As a web-type-person, I often find myself in conversations with friends or new acquaintances who either:
- Have the bestest idea ever, ever, ever for a website that they want to make.
- Are curious about what stimulates my technological erogenous zones.
- Think I’m a gamer who can recommend the best video game to buy at any moment in time.
I don’t want to pick on my friends, (I value my friends dearly so would never) but a bit of chagrin on their part every now and again is an intrinsic element of the makeup of any 21st Century man; so a little ribbing here is fair game.
I’ll address point 3 first of all. I know NOTHING about gaming (outside of the iPhone gaming world of course). This is because of two reasons; one, I just don’t have the time to waste and two, I’m absolutely rubbish at most games (I blame my unwieldily large hands and small controllers). I of course pick up on the buzz that surrounds new games, platforms or emerging technology, however I’ve only ever completed two games in my entire life: Splinter Cell and Silent Hill on the original Xbox. The only thing that compelled me to do such a thing was to test out the Dolby Digital surround system I bought around the same time. I loved the fact that you could hear things creeping up on you and react to it. It was an immersive experience that I found interesting. However it soon wore off and my XBox and PS2 were again reduced to dusty ornaments on my TV cabinet.
Since then I’ve tried hard (for the millionth time) to get into games, buying a PS3 in the process and the only thing I spent any notable time on was Call of Duty 4. The PS3 is still with us but now only gets rolled out at parties when my fiancé insists on getting SingStar going. So to conclude, if you want games advice I suggest a visit to IGN would be much more valuable than a chat with myself. One day though, I’ll find the time to get into it… one day.
Now onto the good stuff. Every other webby or venture capital person will probably chuckle to themselves recognising this familiar situation. Everybody I know has a great idea for a website, and naturally I’m their first port of call. The only problem is that 99% of these ideas have already been done, and 70% of them have already been done well. Being a person who spends at least 2-3 hours a day digesting something in the region of 300 individual tech, gadget, innovation, design and development RSS feeds I tend to have a good idea of what’s happening, what’s new and what works and doesn’t on the web. So if a friend suggests an idea, chances are if it’s been done I’ll know about it.
The problem with this is that often you have to shatter dreams. A lot of my friends don’t use the internet much, so they don’t see everything and aren’t aware of some of the great sites out there. It’s not easy to tell them that something has already been done or that it might not work, but if someone has an epiphany and decides that what the internet needs is somewhere you can go and buy books then you have no choice but to point out Amazon.
I’ve had the odd idea suggested here and there that have been genuinely innovative, some of which are in my development pipeline, but the majority are unfortunately already out there. I would never suggest that people stop approaching me with ideas though as you never know, they may hit a home run. There are a also a hell of a lot of sites out there that could be done better.
The final thing people talk to me about, and this is often the point where I somehow manage to bore and repel people at parties. That is: what sites and technologies do I admire on the web? I could (and often do) go on for hours about my favourites. I’ll try and give a brief summary of typical daily web activites and favourites to save you all the boredom.
First of all, as previously mentioned in my RSS reader (NetNewsWire) I have something in the region of 300 RSS feeds. The majority of which are technology and gadget blogs; Engadget, Gizmodo, Geekologie, Slashdot, The Register are typical examples. Then there’s the meme, viral and web buzz sites like, Digg, Buzzfeed and Urlesque. To top it all off there’s a bunch of fashion, design, style and trend sites like PSFK, Retro to Go, Springwise etc.
The upside to all those feeds is that I get a pretty good picture of trending technology, design, and development techniques. Keeping me on my toes and ensuring I don’t get left behind. The downside is that I end up seeing the same stories posted over and over again on different blogs. I should at least delete two of Gizmodo, Engadget and Geekologie but I just can’t bring myself to do it.
As for my favourite sites that I actually visit… Well, I can’t resist a bit of time here and there on the Manchester United Red Issue forums (is it bad form to release football allegiance to potential clients?) if there was ever a site not to be taken seriously then the Red Issue Main forum is it. But it provides me with an entertaining source of United news and many comedy moments. Weirdly I have no traditional news sources in any of my RSS feeds so I visit the BBC, Guardian and other major news sources on a regular basis.
Somewhat unsurprisingly to regular readers of this blog, the sites I spend the bulk of my none-work-related online time (I actually think all my time online is work related as seeing what the internet does is what I do) is spent on music sites. I visit Metacritic, Pitchfork, RCRD LBL and Vice Magazine Music at least every other day to get a fix. I always want to know what’s new, what’s great and what’s bad so these sites are an essential resource.
When working from home like I do your only company is often just music, therefore it is a huge part of my life. Those sites make sure that the music I work to keeps me lifted and engaged, rather than bored and searching for something to listen to. I also love to visit my last.fm profile every now and again to see what’s made it to the top of my chart that day, week or month.
But, the question I hear you ask is what is my favourite website? Well, in all honesty it changes on an at least a weekly basis if not daily. However the site I can’t pull myself away from at the moment is the Hype Machine. The Hype Machine indexes a whole bunch of the best music blogs looking for reviews and tracks. It then pulls the tracks into its own embedded media player and the reviews end up in their homepage stream.
There are many great things about The Hype Machine, for instance you can seamlessly go from page to page without interrupting the music player, it loads in new blog posts in real time via ajax, it auto tags tracks and artists to create charts and other dynamic content and of course it creates it’s own charts based upon popular songs played that day.
In my opinion the people over at The Hype Machine completely ‘get’ music online. They even recently launched a new chart which monitors Twitter looking for song mentions: a great example of their ability to latch onto and integrate happening trends.
Creating your own profile allows you to feel a part of the site as your played tracks contribute to the overall charts, it even updates your last.fm and twitter streams with your recently played and loved tracks. I think it is a perfect example of how user generated content should be done. You may – correctly -assume that Twitter and Facebook are great examples of UGC, but with Twitter and Facebook your activity and content is limited to your own pages and networks, but with Hype Machine you affect and decide the overall site content. I believe it is one of the few “perfect” user-generated-content sites out there, the fact it is music related just makes things better for me.
So there you have it. A little insight into my daily tech activities interspersed with some hardcore evangelism for my current favourite website – I did warn you I could go on a bit about my favourite things online!