In accordance with my holiday tradition of publishing concise annual "best of" lists I have again decided to divide this year into five categories; The Web, Music, Books, Film and Life Experiences. Here's the first, Best of The Web. I'll publish the others over the next two weeks.
1. Web 2.0
This year everyone was talking about what Web 2.0 is, what it isn’t and what it will be. To me web 2.0 represents the next step in web technology as web sites become active web applications. Web 2.0 sites typically use XHTML, CSS and maybe Unobtrusive Rich Application techniques like Ajax or other XML/JS combos to empower users to publish and/or interact with the application seamlessly. Almost every site on my list this year is some sort of 2.0 application and the web in general was filled with 2.0 talk so how could the #1 spot go to anything else?
2. Google Maps
I LOVE Google maps! The sweet dynamic zooming/dragging action was one of the first times I saw Ajax employed this year. When they opened the API, a slew of great applications flooded the web, my favorite being the Gmaps Pedometer. Their Katrina map was also the first place where I saw my house inundated with water.
Typepad continues to offer a great blogging service at a very agreeable price. I use it to keep notes, publish my thoughts, and to log my fitness/nutrition program. It’s become an integral part of my life.
I was late to the game with Flickr but I finally signed up in January. Flickr is a great way to store and share photos but my favorite feature is their tags. If you want to see what’s happening at a specific event or in any given location in the world you can enter in a relevant tag at Flickr and see images almost in real time. This was another great tool when I was evacuated during Katrina.
37 Signals’ personal productivity tool is a great addition to their family of web applications. I use this tool everyday to keep track of work and to share images and notes with my colleagues.
1. Signal versus Noise
Jason Fried’s presentation at this year’s SXSWi on working with small teams and "getting real" was one of the best talks I saw there. This is a fantastic blog that documents the evolution of his “Getting Real” business manifesto, along with product updates and great usability & design commentary/critiques from his cohorts at 37signals.
2. New Orleans Met Blog
This is the single best source of Post-K commentary anywhere, written by regular folks who are here in the shit. This is funny, inspiring, passionate stuff and reminds me every day of why I chose to stay here.
3. Dispatches from Tanganyika
Poppy Z. Brite is a writer who has lived long enough in New Orleans to be called a native. She typically writes great daily entries about food, writing & New Orleans and her Post-K writing is hilarious and engaging. I can’t wait to see how she treats our new reality in her next novel.
Cory Doctorow & Co. produce what has become the standard index of general geekery on the web. Also, Xeni’s Katrina coverage was some of the best anywhere in the immediate weeks following the storm. There was all kinds of crazy stuff in there that I wouldn’t have seen anywhere else.
This year, Jason Kottke quit his real job and solicited donations from his readership to blog full time. He thanked them in the form of great daily entries on web 2.0 developments, a ton of cultural commentary and travelogues from adventures in Europe and Asia.
2. Coudal Partners
I can’t get over this site. I visit it every day to read the log entries and to admire its designed simplicity.
This is simple and wonderful design at its best. Just a very elegant display of their applications with a few other links. Very usable, very efficient.
Where would we be without Google? I wish I had Google Implant™, so that I would have the ability to run queries anytime, anywhere.
2. NOLA.com & 3. WWLtv.com
These two news portals were my link to the city while I was evacuated. No one had more coverage. They also continue to provide the most informative coverage of the evolving Battle of New Orleans 2.0.
I’ll just repeat what I wrote last year, “The price, quality and great selection of the iTunes Music Store compels me to buy music here instead of just downloading it for free from somewhere else. Of course, if I can't find it on here there is a 95% chance that I'm going to look for it via a P2P application. Record execs, are you listening?" I would add that Kompakt & Warp also offer fantastic music services. I supplemented many purchases through those sites this year.
I love the response time and control over selection that I have with Netflix. Now, if only the Postal Service would start operating properly again down here.
My wishlist beckons…
This morning Mayor Nagin announced plans for a free wireless internet service in New Orleans. The idea of a ubiquitous blanket of sweet WiFi covering our reconstructed city is really nice. I can see this being a lure for new businesses.
I do have to say that I've always felt a little weird about municipalities (or any government for that matter) launching these projects. It will definitely have a business impact on telecommunications firms, the one I work for included. The nice thing about this service though is that it is free and it looks like it will be significantly slower than the service that we offer.
The ideal scenario would be if our customers keep our service and then use the municipal service while they are out and about. Any way you cut it, it's great news for New Orleans residents, and it's very nice to finally see something positive about us in the national press.
This weekend my friend Will and I constructed a site for the Bring New Orleans Back Commission Education Committee. This site should go a long way towards creating transparency in at least one of the BNOBC projects and I'm really proud to have played a part in that. Check the site soon for student/parent/teacher blogs, a community forum, and town hall meetings conducted via chat & streaming video.
I finally have internet at home, well if you call surfing dialup at my mother-in-law's that. This Katrina experience really has me rethinking the way electronic communication works. It's just so flimsy and crapola when faced with natural disasters and terrorist attacks. We need something better. I'm kind of impressed with this Verizon BroadbandAccess internet service but it's an awfully high price tag for the speed. I'm kind of just better off plugging in the old phone line and dialing up some good old fashioned cheap-ass dialup.
The New New Orleans Initiative has officially started. I registered nolainitiative.com a little while ago and the good Rev. Willcore is setting up a wiki for us as I type this post. I'm going to be working on the front end design in the days to come (as the DNS propagates) and I'll be sending out emails and requests of support tomorrow. If you would like to be involved or know someone who you think can contribute to the cause in any way please post here to let me know.
Kottke is running an essay today where he speculates wildly on the possibility of Google, Yahoo, Apple, MS and Mozilla developing new Web based applications and operating systems. He's got some really nice and exciting scenarios in there.
A List Apart launched a sweet redesign today featuring a Ruby on Rails CMS, shit-hot CSS/Markup and a really lovely UI. Way to go! Makes me want to spend more time developing personal projects, which I can never find time for.
Edit: This Jim Coudal article on being your own client is fantastic! Now I really want to work on personal projects.