Websites We Love!

Unknown-4Not all websites are created equal. I talked to some people yesterday who told me that they spent weeks trying to get a passport in India, because the website only functioned for appointment scheduling from 5:59pm to 6:00pm. I am not making this up. Having a whack ass website can really kill interest in a product or service, and – frankly – having a great website can convince a consumer that poo-poo paste is foie gras. This is the nature of web-appeal, defined as the Babyface approach to internet usage (P.S. You can’t really snap your fingers with gloves on. P.P.S. *watch the video*).

Easy to use, giving loads of bang for their – mainly free – buck, here are five websites that have me wow-ed:

Unknown-1

Everybody knows I’m a http://www.mint.com slave, but now I’ve become just as addicted to award wallet. Every credit card, store, hotel, airline has some kind of reward program and, really, who can keep up? But these entities pray that you never keep up, so that the benefits expire and dissolve into thin air. You, my friend, have no reason to be a victim of reward expiration ever again. There is a rub though – the major airlines do not allow http://www.awardwallet.com to link to their sites, so you have to manually load your point balance and periodically update it. It’s a little bit of pain for a lot of free gain. It’s simple to add programs. And once you get everything loaded you’re more likely to keep track of your earnings rather than lament all the miles and hotel stays laying in wait in your spam.

Unknown-3Akanksha is a great a charity and social-service program based in the Mumbai-Pune area. Using a charitable teaching platform, college students or grads can volunteer to teach students in any particular field. Further, the organization raises funds though art projects and sales, corporate giving, charitable donation, and paid summer workshops. The stores to buy student produced merchandise are apparently just in the Mumbai area, but hopefully they’ll expand to other places and an online store (fingers crossed). Either way, the site is well-organized, easy to navigate, and clear to understand – a huge boon to donor confidence.

UnknownThis site is no hidden gem – it’s already been out there for a long, long time. Actually, it was about five years ago when I discovered it and thought “Urban Outfitters, the Salvation Army, and ebay had a web baby!” This site is a clearing house for hand-made and antique items. Selling is as cheap and easy as on ebay. And if you’re a buyer, you can practically find anything you could ever dream of. This year alone I bought custom rubber stamps, a Taj Mahal wall decal, and a bearded baby cap. And I’ve been eyeing a cast iron oven roaster pan. Who said being a hippie consumer was over rated?

flavorpill-logoI have to admit that I’m not in love with the email newsletters from http://www.flavorpill.com. That may have something to do with the fact that I signed up for four cities at once, and right now I don’t live in any of them (I bet you can’t guess which four!). Let’s just say it’s information overload about cool events I can’t go to. But, if http://www.meetup.com and Yelp are sites you already frequent, flavorpill.com is in the natural progression of your city search. They always have interesting event listings and off kilter articles about books and culture. Word to the wise, http://www.flavorpill.com’s culture blog is flavorwire.com. And http://www.flavorwire.com is where I learned that I’ve read two of the 15 books they say you should NOT read in your 20s. I already read one in high school and have another on my shelf right now – just ripe for the reading. Thirty is, in fact, NOT the new twenty.

Unknown-2To bring out the inner linguist in you, I suggest you bookmark the BBC’s world news language service. I’ve never found a more useful website for getting your bi-lingual on! The BBC offers their world coverage in many different languages (and variations of languages). Now the trick is that you should have at least a basic understanding of the newly acquired language, as well as some basic knowledge of current events in the country/region being covered. Hence, you actually should read some articles in English before listening to (or reading) story in the language of your choice. So after your Rosetta Stone courses are done, give the BBC a whirl to see just how much you’ve retained!

Don’t take my word for it. Try these sites for yourself and tell me what you think. I’m not getting paid (or gaining rewards points) for getting you to test them out. But, if you like ’em I gain bragging rights and e-street cred – what more could a blogger ask for?

Page Turner

One has to ask if Nooks and e-readers brought sexy back to reading.  Books on tape never quite made this kind of a splash, but people have been trying to get around actually picking up a book and turning its leafy pages for decades now.  We used to call these people lazy.  Now, perhaps, they are the efficient, eco-friendly, educated wave of the future. The debate rages on and only time will tell if e-readers are Jennifer Aniston (the girl next door that no one expected to be a dud) or Angelina Jolie (the new girl on the block that’s here to stay and ready to birth a global generation). Everybody knows that I still love words in print, but frolicking through the web content of these reads still gets me all tingly inside.

Tabloids: Somehow I can’t justify sacrificing a tree for celebrity gossip, but I will burn out my Mac’s back light reading Bossip!Perez HiltonPop Sugar & World Star Hip Hop. Maybe it’s the ability to link to all the videos and pull up the old articles, but the celebrity dish is just better on screen.

Dwell Magazine: From household D-I-Y tricks to tricked out design solutions, Dwell Magazine always leaves me with something more than I bargained for.  Responsible money management, smart home design and modern families make me all hot & bothered in a future soccer mom kind of way.

BBC World News:  Sometimes NPR is too preachy or localized, and Fox News is just adult male cow diarrhea.  BBC World seems to cover stories that would make it on CNN, the History Channel, Discovery America and Spike TV.  There is even a languages section, so you can hear educated reporting in any dialect that’s sweetest to your ears.

VerySmartBrothas Blog:  Apparently this is the new pulse of Black America, young America, dating America, single and searching America, single parent and fed-up America, horizontal mambo America. You name it, America, and VSB has covered it at some point in time, and I bet whatever was said was both true and funny. Now, that’s sexy literature.

Cookbooks & Foodblogs:  Cookbooks are better known as paperweights in my kitchen. They aren’t on hand when I’m in the supermarket – ready to buy ingredients needed to make cumbersome recipes with ingredients I can’t pronounce.  It’s easy to look up food blogs like Slice of my Lyfe, Sin-a-Mon, and Food & Wine Magazine while getting creative in the produce aisle or trying to figure out what is in season at my food co-op or new in my CSA box.

What else do you prefer to read on the web, instead of on glossy/ matte paper?