From Wed May 22 02:17:08 1996
Date: Wed, 22 May 1996 00:01:20 -0400
From: Bob Rankin 
To: Multiple recipients of list TOURBUS 
Subject: TOURBUS - 21 May 1996 - Net Surf Central

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TODAY'S TOURBUS STOP    : Net Surf Central

As I mentioned last week, today's tour comes to you from the folks that do
HOTWIRED, the online companion to the printed WIRED magazine.  Our guest
driver will be June Cohen, one of the editors at HOTWIRED.  But first,
a brief message from one of the sponsors who make TOURBUS possible...

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Howdy, and welcome aboard the TourBus.  I'm June Cohen (hometown: HotWired)
and today - I'm driving.

So who am I?  Well, I've been writing the Net Surf column for HotWired
since the site first launched in October, 1994, so I've been around the
net surfing block a few times...

The Net Surf motto has always been "We waste our time so you don't have
to," and I can tell you - with a strange mixture of pride and
embarassment - that we live up to it.  :-) We spend our days checking
out new sites, monitoring our old favorites, and poking around the Net's
dark, dusty corners - all in the name of bringing our readers everything
they need to know about the Web.

But until now, we had a serious problem: There was no way to access past
Net Surfs.  Since we didn't have an archive system, people were limited
to the 10 reviews we had displayed at any one time, and if they joined
us late in the game or lost a URL, well, they were in a pickle.

So we thought and thought and thought about how to let people search
through our old reviews for the kinds of sites they wanted - without
turning Net Surf into another boring old list of links.

This is what we came up with -->

The first thing you'll see (at the top of the page) is our title and tag
line - "Net Surf Central: The good, the bad, and the utterly useless" -
which should give you an idea of what you're getting yourself into.  ;-)

Like its predecessor, Net Surf Central is updated every weekday, with
the newest blurb appearing on at the top of the right-hand panel when
you first enter the site.  But the left-hand panel is what's new and
noteworthy.  Consider it your ticket to all the sites we've reviewed in
the past that are still worth your time (and some that never were).

Most directories - like Yahoo, Magellan, or c|net's Web reviews -
categorize sites by their subject matter (arts & entertainment;
computers; sports; etc).  This scheme is easy to understand - since it's
borrowed from the library - but it never quite worked for us.  After
all, Web sites aren't books, and most of them don't fit into tidy little
card catalog categories.  Dewey Decimal just didn't account for sites
like the World Birthday Web, or Project Denny's.  And where would you
file something like the Random Haiku Generator?  Poetry?  Philosphy?
Humor?  Games?  It's a tricky business indeed.

So we spent a lot of time analyzing how we think about Web sites, and
how we can best help you find the kinds of sites you'll like.
Eventually, we chose five search methods (genre, adjective, keyword,
date, title) that we find useful, and set out to categorize sites

One by one, we looked at every site in the Net Surf Central database,
and decided what genre it belongs to (hangouts, fan pages, exhibits
...), what adjectives describe it (nostalgic, bitter, flirty ...), and
which keywords best sum up its subject matter (cooking, pets, Dilbert,
and so on).

To get started searching, just click on a button in the left-hand panel,
and a scroll window will appear, showing you all your options (for
instance, the "Adjective" button will display all the adjectives you can
choose from).

After you enter a search, your results will appear as a collection of
reviews - rather than a list of links - because, well, we think that's
more fun.

So take a few minutes and play with it.  Enter searches for Soap Operas,
or "flirty" sites.  Go ahead, no one's looking.  And no visit to Net
Surf Central is complete without a stroll through the Graveyard.  (You
can get there by clicking on "Graveyard" in the left-hand panel, or by
just entering the URL -->

The graveyard (as you'll soon see) is where tired sites are put to rest,
after they've outlived their usefulness in Net Surf Central.  Some sites
- like the "Mercury Project" - retire gracefully because the project
drew to a close; others, like the Simpsons' Site - die slow, lingering,
shameful deaths, as we wait and wait, and hope against hope that their
Webmasters will see fit to update them.

Now, that's about all there is to Net Surf Central, but before I hang up
my tour bus driver's hat, let's take a few of those search terms one at
a time, shall we?

What do we mean by keyword?

  If you know what you're looking for (that Dilbert site: what was
  the URL again?), you can do a quick and dirty keyword search.
  But the other ways are more fun.

What do we mean by adjective?

  What are you hungry for? Something personal or political?
  Silly or serious? Bitter or idealistic? The adjective search
  will help you narrow down your desires, and satisfy them.
  Give it a go. It's my favorite way to fly.

What do we mean by genre?

  Video stores would never organize their movies solely by
  subject, and neither should Web directories. Like films,
  Web sites are best classified by genre. Problem is: Web
  site genres aren't well-established, and until now,
  there hasn't been a vocabulary for them.

  So we took the first stab at giving a name to the sites
  we surfs. Some of the genres, like Reference, News, and
  Kids' Stuff are self-explanatory. Others, like "exhibits"
  are a little more opaque. So here's a basic run-down of
  the tricky ones:

  Exhibits: Any site that could be a museum exhibit, provided
  you could find the right (read: goofy) museum. Example: The
  Abandoned Missile Silo Tour

  Fan pages: Web-based shrines that fans build to honor the
  people, places and things they adore. Example: Elvis Presley
  Home Page

  Hangouts: Sites where people can talk to each other through
  some kind of chat or discussion area. Example: Firefly

  Kitsch: everything that didn't fit anywhere else.

Well, that brings us to the end of today's tour, but before I send you
off to play in the grassy fields of Net Surf Central, let me tell you
how to get in touch with us.  If you have a site you'd like us to take a
look at, send a note (with the name of your site and the URL) to
"".  We get a lot of mail but still, we'd love to
hear from you.


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Hope you enjoyed our guest driver today.  Be sure to visit the HOTWIRED
website and check out Net Surf Central.  They recommend a web browser
that can handle frames (such at Netscape v2), but if yours doesn't it
should still look OK.  See you next time!  -- Bob

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     TOURBUS - (c) Copyright 1996, Patrick Crispen and Bob Rankin
 All rights reserved.  Redistribution is allowed only with permission.
     Send this copy to 3 friends and tell them to get on the Bus!

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