Virtually there - October 2010
My daughter is turning 15 this week. The significance of this (other than the fact that I now realise the driving age is clearly too low) is that it has been 15 years since I started writing about the internet. I know this because that first article was on the illuminating subject of hunting down 2am breastfeeding help, which was pretty much the focus of my world at the time. Ground-breaking stuff actually, because until then the internet had been generally regarded as a good source of data on differential equations for pointy-headed boffins, but with no particular relevance for the likes of you and me.
How wrong we were. For the next few years I wrote technology articles for various publications, until one day in early 2001 the fabulous Kate Coughlan asked me to write regularly about the internet for NZ House & Garden. Why? Because, she said, the internet was clearly becoming relevant to her readers and she wanted NZ House & Garden to be the one to help them explore it. Fast-forward to today and here you are reading my 126th Virtually There column.
Maybe itís not a particularly inspiring anniversary, but in this instance 126 has some significance because this is the last time Virtually There makes an appearance in this distinguished publication. I know, I know, so sad, etc etc. But letís face it, the internet column is going the way of the dinosaur. Oh, sure, when Virtually There made its debut the information superhighway was still new and mysterious. Google was the new kid on the block and there was always a fabulous new site to write about.
The initial brief was for sites that would be relevant to NZ House & Garden readers, which meant a plethora of home decor sites, DIY sites, gardening sites and architecture sites. But, because of the complex, eclectic nature of both the internet and the readers, things couldnít stop there. I wrote columns on home automation, internet radio, online memes and crazy gadgets. I even devoted a whole column to the novel concept of using the internet to book travel.
But today thatís old news and the search for the new killer app is getting harder and harder. There may be 250 million websites floating around in the ether, with 47 million added in 2009 alone, but just you try finding one that is worth recommending. Useful, interesting, relevant, well-designed sites of any kind are becoming elusive and, when one does appear, I suspect that if I can find it, so can you.
Things are not helped by the fact that internet columns are now ubiquitous. Every publication, from the weekly celebrity rags and glossy international publications to giveaways and special interest mags (Rubber & Plastics Monthly anyone?) seems to have one, and they are all talking about the same boring sites.
Even worse (for me, but better for you), in the NZ House & Garden of today, every article, editorial and advertisement you read has relevant websites embedded. And what is left for a poor internet columnist to feature? The short answer is nothing much.
So, without further drivel, it is time to call it a day. Iíve loved writing for you. Iíve had fun snooping around in cyberspace, searching for the funkiest furniture, the coolest eco-houses, the most useful advice. But you donít need me any more. Armed with Google and a little time, if you want it, you can find it yourself. There now Ė isnít that little bit of self-empowerment just what you needed today?
And donít think this is goodbye. I know Iíll see you around.
|Story: Kim Rutter|