SHIFT INTERNET DIRECTORY 2001, by Scott Mitchell and Darren Wershler-Henry (Prentice Hall Canada), 392 pages, $30 paper. Rating: NNNN
Considering that the Internet grows at the ridiculous estimated rate of a million new pages a day, the idea of creating a definitive guide to life online seems more than a little hopeless. The Shift Internet Directory is probably about as close as you'll get.
Like a smarter Dummies' Guide To The Internet, the hefty Directory is a great tool for cutting through the crap. Of course, a big part of the Web's appeal is that you don't need a guidebook to get around, but as anyone who's logged on can tell you, finding something and finding what you want are two very different things.
The Shift Directory -- in part an extension of Shift magazine's Web site countdown the Shift List -- is set up in two parts. The initial section deals with the nuts and bolts of online life.
From basic questions like the differences among browsers and defining what plug-ins are to which search engine is best and why you should arrange your bookmarks in some sort of intelligent order, everything is dealt with in a straightforward and witty way. There's no droning geek-speak, but the authors also assume you've turned on your computer before.
Part two is labelled Destinations, and it's arranged like a phone book. Mitchell and Wershler-Henry have put together a well-organized list of a few thousand of their favourite Web sites, arranged by category -- arts and entertainment, sports, travel, health, etc -- and chosen with varying degrees of seriousness.
In the spirit of the Internet, no subject is too trivial to be highlighted, so the picks range from the official Jacques Villeneuve site, complete with in-house cartoonist (www.jacques.villeneuve.com), to a site on preventing pneumonia (www.lung.ca/pneumonia) and something called ErotiCat (http://home.ican.net/~otiss/).
Sure, given enough free time you could probably find all these sites on your own, plus the thousand or so more that have gone up since you started reading this piece. Mitchell and Wershler-Henry make your online slogging just a little bit easier, though.
SITE OF THE WEEK
From page 264 of the Shift Internet Directory comes this grim, self-explanatory site. Find the final stop for celebrities from around the world. Includes photos of the tombstone and a map, in case you want to stop by. MG