January 21, 2007

Mousetrap - 88

Able
Ouch
One of the many great sites that the BBC hosts, Ouch is about the lives of disabled people. But what separates it from the many—most of them really good—sites out there that seek to do the same? For one, it’s not about helpful hints and tips and the like. Nor does it crusade for rights. What really sets it apart is its attitude: it does not condescend; it does not ask for quarter; it’s in your face. Its many talented columnists and its subject matter focus on “personal stuff, minutiae of everyday life and that fantastic dark sense of humour and inevitable cynicism that we disabled people tend to have. Oh, and we don't shy away from subjects that other people might be a bit wary of.” And that’s the way it should be, no?

This is a test
Skillswise
Oh dear. Another BBC site. Well, it makes a change from Google, doesn’t it? Anyway. Way back when I was young, many people for whom the standard to aspire to when it came to spoken English was the voice of the BBC newsreader. Now, when we’re surrounded by accents of all descriptions, and (as writer friends are fond of declaiming) when English skills seem to have very low priority even with those who earn their living from the use of the language, does the BBC still have a role to play? This microsite thinks so. With a bunch of tutorials, hints, and most fun of all, interactive games — http://www.bbc.co.uk/skillswise/games/ — it makes learning a more fun process. Oh yes. It’s not just English literacy that it covers. Skillwise also helps you with math skills in similar ways. You know where to find me.

All the web’s a computer - II
Thinkfree
Last week this column told you about Google Docs. A friend sent me this site in response. Thinkfree goes one up on Google in terms of what you can do with it. Aside from word-processing and spreadsheets, it also offers you presentation software. All these are compatible with the almost ubiquitous Microsoft apps that serve the same functions (but not, as far as I could see, with Open Office programs), and permit sharing and collaboration online. It also lets you publish your documents to your blog, and to a service called Doc Exchange, which lets you share thoughts and ideas with its community via your documents. (Link courtesy Hemant Suthar.)

Arhg
Eek, a Typo!
And here’s a fun little blog to round off the show for this week. As the name suggests, this blog points out inadvertent (or ignorant) spelling errors. Not much misses its eye: I saw references to typos on TV subtitles and online message boards. And there’s an a nice little bonus to including it in this column. Now, if you find a typo here, I’ll just claim that it was deliberate, in homage to this site.

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, 21st January, 2007.

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