November 27, 2005

Mousetrap - 29

So fa so good
CouchSurfing
An online trading zone isn’t an original idea, but, I believe, this site was the first to adapt it to the needs of travellers looking for cheap, but rich travel experiences. It lets you connect with other members, and, hopefully, find someone in your desired destination who is willing to host you. (“Host” could mean you get to sleep on their couch, natch, but it could also mean a guest room, a place to pitch a tent, or even the floor.) Members are vouched for by a tiered verification system. You’d have to start at zilch, of course, and build cred for yourself by being a good guest. They haven’t got every country in the world covered (so don’t plan on Siberia or Antarctica just yet) but they’re getting there. Happy Trails!

Quick bytes
Del.icio.us
If you use different PCs at home and the office, or, perchance, find yourself at a strange computer, and need to get to a site that you just know you have bookmarked elsewhere, you’ll know the agony of having all your Favorites in one basket. This site seeks to ease your pain by storing your Bookmarks online. You’ll need to sign up, of course, but after that, you have an always on online bookmark system. Tags help you differentiate your bookmarks, and if you use them well, they make finding information a breeze. What’s more, you can share your tags with friends, and take advantage of the tags that other people have created to help you find stuff.

Wee Wee Web
TinyURL & durl.us
Large sites with automated content management systems generate file names on the fly, usually using lots of numbers. So, when you see an interesting link and, full of the milk of human kindness, decide to widen the horizons of your 127 closest friends by forwarding the link to them, you wind up with http://subdomain.domain.tld/topic/subtopic/month/date/hour/articleshow/veryveryverylongnumber.smthng which won’t fit into one line. And, if you have HTML mail turned off, it may look okay to you, but when your victims get your mail, they find the URL broken up into two lines, with only the first bit clickable, and naturally, leading nowhere except to a “page not found” notice. Way out? Go to one of these sites, paste in that address and instantly get something like http://tinyurl.com/az3v7 or http://www.durl.us/86which you can then send to your buddies, and no one will swear at you. Both those, by the way, will take you to this column’s web archive.

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Blog of the week

Whoops
The Accidental Elephant
Less than a month old, but this collaboration is already showing immense promise. Three bloggers in different corners of the world write and illustrate for children. While they keep it simple, they don’t condescend to their audiences, and there’s much to enjoy even by more cynical adults. The writing is warm and full of whimsy, and the illustrations charming. I see a book deal in this blog’s future!


Reader suggestions welcome, and will be acknowledged. Go to http://o3.indiatimes.com/mousetrap for past columns, and to comment, or mail inthemousetrap@indiatimes.com. The writer blogs at http://zigzackly.blogspot.com.

Published in the Times of India, Mumbai edition, 27th November, 2005.

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