No more Website of the Week?

In case anyone has been wondering where the updates have been recently, or when I'll be back on the radio, I thought it was probably time to explain what's going on.

Eagle-eared listeners will have noticed that Website of the Day quietly morphed into Website of the Week at the start of this year. And equally quietly, we wrapped up Website of the Week on the radio on Friday October 17th.

The feeling was that after almost 9 years, the feature had run its course. While there are always new sites to talk about, it's become harder and harder to find non-commercial sites which offer something completely new and different, but still have a broad appeal for Steve's afternoon audience. So Steve suggested (and I agreed) that while it was still enjoyable (for us at least, and hopefully for you as well) we should shelve the feature before we start to repeat ourselves.

When we first discussed ending the on-air feature, I thought I might keep posting a few good webby discoveries on this site… BUT we're now one month on, and I think the fact that I've not had the time (or to be honest, the inclination) to post during that time, means that it's unlikely to happen at all. But Never Say Never and all that… so if I do change my mind then you may see a few more updates here one day.

In the meantime this site will stay online as a complete searchable and browsable archive of all the sites we featured on the show from May 2004 to October 2009. And there's always Website of the Day – The Book which is a couple of years old now, and consequently very cheap. Still a good read though (I would say that, but it's true!)

As for what I'm up to next, I'm off to Radio 4 for the first few months of 2009, to work on the very excellent Saturday Live and learn how to make speech programmes.

Thanks to anyone who's ever sent me a suggestion of a site I could feature. The feedback and suggestions have always been very much appreciated. And if you've never been in touch but have ever enjoyed listening or clicking on any of the links I suggested, thanks for that too.

Cheers
Miles

Autumn 2009

The World’s First Sat-Com (and Talking Pets)

>> 230 Miles Of Love

This is almost certainly a world first. 230 Miles Of Love is a sat-com; a series of comedy sketches about the M6 which are distributed by sat-nav.
Each sketch is an mp3 file, which you download from the site and add to your sat-nav in the same way as you install any map updates. Drivers on the M6 will hear each sketch automatically as soon as they reach relavant points on the motorway. (But you can listen on your computer or mp3 player even if you’re nowhere near the M6).

The downloads are available in pre and post-watershed versions. The fruitier language is bleeped out on the former version.
The site is free-to-use and is being used as a way to raise profile and awareness for disability charity Motivation. Listeners who enjoy the sketches are asked to consider making a donation to Motivation.

>> Talking Pets

This is clever – and fun. Upload a photo of your favourite cat or dog, choose from a range of voices, add accessories (like hats or sunglasses) and type in a short sentence. Then a bit of web-based sorcery will animate your pet’s mouth, and you’ll see and hear it speaking the words you have just typed.
You can email the results to a friend or just enjoy the results for yourself. For many of us, this is the closest we’ll ever get to an appearance on The Nation’s Most Talented Pets.

Cheap train tickets, Comedy videos and zoomy 3D photos

Something useful:

>> The Train Line Fare Finder


This new tool helps you find the cheapest long distance rail tickets for your chosen journey if you can be flexible about when to travel.

Something funny:
>> Funny Or Die

Will Ferrell’s hugely successful comedy video site
launches in the UK with support and exclusive clips from Matt Lucas and David Walliams.

Something whizzy:
>> Cool Iris

This is a small download which changes the way popular photo and video sites (including Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Picasa, Flickr and Photobucket) appear on your screen. With Cool Iris installed you get a very impressive full-screen 3D view of your photos which lets you quickly zoom in from a photo mozaic to a tiny detail on any photo. It’s a bit like Google Earth for your photos.

Money and Magic

>> Kublax – Keep track of all your finances in one place

A particularly timely launch for this new personal finance site. This is designed to help you keep track of all your bank, building society and credit card accounts in one place. Create a free Kublax account and enter your bank details once. The site will automatically retrieve transaction details from multiple accounts, categorise them and display them on a graph or pie-chart so you can see at a glance exactly where your money is going.

The site uses the same levels of security and encryption as online banks and will even alert you about unusual Merlintransactions which may indicate possible identity theft.  Additional features include a budget tool to help you track your spending against personal targets, plus links to deals which may save you money on the areas where your spending is currently highest.

>> Merlin’s Magic

A terrific all-animated site to tie in with the launch of BBC One’s new epic sword and sorcery series. If you have a fairly recent Windows PC and a webcam, Merlin’s Magic is a must-try and very cool feature. Download the free software and print out a copy of a ‘Merlinesque’ rune. Turn on your webcam, hold your printout up to the lens, and wait for the magic to unfold  on your computer screen.

Think A Link

>> Think A Link

Just in time for the start of the academic year, here’s a handy learning tool, which harnesses the power of corny punning to commit facts, details spellings and the occasional square root to memory.

For example, when memorising the bones of the body, you’ll know that a mandible is a jaw bone by practising this pithy refrain:

“I went out for a meal the other night. Man, der bill was jaw-dropping!!”

The site’s extensive database of learning links are organised into categories like the Meaning Of Words, Historical Dates, Squared & Cubed Numbers, Battles & Wars, The Periodic Table and many more.

You can rate each pun or link and add your own suggestions to improve on the links already published to help memorise a particular fact.

Young Bond Game / Google Chrome

>> Young Bond: The Shadow War

Free alternative reality online game based on Charlie Higson’s novels about James Bond’s school days at Eton College

>> Google Chrome

New from Google – a web broswer introduced as a possible alternative to Internet Explorer or Firefox and designed for maximum speed and simplicity when using video sites, web mail, or online office suites.
(Currently Windows only, but versions for Mac and Linux to follow.)

Beijing Olympics

Monkey
When I mentioned Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett’s Monkey BBC Olympics promos a couple of weeks ago, I promised to talk in more detail about the Beijing Olympics on the web this week. However I wasn’t banking on laid-up at home nursing my own (non-Olympian) ankle injury.   So here’s a swift online-only round-up to make up for the absence of Website of the Week on the radio.

There’s been plenty of online innovation for the Beeb with the launch of the 2008 Games. There was live streaming of the opening ceremony from the BBC homepage – a first for bbc.co.uk. Throughout the games, the BBC Olympics site will stream six different channels of live coverage to anyone watching in the UK. Other online highlights from the Beeb include an interactive map and a downloadable Desktop Monkey which promised users updates on their favourite Olympic sports and reminders of when events are starting.

The Guardian has a nice piece outlining the full extent of the Beeb’s interactive coverage of the games.
The official site for the games looks lovely – truly comprehensive, with nice bonus features like My Olympic Story which has featured a different story every day for the last 100 days, each one revealing one person’s unique Olympic experience.

Finally Google have launched a dedicated portal page for the games  with features including a Google Map of medals, YouTube video highlights, Google News headlines, a video tour plus 3D models of the venues and an "iGoogle gadget" that tracks medal counts to your Google homepage.

>> Olympics Official site
>> BBC Olympics
>> BBC Interactive Olympics Map
>> BBC Desktop Monkey

>> The Guardian: BBC promises ‘cornucopia of content’

>> My Olympic Story
>> Google Olympics Portal