Four ways to avoid web boredom

There is no reason to ever be bored on the Internet.

When I was young, I would get bored at school. I once had a teacher who hated the words “bored,� “boring,� and “boredom,� insisting there was no reason for any of us to say them – we either needed to think up ways to make the situation a little more interesting, or try taking interest in what we were supposed to be doing.

Maybe she had a point, but now it doesn't matter. The Internet has made boredom obsolete. There are enough web pages and enough people making new pages every day that even if we limit ourselves to the subset that is actually interesting, we will never see it all.

But, you protest, you have Firefox and a DSL connection and you still get bored? Below are four things guaranteed to make boredom obsolete.

  1. StumbleUpon.  StumbleUpon is a toolbar for Firefox (and now IE) that lets you channel surf the web.  You click the Stumble button, it brings you to a web site, and you give it a thumbs-up or thumbs-down.  Based on what other people like and dislike, it will send you to sites you should like.  Warning:  it is addictive.  (
  2. Wikipedia.  Between articles featured on the main page, looking up things I've heard about but don't have any background in, and going to random pages, I can waste hours on Wikipedia.  The "what links here" link can be a lot of fun (if you are a nerd).   (
  3. Digg, Reddit, and similar sites.  I find Digg to be better for geeky tech stuff, funny videos, cool flash games, political outrage, and nerdy fanboyism.  Reddit seems to be populated by a more discerning crowd, with more articles explaining things, news stories from mainstream media, geeky tech stuff and political outrage.  (  (
  4. A billion blogs writing about all sorts of stuff.  Specifically, I use the Blogpulse Conversation Tracker  and Technorati to find what people are blogging about.  It never ends. ( (

Honorable Mention: Google Scholar. When I was an undergrad, I would go the the basement of the library where they kept the journals looking to photocopy a few articles for a paper, and end up spending hours down there. There is nothing quite like paging through a bound volume of Nature—even if you can't understand much past the abstracts, research is so damn interesting!

Google Scholar is the thing I wish I had all through college. It makes finding academic literature actually easy and convenient. Why doesn't it make my list? Because far too often you are only able to read the citation and perhaps the abstract without paying $35 per article or some other ridiculous fee. If you are a college student, your school may have access to many of these research databases, but if not, you're SOL. I have no problem paying for content, but no one can afford tens of thousands for subscriptions to 20 journal publishers, and $35, or $55, or more for access to one article is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard of.

Some people think that if academic journals keep this sort of thing up, they will be replaced by blogs.  I'm not sure. Please post anything you've found to be a font of perpetual interest in the comments below. I'd love to hear what other people use, in case, you know, I get sick of any of the ones above.

  1. I explictly said in my blog article on journals and citation (linked above) that blogs would add to scientiifc discourse, not that they would replace journals.(although I was also pointing out that journals needed to evolve).

    November 6th, 2006 at 10:14 pm
  2. Bryan,

    Sorry if I misread your article, I was going by your first point, “The days of traditional journals are numbered, if they continue to behave the way they do.” I agree with you on this, I think the current model has ignored new technology and has an expensive, centralized business model that doesn’t fit well with the way research is done.

    Would it be fair to say you think that if traditional academic journals keep this sort of thing up, they will be replaced by academic journals that have evolved to embrace blog-like features?

    November 6th, 2006 at 11:04 pm
  3. The legal world is leading the charge in creating sophisticated blog content. While blawgs (yuck) won’t replace law review articles anytime soon, the very best law schools like Yale and Harvard have already created legal blogs associated with their law reviews, legitimizing the trend since they wield so much power over legal scholarship.

    There is even talk within the SEC of allowing corporations to satisfy certain public disclosure and furnishment requirements by publishing the information on their corporate or CEO blog.

    November 6th, 2006 at 11:44 pm
  4. Hi Jason: I think your revised point is fair enough. Future journals are going to be far more interactive, although I think the peer review gold standard will remain … (and that’s really the crucial part of the existing infrastructure). In terms of the evolution: I think you see Atm.Chem.Phys journal is already going that way, at least for the peer review …

    November 9th, 2006 at 10:36 am

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