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Warning: this column is not self-organizing.

Do you remember Suck.com? I’d forgotten all about “a fish, a barrel and a smoking gun” until I visited Plastic.com www.plastic.com, which I was checking out because … but wait, let me back up. My favorite sites tend to be news-oriented: breaking news, politics, technology, satire.

Many Web sites are making it easier than ever to browse many sources at once by soliciting the visitor for her favorite content from other sites (Slashdot.org and Plastic.com). These sites then have their editors or members rate the content or each other’s postings about it, making the highest-rated stuff easiest to see. This kind of site is called “self-organizing,” and you can bet we’ll see many more of them as the trend catches on. Plastic, launched in January, is a news and discussion site devoted to culture at large: celebrities, politics, sex, health, you name it. Its tag line is, “recycling the Web in real time.”

Plastic is affiliated with Suck.com www.suck.com (both are owned by Automatic Media), which I was happy to rediscover and which has only improved with age. Suck.com has been sassing its audience with its unique essays, letters, and illustrations since 1995. Here’s a recent title you won’t find elsewhere: “Putting the Ass Back in Assassin: Retarded Sons of Oswald in a Can’t-Do Nation.”

Since I last visited, Suck.com has added Filler and Hit & Run (weekly columns), Special Features, and NetMoguls.com, which displays Steve Jobs, Esther Dyson, and other tech honchos as trading cards (flip them over to see their stats). Be sure to check out the “Five years ago in Suck” links and the January announcement about the launch of Plastic, titled, “Free At Last: Suck is neither a fish nor a barrel, nor is it a smoking gun. Discuss.”

Visiting Suck.com made me nostalgic for the Web in 1995, so I also revisited Utne.com www.utne.com, another early Web pioneer. Check it out–it’s still going strong–and was no doubt an inspiration to all the alternative-news whippersnappers that soon followed.

E2: join or go

While sites such as Slashdot www.slashdot.org and Plastic have upped the stakes in online communities, Everything2 everything2.com has raised them to another planet: the planet of E2. Everything2 is no mere news/culture discussion site; it says its goal is to be a constantly updated database of information, insight, and humor.

This site is built entirely by its members, so on first encounter, it looks like the ultimate inside joke. Like any tight-knit community, only those who submit themselves to the elaborate rules of the game will “get” what’s going on. E2’s elaborate system of points and levels (e.g., initiate, novice, acolyte, scribe … all the way up to godhead, pseudo-god, and pedant), aims to increase quality contributions. New members likely will see many of their postings deleted until they hang around long enough to catch on; but, says the site, the time they put in will pay off. Interested? Prepare to spend lots of time in your new home.

Wading the WWW

Memepool www.memepool.com is another site that depends on its devotees to make it what it is: an intuitive, annotated guide to Web sites.

This is not your typical search engine or lame laundry list of sites everyone’s already heard of; there’s not much Boolean action here. The site instead strives to make links akin to the way human synapses fire–as in, you’re waiting for a friend who’s late, when bam, the Genesis song “Misunderstanding” cranks up in your head as if you’d just put a quarter in the jukebox.

The site’s layout is subtle, but basically every blurb with links is tied to a category. The “wackos” archive is particularly funny, linking to truly deranged Web sites. Other categories include religion, gadgets, robotics, science, art, literature, beer, and cartography. You can also search by week or by author.

Curiously, there’s no chat or discussion forum features on the site, and you must send e-mail to notify Memepool about links or to find out how to become a regular contributor. (Memepool directs obsessed fans to irc.memepool.com in channel #memepool.) For a utilitarian search to find something like a book or a CD, use your usual straightforward channels.

But if you’re not sure what you’re looking for, make Memepool your first stop. After all, “telharmonium”–the world’s first electronic instrument–isn’t something you’re likely to find by typing “music” into the Google search engine.

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