YA Clicks June 2008
Bored? Online Fun for the Summertime Blues
REBECCA PURDY AND THE WEB SURFERS FROM THE CENTRAL RAPPAHANNOCK REGIONAL LIBRARY
Are your teens tired of the same old Web sites and looking for some new online fun this summer? Help them fight boredom with these recommendations from the Web Surfers!
YA LIBRARIAN’S CHOICE
Teens Talk About Books: A Joint Project of Genrefluent and the Center for Adolescent Reading
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Reading is certainly a great way to spend the summer, and this site provides a place for teens to review what they’ve read and find suggestions for more. The comment form is easy; fill in the blanks, pick a rating, and write a brief review. The titles are presented as a list without any visual enticement, but a patient teen will find a wealth of future reading.
Tribune Media Services, Inc.
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Well . . . the last thirty minutes I spent here are proof that this site will you help kill time, even when you don’t intend to. Scoops and recaps, interviews with stars, directors, and writers—it’s everything you want to know about your favorite television shows. There’s also a chance to comment and blog with other fans.
The Classics Page
Ad Fontes Academy
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Salve all who fashion your delights in the study of the classical world because for June’s YA Clicks we turn our attention to nobler pursuits, namely an exploration of the classics. And before you sneer and cry, you should imagine my perfectly serious countenance staring you in the face and saying, “No, I’m not being facetious.” There is no more rewarding way to spend a spare summer hour than by enriching the mind with a bit of classical sentiment or knowledge. And to this end, I recommend The Classics Page, an invaluable, indispensable resource. The preface at the top of the site says it all (in Latin): “Pagina hac domestica certior fies, candide lector . . . ,” or “On this homepage you will become more certain, fair reader, of the classical materials which you may find on our miraculous World Wide Web.” Those who do read Latin will appreciate the creativity with which “World Wide Web” has been translated: “aranea . . . totum orbem terrarum complectente”—literally, “the spiderweb encircling the whole orb of the world.” There are innumerable links to classical sites. The most attractive and useful link is maintained by Ad Fontes itself: “The Latin Library.” Although not the most comprehensive Latin library, it is the most reliable, well-organized, and attractively formatted site. It contains a table of forty-nine of the most important Latin authors, from Ammianus to Vitruvius, as well as five categories in which you can find a multitude of minor writers. “Classical Links of General Interest” offers sites of varying quality on all topics of the classical world, including history, culture, and mythology. In particular, Forum Romanum has online versions of several old but useful textbooks about the classical world, presented in a superbly attractive format. This link is the place to start for an introduction to Roman history and daily life. Beware of “Corpus Latinorum Scriptorum,” though, because not every link works, and several listed texts have yet to be transferred to the Web. I estimate the duration of potential entertaining time that one can spend on The Classics Page to be approximately 3,472 hours. Looking for some new summer fun? You shouldn’t be, because you should have already logged on to The Classics Page.—Michael Konieczny.
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The amount of information available on the Internet can be overwhelming. With all of this extraneous material comes the challenge of navigating it successfully to find interesting and enjoyable sites in which to indulge while hunched over your computer screen for hours on end. Although search sites such as Google and Ask have made it easier than ever to find information on a specifically requested topic, if you want something that is fun and totally random then the social news Web siteDigg.com might be for you. Digg’s claim to fame has been its communitybased approach to offering news, with users “digging” content that they find interesting. The information that receives the most “diggs” will eventually be featured prominently on the Web site’s front page. It is further divided into different subcategories such as technology, science, gaming, sports, and entertainment. There are also separate sections for videos and images, as well as a podcast that is updated weekly. If you become a user, you can enjoy the privileges of submitting stories yourself, digging up ones that you find appealing, or digging down stories that bore you. With the multitude of media that Digg offers, it is bound to keep you occupied for much longer than you ever intended.—Matt Cameron.
