I was lucky enough to work for a large, Fortune 500 company when the Internet really started to become interesting. Sure it’s been around a lot longer, but it was in the early 1990’s when things started to take off. I was one of the first people to get a dial-up modem on his desk with that uniquely annoying connection tone symphony. I was young, the connection was free, and everything was completely unregulated – no corporate governance, no internet laws, no clickbait, pop-ups, or ads…and best of all…no Kardashians! It was fantastic. Then, like anything, once it took off, PCs became more affordable, and bandwidth ramped up, everyone was on it. Even your grandma. Then the marketers and large media companies came in and commercialized everything. That innocent, quasi-anonymity everyone enjoyed is gone. Everything is connected – your email address, cell phone numbers, social media accounts, everything – intermingled into a giant web that turns you into the product and culminates in an orgasmic frenzy that gives you a sticky ad filled facial every time you go on the web.
In an effort to make the Internet suck less, yet get you the info you need to know and was meant to supply, I’ve compiled a list of what I believe are the least offensive sites of the Internet that are worth getting trusted information from. I’m sharing because ‘sharing is caring’, but this is free advice so take it for what it’s worth.
tl;dr – here’s a list of helpful sites…
Consumer Finance Protection Bureau – specifically (http://www.consumerfinance.gov/adult-financial-education/) – have kids who think money just comes from an ATM and you’ll just provide for them whatever they need? Are you like that? Learn about the fundamentals here.
EDGAR (http://www.sec.gov/edgar/searchedgar/companysearch.html)- want to know about public companies, mutual funds, or variable insurance products? EDGAR, operated by the US Securities and Exchange Commission, gives you free access to more than 21 million filings.
Forvo (http://www.forvo.com) – want to know how locals pronounce foreign words? Forvo is the least offensive site for this, although you need to register and tolerate ads in the right sidebar.
Google Earth (http://earth.google.com) – this is a program you download to your desktop. It’s google maps on steroids. You can drive a virtual car through just about any place in the world there are roads. It’s magic. It’s free and there are no ads.
Google Translate (http://translate.google.com) – see a foreign word you want to know? Want to translate someone you wrote into a semi-coherent statement every language on the planet? Heimsækja þessa síðu!
HarvardX (http://www.edx.org/school/harvardx) – want a Harvard education without the cost? You can “enroll” in dozens of courses offered by Harvard’s many different schools. Watch lectures, do assignments, read course books. All the education without the tuition.
Khan Academy (http://www.khanacademy.org) – forgot what parabolas are? Forgot how to calculate quadratic equations? Got kids in school asking for help with their homework? Enroll in Khan Academy and get to remembering those things you forgot. Stay on lesson ahead of your kids and they’ll remember you for how smart you were. For free. For everyone. Forever.
Land Record Lookup (http://lrv.nassaucountyny.gov) – this one is just for Nassau County, NY, but I bet your county has one too. Ever wonder what you’ve been paying in taxes? Want to know what a neighbor’s house sold for? Want to see if you are getting the STAR exemption? Plug in addresses all day long and find out!
NASA (http://www.nasa.gov) – like aeronautics? Like space? Trust rocket scientists? Yeah, thought so.
NOAA (http://www.noaa.gov) – want to know the weather, fast? Get it from the guys who build satellites and fly planes through hurricanes. No nonsense, no ads, no waiting. An example of where government actually works and does a good job.
Open Yale (http://oyc.yale.edu) – want a Yale education without the cost? You can “enroll” in dozens of courses offered by Yale’s many different schools. Watch lectures, do assignments, read course books. All the education without the tuition.
Stanford Online (http://online.stanford.edu/courses) – want a Stanford education without the cost? You can “enroll” in dozens of courses offered by Stanford’s many different schools. Watch lectures, do assignments, read course books. All the education without the tuition.
TED (http://www.ted.com) – have an idea but it’s stuck somewhere? Have to go to you wife’s boss’s wedding but don’t want to go and you have nothing in common with those people anyway? Watch some short clips of great minds talk about everything and maybe spawn some ideas for yourself. (There’s one on the intelligence of crows that is so smart and the story so well told that you will be telling it at parties for the rest of your life.)
THOMAS (http://www.congress.gov) – want to look up laws? The congressional record? Legislation? Now called “Congress.gov”, THOMAS is the online free database run by the library of Congress that gives yo access to all of it.
Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.org) – okay, I know, obvious, crowdsourced, and sometimes manipulated by trolls. But if you need to know what year George Washington was born in or what the capital of Uzbekistan is, you’re in safe, commercial free space. Run by the Wikipedia Foundation, it’s the most popular of their projects. But some of their other projects are much more valuable. They are:
- Wikimedia Commons (http://commons.wikimedia.org) – freely usable photos and more.
- Wikivoyage (http://www.wikivoyage.org) – free travel guide
- Wiktionary (http://www.wiktionary.org) – free dictionary
- Wikibooks (http://www.wikibooks.org) – free textbooks
- Wikinews (http://www.wikinews.org) – free news source
- Wikidata (http://www.wikidata.org) – free knowledge base
- Wikiversity (http://www.wikiversity.org) – open course materials
- Wikiquote (http://www.wikiquote.org) – free quote compendium
- Wikisource (http://wikisource.org) – the free library
- Wikispecies (http://species.wikimedia.org) – free species directory
Wolfram|Alpha (http://www.wolframalpha.com) – Wolfram|Alpha is more than a search engine. They cal lit a “computational knowledge engine”, and they’re right! It gives you access to the world’s facts and data and calculates answers. It’s also the place to get all your financial info – stock quotes, currency exchange, futures contracts, you name it. Their long-term goal is to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone. And they do. They have an app and a Pro version should you be, you know, a Pro.
Have any world-class, ad free, informative sites you use to better your life? Send me a link at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll add it to the list!