called ‘interestingness’ It’s not purely based on views, comments or favourites but it does a pretty decent job of finding the best photography of the day. This is a little close to my heart of course, because as a flickr devotee, I’ve tried my best to make the list and a few of my photos have actually made it onto that prized list (like my cover shot for local band Daybreak’s second EP – pictured right)

To view random ‘interesting’ pictures of the last seven days, click here.

 

 

 

 

I hope this has helped some of you find some cool places on the net to hang out, and some ways to better spend your time online. If you have any feedback or want me to go into greater depth on any of these ideas, please leave a comment below and I’ll be sure to look into a follow-up.

 

 

* Cover Clock Image courtesy of zoutedrop on flickr

* Computer nerds image courtesy of Valeria Melissia Rosalez on flickr

* RSS image courtesy of jrhode on flickr

* XKCD and C+H Comics courtesy of xkcd.com and explosm.net

About Samuel Webster

Samuel Webster is a writer who spends his days teaching undergraduates about cultural studies, and his nights pondering the impact of a cascading tune whistled on the darkening urban landscape. He is currently working on his first novel. Follow him on twitter: www.twitter.com/wiredjazz