Part of my job is to understand what is happening in the constantly changing world of the Internet. I spend more time online per week than most people spend working, sleeping, and having fun put together. And while this is NOT always a good thing, there are several reasons why I love the World Wide Web. Aside from constantly changing content, new ideas popping up faster than I could ever hope to find them, and the connection of people from different backgrounds, there are several websites that make me really happy.
First there are several sites I did not include in my top ten list, because they are such a part of the fabric of my existence, they hardly count. This would include Facebook.com, Twitter.com, Wikipedia.com, Google (and the 10,000 different variations on the Google theme), YouTube, and the 15 different news sites I like to peruse. The sites I chose for my Top Ten list are super extra special. They actually have an emotional hold on me for one reason or another. Some are guilty pleasures. Some just make me feel smart when I am around other technically savvy people. Others inspire me and shape my world view. Some you may know, others may be new, but these are the winners of 2009 for me.
- Pandora.com – This streaming music site is the main reason I have spent more money on music in the last year than any other year. Pandora has been around awhile, but it just keeps getting better. You create a “channel” by choosing and artist or genre and Pandora will play some songs by that artist, but it also recommends other artists that are similar to that artist or genre. This allows you to listen to music and artists that you may not ever hear. It’s free with a few annoying ads, but I find it’s worth it. You can also get the Pandora iPhone app for ultra hip listening power.
- Etsy.com – Time.com says Etsy is the “long-haired, Birkenstocked love child of Amazon and eBay. It’s a crafts-only marketplace oozing with personality — imagine if Martha Stewart were reincarnated as Ani DiFranco and you get the gist.” From a navigation perspective, Etsy.com has one of the best navigation structures of all times (try the sort by color to see what I mean.) I am NOT a crafts kind of person, but this site is so fun to use and the items you can find here are so unique and unusual, that I spend more time here than I should. But never during work hours. Really.
- Kiva.org – I found Kiva.org after listening to Bill Clinton at his book tour for “Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World.” This site makes it possible to give micro-loans to small businesses in developing countries. You can start for as low as $25.00 and pick any small business you want to loan the money to. The site boasts a 97% on-time repayment rate, and when the money is paid back, you can withdraw your original investment or lend it to another needy applicant. I have been doing this with the same $250.00 for over a year. I’ve helped to start a restaurant in Guatemala, a jewelry business in Argentina, a fruit stand in Mexico, and a water company in Africa. It’s amazing to read the stories of what people are doing with your loan, and it makes you feel really good about the state of the world.
- Popurls.com. This is an online aggregator. One place to go to see the top stories, pictures, videos and general goings-on about the web. This site is my “trick” for how I know what is going on 24/7, 365. Like I said, not always a good thing. But with a tool like this, life is easier.
- LinkedIn.com – Do you have a Rolodex? Me neither. I have a LinkedIn profile. For those of you in the professional community who are not on LinkedIn, you may just want to login and get yourself a profile. This social networking tool for professional people is the “who’s who” for your professional life. I have met amazing people through LinkedIn, and I know several people who have found great jobs using this tool. You never know when you are going to need to network, and a strong LinkedIn network is a wonderful asset. Bye-bye Rolodex cards, hello digital world.
- TED.com – TED is really just the most amazing website in the world. The Technology, Entertainment, & Design organization’s tagline is “Riveting Talks by Remarkable People, Free to the World.” These 15-minute talks on just about every single topic you can imagine have made me laugh, made me cry, and have inspired me to be a better person. I know I will have “made it” when I am up there giving a TED talk. (A girl can dream.) One example of a fascinating talk: Nathan Wolfe talks about viruses . Beware, they are ALL this good.
- Digitalmash.com – This is one of my favorites because I love Rob Morris’s design style, his photography is breathtaking, and his website is simply beautiful in my opinion. I love his use of imagery, fonts and white space. I go here when I need some colorful inspiration.
- StumbleUpon.com – Imagine an entirely new way of “surfing” the web. You tell the web your interests, and it suggests sites that are out there that you might find interesting. This site really revolutionized web browsing for me. Warning, warning: HUGE time waster. But you never know what you might stumble upon.
- 1000awesomethings.com – I have to plug this blog, as it is just beautiful. I am not even going to tell you about it, the name says it all. My favorite of the 1000…..well, that’s just too hard to divulge. I’ll just let you read and find your favorite.
- YOUR PICK- What was your favorite site of 2009? I’m looking forward to hearing what inspires you.