Network: Websites

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The Independent Culture
The Noon Quilt

Wired residents of 18 countries have contributed to this global patchwork, looking out of their windows at noon local time wherever they are and reporting to the Nottingham-based Trace International Writing Community. The plan is to create a composite text for the planet, which can be explored stitch by stitch or by an overview of the whole tapestry. Response has been enthusiastic enough to generate the need for a second quilt. The artist, or perhaps seamstress, will be discussing her creation at 3pm today in a MOO (that's multiple-user domain, object-oriented) accessible via Trace's revamped site. As well as sponsoring the writers and the Net conference Trace promotes language-based Web creativity on both regional and international levels. Other examples on display include the results of a Wired-in-a-Week contest, in which selected East Midlanders are give four days to create a site from scratch. There are also details of a hypertext competition, with a pounds 1,000 prize.


For many surfers those top-of-the-page advertising banners create frustration rather than appreciation. To redress the balance, here is a whole online magazine devoted to the subject. Each week leading executives and panellists apply common sense and adspeak to a chosen design. Response rates, brand impact and mysterious entities known as front-end DTRs and back-end DARs are all invoked, along with the all-important "click-through" potential. Last week's review contained some truly surreal perceptions: "The infinite loop on the alien abduction conveys the sense of an endless search, while the one-frame duck deaths are about as close to real-time as you can get." Microscope is part of the ClickZ network of sites, worth a look for students of the inner workings, and language, of advertising and e-commerce.

St Michael's Abbey

These UK-based Benedictines have farmed out design chores to a secular company, as they lack the in-house cyber-scriptoria of certain US brethren. But their site still comes complete with the sound of real bells and the authentic rustle of monastic parchment. St Michael's, on the Hampshire/Surrey border, has a relatively recent but exotic history: it was built in the 1880s by the Empress Eugenie as a resting-place for her husband, Napoleon III. There are details here of the French-influenced architecture, and the monks' daily regime. Anyone feeling the call can write to the Novice Master.

The Smoking Gun

"Classified... confidential... top secret - until now". This online dossier uses 100 per cent official documents to illuminate scandals past and present. Freedom of Information requests, court files and other resources form an impressive, yet random, archive. Some material appears in the mainstream media - for example, the "Ken Starr's Dirty Dossier". But historical snippets include a Fifties FBI account of Groucho's tendance Marxiste. Recent entries include Mike Tyson's psychiatric reports, and details of an abortive Sixties CIA plot to provoke the Cosa Nostra and the Communist Party into wiping each other out.

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