Going with the Cyber flow

John
John Gushue
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Here's a scenario I'd like you to consider for a moment.

You enter your local library and you see on the desk a pile of books that have been returned and are now waiting to be reshelved.

If I offered you a chance to browse through this lot of books, or exactly the same number of volumes randomly drawn from different areas of the library, which set would you pick?

Surf's up - Here's a scenario I'd like you to consider for a moment.

You enter your local library and you see on the desk a pile of books that have been returned and are now waiting to be reshelved.

If I offered you a chance to browse through this lot of books, or exactly the same number of volumes randomly drawn from different areas of the library, which set would you pick?

I imagine most people will go with the books that have just been checked back in.

Why? Well, part of it may be human curiosity about what others are doing, but I think we are also wired to think more highly of what other people are doing. It's kind of like seeing footprints in the snow; even if it's just a single set, we're inclined to follow the tracks of others.

That doesn't make us all sheep. It's just that we've learned along the way that the work others have done can be helpful to us in our daily lives.

This applies to a whole bunch of websites, which use social networking technology, and allow all of us to be both leaders and followers. First, a site that puts a new spin on predicting trends.

edopter

www.edopter.com/

So ... what's new? The buzz of the new is the focus of edopter, a site that sounds like a contraction of Early Adopter, and looks like one, too. The site touts something called social "trendcasting," which I suppose is a contraction of forecasting and trends. (When will the point come when we won't automatically want to collapse words to form website names and slogans?)

Despite some misgivings, I found this site fun to look at it. Like other social networking sites, it depends on users to provide the content. I imagine that edopter will become more valuable as more people join up, and identifying what (TV shows, consumer products, websites) excites them. So far, the traffic seems limited, but if the masses do indeed flock in, it could be a cool way of learning about what's cresting in the culture. I would prefer some changes, including a syndication-friendly feature that pushes the content to you, rather than forcing you to log in continually to update yourself.

Digg

http://digg.com/

Reddit

http://reddit.com/

Digg and Reddit are well-established sites that work some of the online turf that edopter is now surveying. Both have similar goals: to connect you more quickly to things that you may like. In a world of billions of online choices, the idea is that you get more wheat and less chaff, with less effort.

Both are what are called social bookmarking sites. If you like something, you can "digg" it. (Dig?) Or mark the Reddit button, where applicable. If you're surfing, both are excellent sites for finding news or information that's up your alley, from your favourite sports team to a pop singer to a company name to funny videos you can play for your co-workers at work.

You name it - literally. I prefer the look and feel of Digg, but both are easy to use. They're ridiculously popular, but I find that even many frequent Internet users don't bother to try them out, which is a shame.

Elsewhere this week:

Fossil Science

www.fossilscience.com/

Most kids like a set of common things: cookies, games, toys and dinosaurs. Fossil Science is not for the younger set, but older kids may get a real kick out of the real-word discoveries and news on paleontology, and other early-history pursuits.

Freakonomics

http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/

In 2005, economist Steven Levitt and journalist Stephen J. Dubner teamed up to produce Freakonomics, a deliciously insightful book on social trends and behaviour that became a publishing phenomenon. The official blog is still running through the New York Times (Dubner's employer), with additional contributions from others. It's a must-read, even if you only want to drop in from time to time.

A different take on Spider-Man 2

www.mcsweeneys.net/chabon.spider.pdf

I quite like the work of Pulitzer-winning novelist Michael Chabon, who writes splendid books ... and has a famous Jones, too, for comic books. The website of McSweeney's magazine is offering, apparently for a limited time, a copy of the never-made version of Spider-Man 2 that Chabon was commissioned to write.

John Gushue is a news writer for CBCNews.ca in St. John's. E-mail: surf@thetelegram.com. Read past Surf's Up columns and daily updates at his blog: johngushue.typepad.com.

Organizations: Spider-Man 2, New York Times, Pulitzer McSweeney's

Geographic location: Digg, St. John's

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