Line is intended to be the place where Bikwil readers can
salute their favourite places on the Internet.)
For our first
issue we turn our attention to two sites — The
Sydney Morning Herald Online and Land
O’ Useless Facts — each quite illuminating in its own way,
depending on the mood you’re in.
users will be aware that you can point your browser to an initial site
of your choice, so that whenever you log on you are automatically
connected to that site. In my case it is The Sydney Morning
Herald. This way I get the day’s major news stories within a few
seconds of launching my browser.
As to be expected
from a paper with the Herald’s pedigree, the daily news is
comprehensive in its national and overseas coverage. And there’s a
nice bonus — the news archives. These provide SMH Online “back
issues”. At the moment the electronic archival material extends back
about a year.
Not that SMH
Online just gives you news; it offers much more. The editorial(s),
for instance, and daily Herald features such as Stay in Touch
and Column 8. Business and sporting articles, too — usually at
least half a dozen of each.
Real estate isn’t
forgotten either; nor are the classified motoring pages. The domestic
real estate section is particularly strong, with a powerful search
facility using clickable maps of Sydney (and Melbourne too, thanks to
advertisements from The Age), plus categories like price, number
of bedrooms, parking, pool, and so on.
There’s a very
large and useful employment classifieds page, which covers not only Herald
ads, but also those of The Australian Financial Review, The
Age, The Sunday Age and The Sun-Herald. Job ads are
searchable by keyword.
section is substantial, always with five or more articles. This is
updated Tuesday mornings. Also updated once a week (Friday afternoons)
is Metro — music, galleries, theatre, movies, other Sydney
the email section, where you are invited to send your views on current
controversial issues. If you prefer not to write, you can read the
opinions of others. This section is additional to the Letters in
the daily print version.
are provided to the Web pages of sister publications The Age and The
Australian Financial Review. There are other Web links provided as
well, by category (e.g. art, cinema, stage, sport, literature, science,
Overall, the site
tends to be text-based, with the occasional photo. Now and then,
however, good use is made of audio and video clips.
Apart from the
two exceptions noted above, SMH Online has fresh information
every day except Sunday, uploaded about 1 am.
these goodies in no way substitute for the real thing — especially on
Saturdays (Spectrum, Good Weekend, etc.).
Deb and Jen’s
Land O’ Useless Facts reminds me of the ancient volumes of Notes
and Queries beloved of librarians the world over, though LOUF
exists on a vastly smaller scale. After all, as a goldmine of elusive
information, Notes and Queries could be safely said to have had a
head start, having been begun in 1849, whereas LOUF didn’t
appear till 1995.
That said, LOUF
has much to recommend it. Its main appeal will be to those pursuers of
freak bits of knowledge who are immediately attracted by the site’s
title, like Trivial Pursuit devotees, people who make bets in pubs or
indeed any D. Q. who has ever tilted at information windmills.
find answers to momentous questions like these:
There are links
to other “Useless Fact Pages”, too.
country in 1776 was the first to recognise the United States?
will happen if you feed Alka-Seltzer to a seagull?
long would a standard Slinky be if you stretched it out flat?
is the infinity sign called?
was Wilma Flintstone’s maiden name?
Just watch out
for the unstructured way LOUF presents its contents. As yet,
short of using your browser’s Find button, there’s no quick way to
locate an answer you might be seeking. Hopefully an index or dedicated
search tool will be developed in due course.
But say, doesn’t
this very lack of formality epitomise the Net and its fascinating value?