published on Monday, July 19, 2007 in The Miami Herald
Manual offers tips galore on all things on the Net.
Mark Frauenfelder's nerdy but thoroughly human text provides loads of useful ways to employ the Internet.
BY RICHARD PACHTER
Rule the Web: How to Do Anything and Everything on the Internet -- Better, Faster, Easier. Mark Frauenfelder. St. Martin's Press. 416 pages.
The Internet is like a funhouse, replete with twists, turns, dead ends and scary distractions -- and that's on a good day! Most of us stumble around, using search engines and other sites that are familiar and relatively reliable as starting points for our tasks. No complaints, as trial and error is an effective way to learn many things that don't risk life or limb, but easier can be better, especially when it comes to saving time and money.
Among the websites worth browsing on a regular basis is a blog called Boingboing.net, which bills itself as ''A directory of wonderful things.'' Those ''wonderful things'' are mostly technology and cultural items, plus a little politics, mostly of a libertarian and progressive bent. Founded by illustrator and author Mark Frauenfelder, it's a great site for learning about the state of our culture(s) as we simultaneously evolve and approach entropy on a daily basis.
Frauenfelder's new nondigital, dead-trees compendium (book) is a great guide to doing almost anything on the Net without getting cheated or messed with. The book also contains a lot of ''how to'' stuff for the personal uses of technology, including setting up a wireless network at home, selling on eBay, and a host of tips for booking hotels cheaply, finding great doctors and the like. There are also tons of suggestions for increasing personal productivity, saving money and facilitating human networking -- among other practical and business-related tips.
Much like Gina Trapani's book Lifehacker (and its namesake blog), Frauenfelder's freewheeling advice assumes a positive and amiably efficient posture toward just about everything. For example, in his introduction to the opening chapter (``Creating and Sharing''), he writes: ``I think my favorite thing about the Internet is the way it lets anyone with a computer and a $20-a-month connection create and distribute their words, sounds, images and movies to a potential audience of a billion people. This kind of broadcasting power would have cost millions in equipment fees and licenses 20 years ago. (Thank goodness the Web happened below the government's radar, or you'd probably need a license to blog now.)
``Today, the barriers to entry have been all but obliterated. You no longer need money to have your voice heard by a large audience; you just need to be interesting.''
From there, Frauenfelder proceeds to convey an impressive amount of information, ranging from teaching readers how to set up their own blogs and podcasts to more advanced things like vodcasts and wikis. You may not want to do everything he covers, but understanding how things work and discovering possibilities from new connections is often the best way to learn. Everyone has different needs, and Frauenfelder's genius is in allowing readers to imagine themselves using the technology in their own lives to achieve personal and professional goals.
It's gratifying that such an informative and useful text is also extremely entertaining. While Frauenfelder is plainly proud of his geekiness and unabashed affection for technology, at heart, he's a humanist, exploring and celebrating the human experience and the application of all these bits and bytes to add deeper meaning and better connections to, from, between and among — people.
Like business books? Join the club.