I find myself, every once in a while, sitting on my home page on the Web with nothing to do. Well, not nothing to do, but not wanting to do any of those things. Instead of doing more work, or just aimlessly surfing news sites, I want to find or do something interesting.
Increasingly, to find those things, I’m turning to one of a few resources. These are tools for finding what other people are reading and finding interesting stories about popular ideas and issues, and making sure I’m always caught up on what people care about – but only the interesting stuff.
Things like Digg and Reddit don’t do it for me for the most part – they tend to be full of oddities rather than stories that are genuinely interesting. They ARE, however, included in a few of the tools below, in case you’re a fan.
Here are six great websites that’ll give you something good to read:
Give Me Something To Read
Give Me Something to Read does, well, exactly that. It creates a list of what other people are bookmarking on the increasingly popular Instapaper, a great web app for saving web pages that is one of my must-have apps, and displays it for you in an easy-to-browse way.
The articles are ridiculously varied (I’m reading both “The ecological distaster that is dolphin safe tuna” and “Life in (and after) Our Great Recession” right now), but always a great source of fun, interesting, and often off-the-beaten-path reading.
Popurls compiles all of the most popular stuff from around the Internet, and displays it in one place. It’s all headlines, all the time, bringing in things like Digg, Twitter, Delicious, Metafilter, The New York Times, and much, much more.
Whether it’s traditional news, fun videos, or popular bookmarks, Popurls keeps track of it all. At the top of the page, there’s a “Popular Today” section with a sampling of the best of the best from around the Web, and there’s always some goodness there.
OurSignal is a lot like the Newsmap I mentioned as a great online news source the other day, except it’s social. It compiles your combination of Digg, Reddit, Delicious, Hackernews, and Yahoo Buzz, and displays the most popular stories from around the Web.
The bigger the headline, the more popular the story, and brighter colors mean newer stories. It’s a great way to, in about one second, figure out what people are talking about on the Web, and find something good to read.
Regator is the best blog search engine, in my not-so humble opinion, that you’ll find on the Web. You can search blogs by topic, search stories by keyword, or find what’s popular on the blogosphere.
The problem with much of social media is that it all references what I call “Big Box Media” – things like the New York Times, CNN, and so on. Regator ignores all that, and takes you only through the blogosphere, which is a great alternative way to find interesting things to read.
What Should I Read Next?
If you’re a book reader, the Web can still help. I know, your mind exploded. It’s cool. If you’ve finished a book, and are looking for another one, check out What Should I Read Next? You enter the author and title of the book you’re reading, and WSIRN spits out a list of recommended books that you might like. I
have no idea how the list is built (it seems to come mostly from registered users, who create lists of their favorite books), but its recommendations are surprisingly good, surprisingly often. Once you find the book, head on over to Google Books or the Barnes and Noble eBook store, and check it out.
Google Reader Power Readers
The folks at Google Reader recently polled a great list of powerful, prominent and important people, across a number of different fields and genres, asking them what sites they subscribe to in Google Reader.
Whether you want to know what the Lifehacker people read, or what Thomas Friedman of the New York Times is into, they’re all there. It’s an awesome list, and full of interesting stuff; who’da thunk that interesting people read interesting things?
There’s a ton of interesting stuff online to read (apparently, the printed Web would cover 700 square miles), and with these six sites, you won’t miss much of it.