> tips > newsletter april 2001

From Sreenath Sreenivasan
Columbia University journalism professor *

Sree Tips Newsletter
April 2001

A free monthly newsletter of tips and tricks about useful and/or fun Web sites.


Greetings and welcome to the latest issue of the "Sree Tips" newsletter. As you may know, the newsletter was started as an offshoot of the "Smarter Surfing: Better Use of Your Web Time" workshops I teach around the U.S. and abroad:

Check out the links and tips below. As always, I look forward to YOUR tips, feedback and suggestions:

Why wait a month for the next newsletter? Visit the constantly updated "Smarter Surfing" links at

Meanwhile, if you are near a computer on Monday, April 9, at 6 pm EST (10 pm GMT), you may (or may not) want to stop by an online chat I am doing about online journalism and more at (home of A.Word.A.Day). For more details, and to join the chat, visit

(sites I find useful in some way)

Search Systems' Public Records Database Collection
Links to more than 4,200 public records databases around the world. Focuses mainly on the United States (everything from licensed lawyers in New York to unclaimed property in Washington, D.C., to lost dogs nationwide), but you can access some databases in other countries as well (examples: art stolen in Italy; the New Delhi phone book; and aircraft registered in South Africa).

InfoPeople Search Tools Chart
A two-page guide to various search engines and search tools. Summarizes the features of each engine and tells you how best to use it. Produced by the Internet For People Project, a federally-funded grant to improve Internet resources in California libraries. Print out the guide and put it next to your PC and you will have it handy for tough searches. It's next to mine.

What you need when researching a topic on the Web are useful leads and this site is a way to get some fast. Put in your query once and you can run multiple searches in news sites, search engines, and discussion groups, and hunt for photos and video. You can save your queries, making your research tasks faster. The site is run by Robert Poulsen, who also created, one of the first guides to news Web sites.
A new resource for online writers, reporters and editors run by Jonathan Dube, technology editor of Lots to read and learn about, even if you don't work for an online site right now. The writing tips and examples of outstanding cyberjournalism are especially worth stopping by for.

ENCORE: Last month's New-ish Useful Sites

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NEW-ISH (to me) FUN sites...
(proof "fun" is a subjective word)

I am fascinated by what are called mondegreens -- misheard song lyrics -- and this site, the "Home of Misheard Song Lyrics and Song Parodies," has more than 10,000 pop music examples. Some are hilarious, others not as funny. The performers with the most mondegreens? The Beatles and Elton John. Here's an example from "Get Back" by the Beatles: "Jojo was a man, he thought he was a woman." The correct lyrics: "Jojo was a man who thought he was a loner."

The Lycos 50
You know what is the most common search term on the Web (hint: it starts with an S, ends with an X and is three letters long). Here's your chance to learn more substantial facts about search trends. This site -- compiled from the Lycos search engine's 12 million queries a day -- is a fun look at what's getting the biggest buzz online. Once a week, it publishes a "top 50" list of the people, places and things that are being looked up most on Lycos. Popular in recent weeks: "Napster," "IRS" and "Jennifer Lopez."

Pictures of the Year
One place to find examples of great photojournalism is the site of the annual Pictures of the Year contest sponsored by the Missouri School of Journalism and the National Press Photographers Association. It's the 58th anniversary of the contest and the winning shots (chosen from 32,000 submissions) tell compelling stories of the previous year.

If you'd like to actually interact with a Web site, instead of just reading text and looking at pictures, you are ready for sodaplay, a site based in London. It allows you to play on your browser with wire frame "toys" created by other users. You can even create your own, if you are really adventurous. Yahoo! Internet Life magazine called it the "best time waster" of 2000. You have been warned.

ENCORE: Last month's New-ish Fun Sites

  • iPing -- free reminder service for the Internet age
  • Vindigo -- Palm-based guide to 20 cities
  • GlobeExplorer -- satellite images
    Update: This site no longer gives you free address searching; you can still see satellite images of major cities, but have to pay to look up, say, your own home directly. Just a sign of the times: paying for content is here to stay.

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(my starting points for various things; may change monthly)

Search Engine:
The best search engine out there. 'Nuff said. But here's Walt Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal on Google: "...simply the best search site I've ever used." If you know Walt's work -- and you should be following it religiously at -- you know that he doesn't hand out such praise often. Be sure to download the free Google toolbar; it will change the way you search:

Reference Site:
Excellent reference site. Don't just take my word for it. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told The New York Times this is his favorite Web site. Run by Bob Drudge, Matt's dad (though no rumors on Refdesk).

Yep, the Encyclopedia Britannica on the Web (as well as selected articles from 70 major magazines), free of charge. For now.

National Geographic's Map Machine
Leave it to National Geographic to make the best online atlas with these dynamic maps that will take you any spot you choose, and allow you to change what kind of map you see, on the fly. Did you know there are three towns named Santa Claus in the U.S. or that my grandfather's village in India is an easy find?

In offices, dictionaries grow legs and walk. Hence an online dictionary is a must. This one addresses a major problem I have had with traditional dictionaries: You need to know how to spell a word before you look it up. Not here. Just punch in an approximation, and it will give you a suggested list. Plus, nice etymology.

Media Goings-on:
Jim Romenesko's Media News
Hosted by, this is news-junkie heaven. I read it more often and more closely than any other site. Period.

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My "Tech Guru" segments on WABC-7 in the New York City area run every Thursday morning on Channel 7 at 6:45 (yes, that's the a.m.). This is a link to Web versions of my segments, and includes various "sites of the week."

Sree Tips -- the Web page
Links to my tips and thoughts on various items, including digital cameras, Web production and more.

Sree Talks
List of forthcoming talks and presentations in various cities.

Info Overload & Moi
An essay for on dealing with information overload (yes, I am a major info polluter).

"Smarter Surfing" Workshops
Smarter surfing for people of all skill levels. Interested in scheduling a class for you and your colleagues? Details, costs and more.

[Syndication requests:]

That's it for now.

Remember, you can track my "Smarter Surfing" links at

See you (your inbox, actually) next month.

Cheers, Sree

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Sree Tips List
Copyright 2001

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