Schott's List of Websites
Which Somebody Thinks are
But Which He Never Heard Of
- My Damn Channel -- Brevity is the soul of the wit at My Damn Channel, a video site where almost everything is entertaining and nothing runs for much more than five minutes. More professional than YouTube and less schlocky than much of what's on the networks and cable, My Damn Channel is damn good TV.
- Grantland -- The Web is already well equipped with outstanding sites on every known athletic pursuit. Is there room for one more? Absolutely, if that site is Grantland, the new creation of one of today's finest sportswriters, Bill Simmons. Grantland -- The Web is already well equipped with outstanding sites on every known athletic pursuit. Is there room for one more? Absolutely, if that site is Grantland, the new creation of one of today's finest sportswriters, Bill Simmons. [personal observation: I found out on this site that Barack Obama's favorite character from The Wire is Omar.]
- Get Human -- Some of the biggest companies in the U.S. are in hiding — or at least, you might think so when you want to talk to a real person at one of them. Phone numbers are often tough to find, and if you do uncover one, it could lead to a voice-menu system that tries to placate you with recorded messages. That's why GetHuman is so essential. It provides numbers for thousands of companies, from AT&T to Zynga, plus information on which buttons to press to reach a human and how long you're likely to wait on hold. Users can also vent by writing customer-service reviews; they're pockmarked with phrases like "What a nightmare!" [personal observation: "Hard to find 800-numbers" was a great website that went kaput a while back. This is an even better replacement. How could I have not known about this place?]
- Smarthistory -- Smarthistory focuses on art history, from cave paintings to Warhol. And while the site calls itself a textbook, it's not the text — or even the illustrations — that make it special. It's the growing library of videos that feature spirited, unscripted conversations among historians about notable works. You can start in ancient times and work your way forward or browse the collection by artist, theme or medium.
- Quora -- When you've got a question that's strictly factual, a search engine usually does the trick. When the answer would benefit from expertise and opinion, you want to ask a smart human being — or even better, a bunch of them. Quora is a terrific way to find those savvy folk and benefit from their knowledge (and pay back the community by sharing your own insights). It's one of umpteen Q&A sites on the Web — others include Ask.com and Yahoo! Answers — but the quality of the conversation is uncommonly high.