Originated by the same people who brought us Slashdot.org, and now in its second incarnation, Everything2 is another collaborative site that builds a community and leverages the knowledge held by thousands of Web users. This project consists of "nodes" which are created by users and linked to other nodes. Each node contains one or more statements about a topic, as well as links to other nodes. Users vote on the value of each node, and in turn are graded according to the perceived value of their contributions to the site.
As the name implies, a node can be about anything, and the site hopes to cover everything eventually. It's well on the way, having recently celebrated its millionth node. Nodes range from the serious and informative, through the frivolous and funny, to the controversial and vituperative. Like all online communities, it has its flamers, its trolls and its heated disputes. Love it or hate it, Everything2 is a vibrant virtual society with a life of its own.
The Good Old Days
For a sobering look at computers of the olden days, try this page, which contains the complete instruction manual for the guidance computer used in the first Apollo Command Module. With its clock speed of 2MHz and a mere 2KB of RAM, this machine was enough to run the spacecraft that took the first men to the moon.
Make your will
On a still more sober note, you can now use your computer to create a last will and testament online, courtesy of WilPaCT. For $15, the company will let you use its server and pre-prepared templates to produce a disposition of your assets which it claims is both secure and legally binding; it takes about an hour to complete the forms. Once you've made your first version, you can update it as often as you like for $10 per year - an electronic boon for those who have stormy family relations.
Be careful what you say
ELIZA was a famous software experiment of the 1960s, in which a computer was programmed to imitate a psychotherapist. Communicating with ELIZA involved typing messages, to which the program would inevitably respond with a question based on the words in the message. It often fooled people into thinking there was a real person on the other end of the line. Countless versions of ELIZA have been produced for personal computers since then, but Kevin Fox's rather mischievous take on the concept goes a step further.
Using a spare computer, he has set up a version of ELIZA that replies to people who use the popular AOL Instant Messenger program. Set to answer those who request conversations with random people, AOLiza attracts a remarkable variety of unknowing participants, some of whom may spend over an hour talking to a machine that does nothing but rephrase each of their comments as a question.
Selected conversations, with the identity of the human replaced by a number, are placed on the site's unusual horizontally scrolling page, where you can read them and give them a rating out of 10. The most disturbing, and highly rated, conversations are those in which the participant firmly believes that AOLiza is actually a good friend whom they have known for years.