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Cybernaut

Webby Awards Part III

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After two weeks and countless column inches I can safely say that I’m approaching the halfway point in my analyses of the various Web sites nominated for a Webby Award in 27 different categories. Judges will present their awards in July based on the technology, user-friendliness, appearance and content of the nominated sites.

I’m picking my favourite and the runner up in each category. Last week I got as high as Government and Law.

Appropriately, with the Liberals in power and promising to cut taxes and maintain the current level of funding for health care, the first category for this week is "Health".

Check out www.webbyawards.com for the complete list of nominees and the full explanation of the awards.

Health

It’s not the best looking of the sites, but my favourite would have to be www.medbroadcast.com , otherwise billed as "Canada’s Source for Health Information". This is a huge and comprehensive look at health for men and women, from infants to the infirm, from the outside in. It’s a hypochondriac’s paradise, and a good place to go if you want advice on drugs, treatments, or that armpit rash that keeps you up nights. This site also follows an archives health news to keep you up to date on the latest medical breakthroughs, and what medications you shouldn’t mix.

My choice for runner-up would have to be www.thriveonline.com . Thrive is a magazine for healthy lifestyles aimed at teens and twenty-somethings. The information is nothing groundbreaking, put presented in such a way as to be compelling.

For example, they use humour, vice and voyeurism to lure you into serious discussions on such embarrassing topics as human sexuality – i.e. May is National Masturbation Month. They also relate fitness and nutrition questions back to sports you might play, drawing connections you probably wouldn’t have otherwise made.

Humour

The winner, without a shadow of doubt, has to be The Onion at www.theonion.com . This weekly paper takes satire to a whole new level, picking apart our modern world with surgical precision and a shocking level of insight into our hopes, fears, foibles and prejudices – if you don’t recognize a little bit of you or your friends and family in any of the articles or columns, then you’re probably Amish.

As a sidebar, you’ll want to pick up a copy of Our Dumb Century, 100 years of satirical headlines that elevate cynicism to a sophisticated art form.

There wasn’t a clear runner-up – most of the other nominees weren’t all that funny, or were blatant (and less humerous) Onion copycats. If I had to pick a winner it would probably be Modern Humorist at www.modernhumorist.com . The writers are better than at any of the other sites in the category, but not all that funny in themselves – the problem is that they think they’re funny and generally beat you over the head with quirky, smirking, observational commentary that they "borrowed" from popular culture, i.e. Seinfeld.

Kids

Of all the promises that the Internet made in its campaign for universal acceptance, one of the few that was actually delivered on is quality children’s programming. While most kids could probably benefit more from a good run around the park than countless hours spent on the Internet, it’s safe to say that as a learning and research tool it has bailed millions of kids out on the night before an assignment was due. And the Internet, unlike most classroom environments, generally manages to entertain while it educates.

My favourite site in this category was Fact Monster at www.factmonster.com , an online encyclopedia/dictionary/almanac/atlas by the Learning Network that students can use to help them get through their homework and cram for exams in almost every topic.

While all of the other candidates were excellent in their own way, I went with www.lugnet.com , an online community for Lego enthusiasts. There have been actual scientific studies done to show the connection between Lego and right brain development – there’s a good chance that every artist, writer or musician to come out of our generation will have had a few sets at home to tinker with in their youth. It also develops hands-on mechanical skills, and provides a working foundation for left brain development – everything from physics to architecture. The Lugnut people take this toy seriously, showing off member creations and encouraging Lego users to experiment. If nothing else some of these creations will blow your mind.

Living

Since this Web site is for people who are actually "Living", rather than subsisting from paycheque to paycheque with no wife, no kids, and no responsibilities, I found it difficult to relate to a lot of the content. Each site was geared towards a different audience, which also made them difficult to compare.

If I had wealth or taste, I’d probably tune into Epicurious ( www.epicurious.com ) to read the latest about matching wine to seafood entrees. If I were a girl, age 15 to 30, I’d probably tune into www.chickclick.com to learn how to crochet hats and read up on Madonna’s latest religious experience – I’m not making fun; this site actually has articles on pedicures, making candles and organizing your closet.

If I were a nosy, ineffectual parent, I would probably get my facts on drugs, alcohol and teen pregnancy at www.cfoc.org , the Campaign For Our Children headquarters.

If I had a baby, I might check into www.babycenter.com to prepare myself for the various trials and tribulations of fatherhood.

If I was going to get married, I might log onto The Knot ( www.theknot.com ) for help on planning the big day – that is if it hasn’t already been planned to the smallest detail by your fiancée and the future mother-in-law. Then it’s a good idea to keep quiet, nod enthusiastically, and play lots of golf.