Thursday, November 13, 2008

10 Things I Love About the Internet

Not far from my job

I work in the IT field. What this means is that I keep my office up and running with most things technical. Computers, networking, telecommunications - my job is to support it. When things don't work or show signs they won't work in the near future it's my job to fix them. Most of the time, I sit on the internet.

Our lives have changed irrevocably with the creation of the internet. We can now text Google ('googl' or 46645) from our cell phones and find movie times, restaurant locations, gas stations, anything sent right back to us from any location (well, most locations). I don't even watch television because anything I want to see I can get off the internet later. I don't listen to radio because my ipod is full of music I can download from the internet. I don't watch the news because the internet updates faster and usually with more accurate information. I don't worry about wondering where my friends are or if they're ok because Facebook, e-mail, and IM can keep me in constant contact with people on the other side of the world.

I spend at least 8-10 hours a day on the internet in one form or another, either at work or at home. I've come to the conclusion there are 10 things I love about the internet: 10 things that keep me coming back each day instead of growing bored. 10 things that have made my life better and that I don't want to lose. [I spent some time trying to figure out how to make a descending 'top ten' list and couldn't figure it out. So, it goes from 1 to 10, with 10 being my favorite.]
  1. The News: CNN, BBC, and NPR. These sites keep up to date on news stories and are, for the most part, fairly accurate in their information. They may be a little biased when they report it on TV or radio, but their websites are quite accurate. Studies have found that people who get their information from the internet, as opposed to news channels or papers, are often better informed and less biased that those who watch television. Kind of ironic since some of my sources have television stations, but reporting print and stories is different than editorial news shows.

  2. Youtube: who doesn't love this? From the Numa Numa Kid, the Diet Coke + Mentos experiments, Will it Blend?, and every music video ever created, Youtube is just fantastic. Recently Weezer made a tribute to YouTube's popular videos with the music video of Pork and Beans. It's a part of our culture now. And it's easy to get lost watching videos of kittens, too.

  3. Wikipedia: the encyclopedia of everything. Initially somewhat inaccurate due to the nature of anyone being able to edit it, but in recent years they've started factchecking, requiring citations for controversial or definitive statements, and even locking down important or controversial posts (the day Palin became the VP nominee for the GOP her Wikipedia site became locked down; interestingly, it was mere hours after it had been heavily edited). Wikipedia is made all the more interesting by Wikiscanner; it allows to see the edits made to Wikipedia pages and the IP of who made them.

  4. Rick Astley: this could be included in Youtube, but really, he deserves his own mention. I don't mean this tongue-in-cheek nor as a joke: I really do love the music video for "Never Gonna Give You Up." It's just so much fun. It's like everything that was awesome about the 80's in a 3:33 video. Then again, I'm a sucker for 80's pop, and let's face it, Rick's one of the best.

  5. Team Fortress 2: an online game based on team based what is essentially capture the flag. Different classes ranging from fire-starting Pyros to Medics to chaingun-wielding Heavy's. The game is non-stop action and the teamwork it inspires amongst people who have never met or know each others' names is amazing. I spent over an hour playing as a Medic supporting a guy under the name Hiroshima playing Heavy - we dominated the server and eventually people were quitting the game because they weren't able to take us down. We decided to give people a chance and from then on played on different teams. It was just amazing to work with someone you've never met for a common goal, being able to talk over a headset with them and plan our strategies. It's incredible.

  6. BitTorrents: before torrents, all downloads came from a server. If you wanted to download, your computer contacted the server hosting the file and it came down from there. If it was a popular file, it could take hours to get a 100MB file. With torrents, that changed. Now files were broken up into segments and distributed out, then shared with each other. For example, if we were to take that same 100MB file and break it up into 100 segments, then give 100 different users 1MB each, the downloads would go a lot faster. After all, it only takes 1% of the time to download 1% of the file. Then, once each person has their 1%, they start to share with each other. This takes the pressure off the central server and lets each person act as a mini server for smaller parts of the files. It allows for much faster downloads and is far more efficient when it comes to sending down large files, such as the 700MB patches for Team Fortress 2.

