June 17, 2010 12:05:00 PM
Peter Imes - email@example.com
Everyone has at least heard of Facebook and Twitter. Both are Internet services that allow you to connect with existing friends or create new friends and to share information with those online friends. Each is an example of a "social media" website.
Though these two are the most popular, there are hundreds of others. Let''s take a look at a few interesting websites that may be new to you.
Facebook does not allow children under the age of 13 to create an account; however, Togetherville is a Facebook-type website for children under the age of 10. It gives parents an opportunity to connect with their children online. I know, I know... parents should be connecting with their children in real life rather than in the virtual world, right? I agree, but the fact is that children want to get on Facebook and many will even lie about their age to get on Facebook.
Togetherville gives children an online forum to interact with their friends and their parents; it gives parents the opportunity to establish safe and responsible online habits by closely controlling who their children connect with online. It also allows parents to play games, create art and learn new things online with their children.
Patients Like Me (patientslikeme.com)
This website''s tag line reads: "Do you have a life-changing condition? Learn from the real-world experiences of other patients like you." The website creates an easy way for you to connect with other people who are going through the same health issues. Think of it as an online support group. You start by answering a few questions about your health and then you are able to find other patients like yourself. Through message boards and chat, you can share your treatment experiences.
For the truly adventurous, let me introduce Chatroulette. This website was created by a 17-year-old Russian boy, and it has become one of the hottest websites on the Internet since being launched at the very end of last year. The name comes from the combination of the words "chat" and "roulette." Websites don''t get any simpler than this. As soon as you enter the website, it looks to see if you have a video camera (webcam) attached to your computer. If you do, you are immediately thrown into a live video chat with a random person. You can see them and they can see you. Chat for awhile. If you don''t like who you are talking to, don''t worry about it. The service is completely anonymous, and you can simply click the refresh button on your browser to be thrown into another chat with yet another stranger. Much like traditional roulette, you can never predict what will happen, and because of this, the website is not for the faint at heart. I''ve seen statistics that as many as 1 out of every 5 people you see on Chatroulette is doing something inappropriate. Proceed with caution.
Pandora is one of my favorite websites. It is an Internet radio station that allows you to create your own themed stations. You create a station by entering a musician''s name or a song title. Pandora compares the artist or song you enter to all of the other artists and songs in their database and immediately starts playing similar music. The songs may or may not be by the artist you initially enter. You get information about the song that is playing and why Pandora thinks it belongs in your station. You can "like" or "dislike" each song to fine-tune the station to your tastes. If you have a Facebook account, Pandora will even tell you which of your friends like the song you are currently listening to. This is a great way to get exposed to new music and to learn more about your Facebook friends'' music tastes.
Kiva is one of many microlending websites. Kiva allows entrepreneurs to post their business needs. Other website visitors can read about the entrepreneur''s business plans and loan small amounts of money to collectively meet the entrepreneur''s needs. Most of these entrepreneurs come from third world countries and have relatively modest needs. As I''m writing this, a 37-year-old woman named Anastase from Rwanda is seeking $1,050 to create a dairy in her small town. You can make loans in increments of $25. The recipients of your loan repay the loan with interest. Kiva has facilitated over $100 million in loans, and they claim a repayment rate of over 98 percent. This is an amazing way to loan a relatively small amount of money that will make a big difference in a person''s life. The best part is that your loan is helping someone who is needy yet working to build a better life.
Do you want to connect with people online but can''t find the right website to do it? Perhaps it''s time to create your own social network. Celebrities (Tyra Banks), politicians (Sarah Palin), non-profits, and many more individuals and organizations have used Ning to create online communities for people to connect. Ning''s website will walk you through the process of creating a social network of your own.
Peter Imes is the general manager at The Dispatch. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @pimes.