Need a Card Catalog for the Internet
March 4, 2012 5:07 PM   Subscribe

Help me discover new, interesting things to learn about on the internet.

I'm a writer. My livelihood relies, in part, on being able to fill my brain up with interesting stuff. But I feel like I'm running dry on new, interesting stuff for my brain to munch on, and worse, it feels really hard to find that kind of information nowadays. We live in the era of search, but I don't know what I'm looking for until I've found it...

Sites like the blue and BoingBoing are kind of OK for finding some stuff that everyone else also knows, and I get links from my friends on Twitter, etc., but increasingly the kinds of content I'm looking for are being crowded out by cat videos, current events, photo memes, or any of three or four topics I feel I know enough about not to need to obsessively read everything about them anymore. It isn't enough for my hungry, hungry brain.

I used to enjoy leafing through a paper encyclopedia, but random article search on Wikipedia doesn't really do it.

Lately, I've been missing the old Yahoo! web directory. It provided an expansive experience -- rather than filtering me toward ever-more-similar content, I could find things you were interested in and then identify categories that were tangentially related, but that I might not've known about before. Alas...

Which all brings me to my actual question: What methods, techniques or tools exist to help me discover new topics of interest to learn about on the internet?

Please note that I am not looking for specific topics to be interested in; I'm looking for methods of discovering them myself. Thanks so much!
posted by Andrhia to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a big fan of reading
posted by Memo at 5:11 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

TED talks are all online. Maybe listening to those will pique your curiosity about different topics.
posted by mollymayhem at 5:48 PM on March 4, 2012

I get a lot of material from Listverse, Mental Floss, and Neatorama.
posted by oxfordcomma at 6:18 PM on March 4, 2012

Best answer: Try Stumbleupon .
posted by LiverOdor at 6:38 PM on March 4, 2012

Best answer: Seconding Stumbleupon, because you can define/ limit your interests and eliminate cat videos altogether if you want.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 7:06 PM on March 4, 2012

Best answer: Arts and Letters Daily?
posted by mellifluous at 7:39 PM on March 4, 2012

What about Popurls?
posted by SisterHavana at 9:01 PM on March 4, 2012

If you don't mind paying money for them try:

Great Courses (in depth lectures on ton of topics) (mostly tech related)

Do you know how to use advance Google operator?
posted by Carius at 10:44 PM on March 4, 2012

Response by poster: Hmmm. Looking at these:

Pinterest ahas the same problem as Twitter and G+, for me, in primarily being all the same unfiltered stuff I'm not looking for. Shiny gadget announcements, memes, lists of top 3 or 5 or 10 with not much meat on it.

TED, other video content, and audio content don't fit into the kind of browsing I do, alas, though it's a good idea. I sometimes listen to Stuff You Should Know or TED talks at the gym, though!

Specific content sites like Mental Floss are... OK, I guess... but tend to be very shallow assays of a topic; not enough to spark anything beyond "Huh, that's cool."

I do know how to use advanced Google operators; the problem is in simply not having a topic in mind to search for. I want an index of stuff I might care to search for to learn more about.

It's my understanding that with StumbleUpon you first have to set up interest categories or people to follow. Am I wrong? (It's not letting me create an account with Chrome, anyway.)

So far, Neatorama, Arts and Letters Daily and seem to be the best aggregators of the kind of content I'm looking for, though the core problem of initial discovery technique isn't really solved. --Are aggregators such as these the only thing going nowadays?
posted by Andrhia at 7:26 AM on March 5, 2012

Best answer: It's my understanding that with StumbleUpon you first have to set up interest categories or people to follow. Am I wrong?

Interest categories, definitely. That's a great part of it and you can customize them as often as you like.

(It's not letting me create an account with Chrome, anyway.)

Silly excuse for not being on SU yet. It sounds like it's the closest thing here that will fit your wants.
posted by circular at 9:41 AM on March 5, 2012

It takes a lot of stuff from the blue, but I am constantly bookmarking or forwarding things I see on Open Culture.
posted by mostly vowels at 3:52 PM on March 5, 2012

How about looking through some forums on different topics?
posted by Carius at 6:02 PM on March 5, 2012

Response by poster: I did finally sign up for StumbleUpon, and it is the closest thing to the kind of serendipity I'm looking for. Thanks so much, everyone, for suggesting it!
posted by Andrhia at 6:24 PM on April 13, 2012

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