  7. IRC (aka chat rooms) and webforums: just log on to a chat room or web forum and start talking with people. Do you know them? Doubtful. Does it matter? Not really. I've killed many hours just sitting on IRCs making jokes and talking about whatever topic you can imagine with people I'll never meet. I've asked for advice on everything from my computer to my personal life on webforums, as well as discussed theoretical physics, politics (both domestic and international), metaphysics, abortion, theology, economics (again, domestic and international), as well as fart jokes and card games. Sure there are the trolls who just want to yell at people, insult others, make people feel like crap and be dicks, but they get kicked out and removed when they're found; only the quality people survive in the communities I'm a part of. We respect each other and listen to other opinions than just our own, we debate with facts and sources, not insults. (We do insult each other, but it's always in fun.) It's a thing of beauty.


    Webcomics: Clever, witty, often brilliantly drawn, and full of subtle (or blatant) references to everything from video games to politics. I don't think anything will ever top Calvin And Hobbes as the best comic strip ever written, but some webcomics come close. If you're into science and math stuff - or just clever writing, I highly recommend XKCD. More into romantic comedies? Check out Questionable Content. Like the computer jokes? Applegeeks will cover that (with amazing art, as well). Video games your thing? Then you probably already know about Penny Arcade. In college and living in the dorms? Mac Hall has some great stuff inspired by that lifestyle. Those are just a few of my favorites; there are hundreds - thousands, even. Most of them aren't that good, but there are some that are fantastic. One that's just starting out that's quite promising is Not Enough BBQ. It only has 16 posts as of this writing (as opposed to over 1200 on Questionable Content), but it has potential. I'll be keeping my eye on it.

  9. IM Clients: similar to IRCs, but more specific. Everyone has probably used an IM client, be it AIM, MSN/Live, Trillian, Gaim, Gmail Chat, Yahoo! Chat, whatever. Once again, a great way to keep in contact with friends and in many cases make new ones. Some of my closest friends I made through IM chats. There's something about them, maybe it's just the vague anonymity or them not being able to actually see you, that allows you to be more open and honest. I suppose that's the same logic Catholics use for confession, so it must work.

    And my favorite thing about the internet:

  10. Girls and guys in Wisconsin, New York City, Poland, Australia, Ireland, Washington, Canada, the UK, Austria, Australia, Cairo, Bangladesh, and a dozen other regions and countries around the world: people I interact with daily thanks to the internet. They know who they are. People whom I never would have met - never would have had even the smallest chance of meeting - if it weren't for the internet. We all came together due to similar interests or just because we happened to log on to the same forum or IRC or video game on the same day at the same time. From that initial meeting, or from years of just being around each other in the same virtual communities, we've become friends.

    There are people scattered all over America, Europe, Asia and Australia that I'd feel comfortable just sitting around talking with - even rooming with if I was on vacation. I'm fairly certain I could backpack across Europe hitting just about every city or country I wanted to and I'd be able to find someone I know whom I could stay with because I've spent years talking with them online. People whom I legitimately know. People whom I trust. There are times when I've used them for support, when I've just needed to vent frustration or anger, when I've needed to tell someone something deeply personal that no one else knows...we tell each other. It goes back to the anonymity thing, but also to just feeling safe with people who you know won't look down on you or judge you. People who'll go from whipping insults at each othat at the speed of sound to shutting up and being respectful of someone who's telling a personal life story in seconds. It's a group and a small community spread across the world that I'm proud to be a part of and the main reason I keep getting online each day.

A digital world: I love it

And that's it. Those are my 10 favorite things about the internet.

I get off work in an hour, and when I get home, I'll make some food, go to the gym, maybe play on my guitar for a bit, then get back online. Because that's what I want to do.

1 comment:

--jeff * said...

way cool list, t. well written.