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Cybernaut

Webby Awards Part IV

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After four weeks of reviewing and rating the nominees for the 2001 Webby Awards – Internet awards presented to the best sites in 27 different categories – I can finally see the light at the end of the alphabet.

Music

If the billions of MP3’s still trading hands even after Napster was found guilty of aiding and abetting the copy and transfer of copyrighted materials are any indication, then music could easily be the Web’s number one utility. Every band has a Web site these days and Web ring of fans. So does every music label, distributor, magazine, and critic.

If you want to hear a new song from a band, you go online – you could wait days to hear it on the radio and maybe be disappointed, or you could download it in 15 minutes. And unlike radio and music television, online music always caters to your tastes – online music is freedom and democracy.

It was hard to pick a winner in this category, but I went with Motown at www.motown.com . This site is divided into New and Classic categories, and is as much a learning experience as a listening pleasure. It feels more like a Motown museum than a record label.

The runner up would have to be Live365 at www.live365.com . I know I bashed radio a bit earlier, but when you have access to thousands of radio stations live feeds in dozens of musical genres, it’s a good place to go to hear new bands. Most people have a limited selection of radio stations that appeal to them on the dial, but with Live365 you can be in any city with a click of the mouse.

News

I spend more and more time shackled to a desk these days, mainly because there’s nowhere else to go. I work down in Function Junction, and while there is food, antiques and hardware galore, I still feel a little isolated and out of touch. Since I can’t get out into the world, I bring the world to me by reading the headlines from about four online newspapers every day.

The nominees in this category are a mix of alternative, mainstream, print and electronic media. I’ve used every site in the past, and can honestly say that the usual criteria goes out the window when comparing news sites – I care less about looks than about the news itself.

I chose www.cnn.com because of the variety of world news presented and the fact that their archives are massive, easy to access, and stories are linked to related stories. I never watch CNN on television, generally annoyed by it’s America-centric view of the globe, its talking head format, and its O.J. Simpson coverage. The Web site is a lot easier to digest.

Number two in my mind is Salon magazine at www.salon.com . This is a slightly more in-depth and alternative view of the news, picking up on the stories that fell through the cracks. While most news organizations focus on the sensational stories that sell papers and ad time, Salon brings you the stories that make you want to turn off the television and march on Washington.

Personal

Anybody can have a Web site these days, and sometimes it seems like everybody does. If you have a cool site and the word gets out, though, you can become a Web celebrity – while staying comfortably anonymous.

All of the nominated sites were created by average people and catapulted to fame by the real world virtues of the sites.

The best and funniest site was Dancing Paul at www.dancingpaul.com . You can pick a tune or a style and Dancing Paul – a strange looking guy with a Ramones tribute haircut – will bust a move to it. I couldn’t tell if he was serious, joking, or somewhere in between, but whatever his motives were, Dancing Paul cheered me up.

The runner up would have to be www.douglaspearce.com . Douglas Pearce is a commercial photographer, and a good one at that. There are hundreds of images to browse through with captions and often photographic explanations of light, aperture, lenses, and conditions. You’re free to download any of the images and use it as your desktop.

Politics

Judging by the poor voter turnout on May 16, this isn’t exactly anyone’s favourite topic these days – the problem stems from the frustration that all politicians are basically alike, and nothing you do at the polls will make the slightest bit of difference in dragging this province, this country, this planet back from the brink. Or is it just me?

All the nominees in this category were American, but since a lot of the bungling that goes on down there will affect Canada in some way, they were not entirely irrelevant.

Believing the cornerstone of any good democracy is transparency, I chose www.opensecrets.org as my political candidate to win a Webby. This site tracks the campaign contributions of every U.S. politicians, unearths corporate ties and conflicts of interest, and keeps political controversies from being swept under the carpet and forgotten by following them to their conclusion. This is freedom of information at its fullest. We need a site like this is Canada.

The runner up would have to be All Politics at www.cnn.com/allpolitics . This is a CNN catchall of all political stories and issues in the news. With President Bush planning to tap oil out of an Alaskan wildlife reserve, the U.S. putting tariffs on Canadian wood, an American company attempting to buy a lake in Labrador – thereby making our water a commodity under the North American Free Trade Agreement – it’s not such a bad idea to follow American politics.

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