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Last.fm describes itself as “the social music revolution” and is designed as a method for people to share their musical tastes and learn about new music in a communal setting. Users create profiles like MySpace or Facebook, but Last.fm focuses exclusively on music. The site uses a downloadable plug-in to keep track of the music you listen to on your computer in a process it terms “scrobbling.” It compiles this data in order to create charts of the music, provide recommendations, and compare your musical tastes to those of your friends. Its best feature is its unique ability to keep track of what you listen to even when you’re not using the site, creating a profile for you without manual input. It also uses this relatively simple information to create myriad opportunities for the user to discover new music. Artist pages contain comprehensive discographies, biographies, pictures, and more. If you want the minimal experience, it’s easy to quickly look up artists or play Internet radio stations. If you want more, setting up a profile is a relatively simple process as well; the only tricky part might lie in the required plug-in’s download and installation. Last.fm’s navigation system can be a little counter-intuitive at first, which makes it difficult to figure out where to search for friends and the like. Enjoyment can also be somewhat dependent on whether your friends are using it. Everything looks clean and sleek, with a friendly interface. If you’re at all interested in broadening your musical horizons, Last.fm is a great place to spend your time.—Dylan Vasey.
Rajat Agarwalla and Jayant Agarwalla
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Scrabulous provides a free venue for Scrabble enthusiasts to practice their games or simply have a good time. Anyone with email can sign up, join a game room, and start laying tiles at no cost. This site does a good job in setting real-life professional standards, including a timer and live chat capability. It is very welcoming to any level of player from beginner to expert, providing competition and challenge to anyone wishing to improve her game. Scrabulous has to be one of the best yet simplest ideas ever made. The creators simply took an addictive board game and created a convenient online version. There are also some advantages to playing online as opposed to real-life Scrabble. It is available whenever you want it—no need to bug someone to play. It counts the point value of your moves as you are laying down your tiles—no more pesky math. Scrabulous really helps a player improve his game. The timer helps players learn to anagram and spot high scores quickly; while playing online, experts give beginners a good chance to learn nifty new words. Although this site is made to imitate a live-action Scrabble game, Scrabulous has a moderate problem with lagging during games. Lagging can really kill what is supposed to be fast-paced and timed. Because any player who runs out of time immediately loses the game (regardless of score), a lag not only stops the flow of game play but can also jeopardize the validity of the outcome. Scrabulous does have an option where a player can request more time from her opponent, but it would be more satisfying if it did not lag in the first place. Despite this problem, the best thing about Scrabulous is its immediacy—knowing that you can play a live game of Scrabble whenever you want. There are often times when a Scrabble addict has a sudden craving but no one with whom to play. Scrabulous solves this issue by uniting all the Scrabble fiends in the world.—Wo Chan.
KUDOS FOR LIBRARY TEEN SITES
New York Public Library
TeenLink has it all—recommended titles and links with teen appeal, help with homework, and information on how to get a library card. The site is presented in a colorful, easy-to-read format; users can easily find the information they need. A careful look shows that this site is more than just the basics. Upcoming programs are instantly visible from the home page and range from YTWL: You Talk We Listen, a forum for teens to share their thoughts and opinions, to Make Your Own Urban Headgear. The section “eNYPL” highlights free downloads that the library offers, including videos and audiobooks. “Turn it UP @ the Library: NYC Teens Talk outLOUD” are mp3s written and produced by NYPL teens in which they speak out on today’s contemporary issues, such as “The N-Word” and “Respect.” “WordSmiths” allows teens to share their writing. TeenLink is a well-crafted site that has teen written all over it; I have seen few others that allow teens so much voice! One would expect nothing less from the creators of the classic reference tool, Books for the Teen Age.
[Note on the Kudos section: If you think your library blog, wiki, podcast, or site is worthy of consideration, please e-mail me at email@example.com. The Web Surfers and I will surf submissions and choose one to showcase for each column.]
Rebecca Purdy is the Youth Services Manager at the Headquarters Library of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library system in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The Web Surfers are a collection of teens willing to volunteer some of their time to see their names in print and help young adult librarians find good sites for their library blogs and Web pages.