No More Palin, No More Polls
How to kill time on the Web now that the election's over.
The election's over, and you're bored. You're not really elated that your guy won or dismayed that he got crushed—really, you just wish you knew what to do with yourself. Over the last few months, you've spent hours each day poring over polls and reading every pundit. Now all that is done, and the Web seems so ... empty. Politico is full of stories about the transition team and RealClearPolitics is focused on 2012, but it's just not the same.
I'm here to help because I'm pretty much in the same boat. Now that the election's over, I've got several spare hours a day. What'll I do? Here are some ideas.
Follow the financial crisis. The presidential race might be over, but news junkies looking for a fix are in luck—the economy looks sure to provide months of daily excitement. Of course there are many mainstream sources—the Wall Street Journal, the Times, Slate's sister pub The Big Money—but the Web abounds with smart bloggers who follow the financial crisis with the sort of precinct-by-precinct detail you've come to expect of election news.
I asked Andrew Leonard, who manages Salon's excellent globalization blog How the World Works, for tips on blogs to follow for financial news. His suggestions: Calculated Risk, the Big Picture, Portfolio's Felix Salmon, and Naked Capitalism, all of which offer ridiculously in-depth coverage—think of them as the Ben Smiths of economic news. I'd also add Planet Money, NPR's fantastic blog and podcast, which excels in explaining the meltdown for people who barely understand their 401(k)s.
Watch CollegeHumor. When all else fails, turn to funny videos. The Web is full of them, and new ones come out every day—just head to Digg, FunnyOrDie, the Onion, or BuzzFeed for the latest and greatest.
One suggestion: If you missed "You Suck at Photoshop," the 20-episode Web series in which a disaffected loser dishes about his miserable life as he tries to teach you how to edit photos, stop reading this and watch it immediately. (Note the mysterious celebrity cameo in the final episode, which just hit the Web last week.) After that, head over to CollegeHumor.com, which for my money produces the funniest videos on the Web. As the name implies, CollegeHumor deftly traverses the line between the clever and the sophomoric—it knows every pot-smoking joke you can think of, but it's also got a mean way with Internet memes. (See Professor Wikipedia or this much-passed-around clip imagining a business meeting of the kind of people who write comments on blogs.) My favorite CollegeHumor series is this incredibly cruel prank-war between two of the site's regular performers. The whole thing's true—these guys really pulled these pranks. They start off innocently enough but over time escalate into a battle so big that it's kind of sad. But mostly it's hilarious.
Visit Google Trends. Whenever I run out of Web aggregators to read, I load up Google's hourly snapshot of keywords people are looking for online. Google Trends offers a picture of the Web's deepest desires. A word of warning: Not everything you'll find here is interesting, and a whole lot of it is bizarre, but if you follow some of the threads, your chances of coming upon something worthwhile are pretty good.
On one recent morning, for instance, Trends tipped me off to news of a huge trade in pro basketball; a site to show you whether you're eligible to vote and how to do it; details of the Jennifer Hudson family funeral; an obituary for Yma Sumac, a Peruvian singer with a multioctave vocal range; and word that skier Picabo Street got married. Before forwarding to all your friends, be sure to follow links for the search terms lighting up Google Trends because people are often searching for stuff that's wrong. Sunday night, for instance, Trends blew up with the phrase "lil wayne dead." Not true! The rumor of the rapper's death was tracked to a site imitating the BBC.
Farhad Manjoo is Slate's technology columnist and the author of True Enough: Learning To Live in a Post-Fact Society. You can email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter.
Screengrab from World of Goo.