I’ve been online for a long, long, long time, in the relative terms that Internet experience can be measured. This blog’s archives extend back to 1995 (before the word “blog” even existed), and I was romping and stomping about in virtual spaces earlier than that, like some digital dinosaur hauling its heft through a primordial dial-up ASCII swamp. While I’ve bailed on social media in recent years, I still do a sizable portion of my reading online, and with a quarter-century-plus experience in sorting the garbage that spills out of the interweb’s pipes, I think I’m pretty discerning in plucking the shiniest gems from the stinkiest spew of the online world.
Being a community-oriented sort, I’m happy to leverage my online explorations to share a roster of the five websites that moved me most in 2020, in the hopes that you might find them engaging and entertaining as well. My own web productivity and traffic both increased significantly this year (I’ll share more about that closer to the end of the year), likely as a combo platter of me having more time to write post-retirement from full-time work, and of other people having more time to read as we were collectively clamped down during this our Anno Virum. I know the websites cited below helped brighten some dark days for me over the past twelve months. Maybe my own website will have done that for you as well in 2020. It would make me happy were that the case. And we all need some extra happy these days, don’t we?
Thoughts On The Dead: Once again the best of the best to these eyes and ears. I learn a lot, laugh a lot, and love it a lot. Still. And again. The always and aggressively anonymous author has had a tough year in 2020, but he’s continued to write, brilliantly and consistently, and I’ve continued to read, gladly, thankfully, giddily and giggly. While knowledge of the Grateful Dead might help a bit on certain posts, it’s certainly not a hard prerequisite, as there’s a whole lot of cultural and musical and political turf covered herein, semi-fictionally. As a reminder, TotD’s got book-length work out there, too, if you want a deeper read. I recommend that, strongly. Bonus Points: He’s largely nocturnal, so I almost always have something new to read over my coffee every morning. Winning!
Going Medieval: Deep history, social conscience and significant snark from the UK’s Dr Eleanor Janega, knit together into a thoroughly brilliant whole. I’ve danced around the academic study of history in my own educational adventures, and I really, truly appreciate writers and researchers who can explain our todays and tomorrows through their deep understanding of our yesterdays — especially when such explications are offered with mad high-level story-telling skillZ that make the ancient timely, and the long-since-forgotten topical. This site has it all going on, every post a winner, guaranteed to make you smile and laugh as you (gasp!) actually learn something.
Daily Abstract Thoughts: Mostly short, thoughtful reflections from “Orcas Laird,” a native Scot living and writing from a gorgeous island in Washington State. As a gentleman of a certain age, I most appreciate this other similarly aged gentleman’s observations on topics sublime and mundane. He’s an astute and keen web philosopher in his ability to make the boundaries between those sublime and mundane bits blurry. We see big things when we look at little ones, sometimes. He’s very, very good at that, and is also an objectively fine writer, capable of terse elegance, which often eludes me in my wordy ways.
Messy Nessy Chic: A gorgeous and deeply entertaining site, one where you can gawp at beautiful things, learn about arcane topics, and enthuse about the ephemera that exists at the outer edges of Web World. Nessy’s weekly “13 Things I Found on the Internet Today” series is always a delight, and it’s rare that it doesn’t take me down some totally time-wasting online rabbit hole. Which is a good thing, if that’s not clear. I’m happy to be deeply distractable, and even happier to have such a good portal for distractions readily updated and available for my frittering about.
Ramblin’ With Roger: Roger Green and I shared blog space years ago at a newspaper website whose name I shall not utter, because things there ended poorly for me, and for many others. Roger was always one of my favorite writers on that commercial media site, writing well about many things that interested me, and/or about which I cared deeply on both intellectual and emotional bases. Even back in those blog farm days, Roger was running his own highly-prolific web gig, which is now up to 15+ years of consistent daily posting. And I do read him every day, just because I know I’m going to see something new and interesting, whenever I do. You can, and should, too!