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If you're bored with the Internet, the Webbys awards are the perfect cure
Have you become a bit, well, bored with the Internet lately? It's OK. I'm not here to judge.
Let's face it. The Web is getting on in years, the courtship phase is over, and you and your browser have fallen into the same old routine. Somewhere between the ascent of Google and the raging flood of blogs, blogs, blogs your sense of Web-venture got sucked into a spinning vortex of e-mail, news sites and the occasional cheesy link from that co-worker you can't stand. You're broadbanded out with nowhere to go. You need an extreme online makeover.
Don't worry. I have just the thing.
This week, dear readers, I give you the "Webby."
No, it's not of or relating to the thin, silken material spun by spiders, nor an endearing way to refer to someone's malformed feet. It is, however, the most prestigious award for online achievement we humans have come up with -- and one very handy cheat sheet to the best of the Web.
For too long -- 11 years, in fact -- these awards, like so many super-cool things online, have been hoarded by geeks, Net junkies and their technologically privileged kind.
But no more.
So surf with me, ye neglected masses, to this year's list of honorees -- selected by the 550 members of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences from more than 8,000 entries -- and get back that fuller, more satisfying Web life you've always wanted: http://www.webbyawards.com/webbys/current.php.
The Webbys, announced May 1, dished out praise to 481 honorees in more than 100 categories. That's a lot. Many categories commend sites for being functional or fetching rather than fun. Commendable, certainly, but we're looking for something to turn you on to online. Banking sites, God bless 'em, may not do it.
Let's start with games.
If any group of sites can remind you why the Web rocks, it's the nominees in this category.
Top honors this year went to a Flash game called Samorost2. Don't let the funny title fool you. This point-and-click puzzle adventure by Amanita Design overflows with crisp design, haunting music, and game play that's addictive and, mostly, guilt free. You're exercising your brain cells, after all.
It's enough to keep you and your computer cuddling for hours.
But maybe you want to sit back, relax, and be more passively entertained. I direct you, then, to the online film and video section. All these sites are worth repeat visits -- especially if you haven't already gazed lovingly at original online-only video content. Some are taking the medium to the next level.
Take ItsAllInYourHands.com. Remember those "Choose Your Own Adventure" books? Here you'll find four video serials -- including the Web renowned sci-fi series "Satacracy 88" -- that follow that same model. A cliffhanger ends every episode and the result is left to the viewers. The shows' creators -- those darlings -- wait until the results are in to write the next episode. Interactivity on this scale could be the future of television.
Here's a way to add some spice to your tried-and-true news sites: MediaStorm.org. Winner of the magazine category, this multimedia warehouse gets creative with its stories. And to think, once upon a time we had to pick among print, TV and radio. Now you get all three, in any combination. Whatever tells the story best.
The Webbys have much more to offer, but in print -- sigh -- I have only so much space. Here are some quick hits: The winners in the art and Netart categories --Electrolux Design Lab and The Dumpster, respectively, show how attractive the Net is. And smart. Check out the brains behind HowStuffWorks.com, WIE.org and PoetryFoundation.org.
Been sneaking off with the TV? Current.tv and Blip.tv -- with a heavy dose of the irresistible CuteOverload.com for good measure -- could seduce you back. And if you've never seen Flickr.com, LinkedIn.com, Yelp.com or Last.fm -- you're just being neglectful of the Net's most creative and useful communities. Even Zopa.com, the social lending site that beat traditional banks in their own category, will give you a new appreciation of this incredible technology.
The Webbys have no four-hour telecast. No plastic, self-absorbed celebrities. No corny presentation speeches. In fact, winners are allowed only five words to thank their supporters -- which puts "I'd like to thank the Academy" right out of play. There is a three-day event and gala in New York June 3-5 for the honorees, but -- thank God -- no Joan Rivers.
So the next time you feel the excitement drain from your Internet experience, pull up the Webby list and poke around. It's like anything in life: When it starts to get routine, mix it up. Rearrange the furniture. Part your hair on the other side. Break your routine. Do something unexpected.
The Web can be both fascinating and frustrating, genius and ludicrous, distracting and entrancing.
But with so much there to discover, with so much breaking molds, winning awards and changing our culture, there's one thing this virtual playground of ours can't ever be: boring.
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