Websites for the previously cave-bound?
October 8, 2010 3:38 PM   Subscribe

What websites should I suggest for web n00bs who need to get jobs, homes, and making-life-easier help?

I'm compiling a list of websites for people who are just getting out of a California state prison. Many have never been online before. There is a wide spectrum of sophistication in this group so I'm looking for all types of resources, including but not limited to:

- basic craigslist type help (jobs, homes, gigs, furniture)
- lifehack-type help, like how to plan a $5/day menu
- reference sites, from wikipedia to

So far I have:

wikipedia (lots of instructions on there)

What else should I include (or not include, and why)?

Help with descriptions and caveats would be appreciated, too. (For instance, I am recommending wikipedia as a starting point, but will mention that it's unreliable for anything focussed.)

Please assume negligible research/Googling skills.

Thank you!
posted by small_ruminant to Society & Culture (21 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Possibly The Hillbilly Housewife, assuming money's going to be tight.
posted by dilettante at 3:44 PM on October 8, 2010

If they aren't really computer savvy, (warning, this is going to sound goofy), directing them to a few games at PopCan games is a great way to hone mouse skills as well as hunting-and-pointing.
posted by banannafish at 4:10 PM on October 8, 2010

If they are new to the internet, might be worth reminding them about online scams, fraud, identity theft, etc.
posted by cyndigo at 4:11 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Echoing cyndigo... I would strongly endorse Snopes.
posted by kimdog at 4:42 PM on October 8, 2010

Best answer: What about WebMD?

Also, snopes is a great suggestion.
posted by annsunny at 4:52 PM on October 8, 2010

I learned most of my life skills at It's a tad cutesy-poo but the lady who writes the site is just sweet and kind and very good at kicking your butt into doing what needs to be done around the home, from cleaning to bill paying to menu planning.
posted by selfmedicating at 4:54 PM on October 8, 2010

May be a little obvious, but skmetafilter- ask questions for anything they can't find online.
posted by TheBones at 5:32 PM on October 8, 2010

Best answer: Marc and Angel Hack Life

The Top 100 Productivity and Lifehack Blogs for College Students
*** good info for everyone, not just college students . . .

The Dollar Stretcher
posted by ainsley at 5:40 PM on October 8, 2010

Annual Credit Report. Mention that it's the ONLY place online to get their three free reports every year.
posted by anaelith at 6:58 PM on October 8, 2010

Best answer: Tell them how to check out a possible scam email/scam Craigslist posting. Point them to the craigslist page on scams. Also give them websites like:'s consumer protection pages (tons of info there about how to avoid scams online and off)
Listing of online scams from the government - this is a huge list, remember to tell them to scroll all the way down the page
Educational site on online fraud and scams endorsed by the FBI.

It might be worth seeing if you can find a good explanation of some of the recent revelations about online education scams. Basically there are a lot of fake schools, and real schools that are for-profit but not properly accredited (so for example if you take their training course for a job, you may not get a usable certificate for the job), and they are swindling people who are trying to train for a new job in the bad economy. (GAO report on fraud at for-profit colleges is one example; scholarship scams is another)

Give them general rules: look at the web address. Is it a .edu or .gov address? Those are *usually* reliable, trustworthy sites, since they are only permitted for schools and government entities. Addresses with .com or other extensions may be less reliable, since anyone can get one, but there are many good sources of information that are .com, .org, etc.

People can buy web addresses that are misleading. For example I could buy the address even if I was not a bank at all, but a scammer looking to prey on vulnerable people. The organization that sells the website names does not check the credentials of people buying website names, so you can't judge by the name.

Similarly, just because an advertisement appears on a site you trust, does not mean the advertisement is trustworthy too. It is a good rule of thumb not to click on online advertisements, since they can take you to scammy or virusy websites. (Explain about viruses etc - not to take pictures or other files from anyone you don't know. If they are browsing on a library computer there may be safeguards.)

Explain how phishing scams work, on the web - they will ask for personal information (such as birth date, SSN, credit card numbers, email passwords, etc). They may say it's for "registration" or to "check your account status" etc, but that's almost always a lie. For anything important like a bank account, they should just not do it online until they are more familiar with the internet. They should also not give that information to someone who calls them saying "I'm from your bank"; instead they should look up the bank's phone number in the phone book and call it themselves.

News organizations:
(whatever the local news is where you are)


Landlord/Tenant Laws in California - explains what is illegal discrimination in housing

Buying a car
Consumer protections for car buyers
California DMV has a lot of good information on the process of buying, and research on prices, reliability of different models, etc including info on used cars. is one place to start for price comparisons
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:17 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

posted by Fizzgig at 9:23 PM on October 8, 2010

Best answer: Info on how to take computer classes at libraries and community centers in your area would also be a good idea. Include the addresses of some libraries/community centers, or how to find them (phone book)?

Even just the fact that most local libraries will have free internet access is something worth explicitly saying.

Explain that if they get into reading comments on open-comment websites or forums they will likely see people being rude, shooting their mouths off, etc, and the best way to react is just not to engage. For all they know the person is a 13 year old kid pretending to be an adult.

You may want to explain what Facebook is, and explain that they can join but should be careful about what they post since Facebook is not as good as it claims to be about keeping information private. If there is something they want to keep private, they should not put it on Facebook or other websites.

You may want to explain places they can get a free email account and how that works. How they can send an email to someone if they know the person's email address. How they can make up their own email name, but should pick an email address that they could use in applying for apartments etc (so they shouldn't pick an address that's obscene or threatening).

How to choose a good password. How to remember more than one password.

Free internet phone/videophone calls - Skype, Google voice, etc - is another thing to explain. (Though they probably can't do this at a library.)

Google maps and other mapping sites.

Addiction help: AA, NA, etc - you can look up the times and places of local meetings online.

Resources for free and low-cost or sliding scale mental health counseling in your area

Resources for free and low-cost or sliding scale legal help in your area

Public transit info: bus schedules, light rail, etc. for your area; if there are discounted transit passes, how to get them

Info on how to get health insurance, is there a low-cost California program? are there sites to compare insurers? what's the procedure for someone who is unemployed in California? Note that if they are under 26 they should now be eligible for coverage under their parents' plans if their parents are insured.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:50 PM on October 8, 2010
posted by anildash at 3:37 AM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Security Essentials
Windows Update
posted by robtoo at 9:51 AM on October 9, 2010

Response by poster: These are great! Thank you! I have been warning them about fraud online but you're right, I need to be more explicit.

I should explain how to get an email account, too, now that I think about it.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:32 AM on October 9, 2010

Best answer: This is a fascinating question. You might look around and see if you can find any very basic "Internet and Email 101" tutorials that look good. For example, you may want to explain that email programs will keep copies of their "sent" messages (so they can go back to them later), that they can delete messages they never want to see again (like junk mail), but that they can probably keep as many real messages as they want, since the "size limit" of their "mailbox" is probably very large. They should always be polite in email, and think twice before sending, because the person they write to can keep a copy forever and can send it to other people as well. They should also remember it's easy to mis-interpret someone's meaning over email (for example, jokes do not always come across as intended), so they should not joke if they are sending a serious email (such as to a prospective employer, or a lawyer).

Resources for free/low-cost medical and dental care in your area

Once you have an apartment, how to find out which phone company, gas, electric, etc services your house, and how to sign up for service (probably worth giving both online and postal/phone info for these).

How to find a bank account that will let you open an account with no minimum balance and give you free checking etc. Credit unions, if there are any that are an option. (Having a bank account with checking will allow you to avoid losing money to payday loan and check-cashing places.)

Sports news: (en Espanol)

Major Spanish-language resources for all this stuff

Give examples of the websites of local pro teams (baseball, football, basketball, soccer, etc):

Give examples of things they can find through city/county government websites: local sports leagues, free or low-cost classes on parenting, job skills, hobbies, etc.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:21 PM on October 9, 2010
Lots of links to parenting information (you might scan through these to see if any seem especially pertinent)

Might include CDC (or similarly reliable, ad-free) pages on HIV, Hepatitis-C, whatever other specific medical issues are prevalent?

This is a PDF Prison Resource Directory from Prison which lists a ton of resources, mainly aimed at helping people still in prison, but others will be applicable to people who have gotten out - worth skimming to crib good web addresses.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:38 PM on October 9, 2010

I thought of another: Planned Parenthood.
posted by annsunny at 10:59 PM on October 9, 2010

I had one thought ... when preparing this list, I would really suggest that you focus on keeping the list down to a handful ... the best of the best of the best.

If you're new to the Internet, and you're given a list of 30-40 different places to check out, that's going to look like one hell of a huge list to you. Mentally, it's going to be a lot easier to blow that project off, or postpone it.

If you're given a list of 7-10 places, that's going to look a lot more manageable and do-able. Mentally, it'll probably be chalked up on your more immediate list.

Basically, I'm suggesting that you consider your audience on this one.
posted by Fizzgig at 7:11 PM on October 10, 2010

Response by poster: Fizzgig, I agree, and plan to give them a list of about 10 as vital ones to look at, but then add a page in the back of the stack of handouts with any and all other URLs that might be of interest.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:59 AM on October 11, 2010

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