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The Year In Intertubes

The Baltimore Brew, Friends Records, @BigBoyzBail, Baltimore 311, Maryland Historical Society, and more.

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baltimorebrew.com


The internet is a big place, even Baltimore’s little wing of it. (Does the internet have “wings”? Oughta Google that.) It seemed like it would be easy to rattle off the top 10 things Baltimore offers to the internet/the internet offers to Baltimore. It wasn’t. (Lee Gardner)

 

1 The Baltimore Brew (baltimorebrew.com) We are not sanguine when we hear people talk about how citizen journalists are going to take over for the traditional media that does the actual reporting that almost everyone depends on while refusing to subsidize it anymore. But then there’s the Baltimore Brew, a site doing honest-to-God local reporting (and good local reporting), and we are somewhat heartened that someone out there is trying to take up the slack and doing a damn fine job at it. Of course, the folks behind the Brew are trained reporters, and there’s no clear indication that anyone’s going to support this in the long run either. Maybe the Brew’s current Kickstarter campaign will be an indication. (LG)

 

2 Friends Records 2011 compilation (friendsrecords.bandcamp.com/album/friends-records-2011) Sure, it’s 2011 and anything you find on the internet is “free,” and plenty of bands out there are absolutely thrilled if you bother to click “download” and take a file or two off their server gratis. But local label Friends Records made the most of the new spirit of, um, access and made a generous contribution during the holiday season with its dropped-on-Thanksgiving free-for-download epic local-music comp, featuring 30 tracks from everyone ranging from local superstars (Celebration, Future Islands, Dan Deacon) to relative obscurities (Inflatable Mattress, anyone?). You can buy it as a limited-edition double cassette, or you can just download it, post the link hither and yon, or e-mail it to folks as a cheapo Christmas token, whatever. Really, they want you to. And like the man says, the first one’s free, right? (LG)

 

3 Big Boyz Bail Bonds on Twitter (@BigBoyzBail) Only in Baltimore could a bail-bond company start to feel like a friend. Whichever marketing genius at Big Boyz handles @BigBoyzBail tweets everything from pictures of the freaking adorable office cat to recently posted bail amounts to gems like this: “Hit follower #420 today. Anybody charged with CDS we got a special for you #puffpuffpass.” Also taking pen requests. (Laura Dattaro)

 

4 Baltimore 311 app (for iPhone and Android) Used to be, we here at Baltimore’s Most Complaining Alternative Weekly would track data from city government’s 311 complaint system about the everyday problems the good citizens of Mobtown were trying to get City Hall to fix. But now anyone who downloads the Baltimore 311 app to his or her mobile device can track complaints on his or her own—or, even better, make them. Users can make the city take note of just about anything, from a pothole or damaged sidewalk to the misdeeds of a rude city employee—or the good deeds of an exemplary one—and maybe, just maybe, something will be done about it. You can take a photo to send with your requests, and track progress of complaints already made. If publicity might help fix the problem faster, users can automatically share the situation on social media. Baltimore 311 turns devices into veritable complaint machines, whether users simply want to gawk at other people’s problems or be squeaky wheels themselves. (Van Smith)

 

5 Maryland Historical Society Photographs (mdhsphotographs.tumblr.com) The Maryland Historical Society’s photography collection includes more than a million items, ranging from daguerreotypes to postcards, going back to 1850. And with that vast archive at her fingertips, Jennifer Ferretti, digitization coordinator at the MdHS, has created a captivating Tumblr site. The site is updated nearly every weekday with one labeled photograph and, sometimes, commentary. The images run the gamut, from an early 1900s photo of a local oyster-shucking operation to a charming 1960 photo of Eubie Blake’s hands with an attached handwritten note that reads: “These are my hands, I hope they’ve played the music, both semi classic and ragtime you enjoyed.” Ferretti’s choices are often seasonal—Ocean City pics in the summer, a 1915 shot of a flag-festooned Hutzler Bros. department store on Black Friday—and always fascinating. (Andrea Appleton)

 

6 Baltimore Club (baltimore-club.com) First off, Baltimore Club looks like one of god knows how many music sites clogging the internet: kind of anonymous, not much in the way of writing, bare-bones design. It’s more about what the club community does with it, the immense volume of new music and videos submitted. Sometimes it leans a bit too hard on extra-Baltimore club music (New Jersey, specifically) but it’s one of the best avenues for keeping up with new sounds going. (Michael Byrne)

 

7 Art-Full Life (charmcitycurrent.com/bolger) Baltimore Museum of Art Director Doreen Bolger seems to go everywhere and see everything. Her Art-Full Life blog, hosted by The Baltimore Sun, isn’t a blog one checks daily—it’s updated perhaps three or four times a month—and Bolger’s reviews are, it’s true, uniformly positive. But with her omnivorous sense of curiosity, Bolger covers art shows that might not otherwise see the light of day and lends the perspective of someone deeply knowledgeable and fully engaged in the local arts scene. We, and undoubtedly the artists, are grateful. (AA)

 

8 NewsTrust Baltimore (baltimore.newstrust.net) As traditional journalism fades and weakens and citizen journalists rise, someone had to start watching the watchmen. For sixth months earlier this year, NewsTrust Baltimore became that something, and it’s a shame the pilot experiment had to end, as it performed the much-needed duty of keeping journalists in check. The site curated local content and asked readers to weigh in, with a focus on teaching the up-and-comers “how to tell apart good journalism from misinformation and how to become more discerning citizens and news consumers.” While the site is still up, it is now entirely user-generated. We hope the original iteration, or something like it, will come back full-time and permanently. (LD)

 

9 Sickweather (sickweather.com) You can look at an update feed from Facebook or Twitter as a bunch of time-wasting banal shit, or you can choose to look at it as a constantly updated feed of information that humans are choosing to communicate to large groups of other humans. In the latter case, you might realize some interesting possibilities, particularly in terms of statistics: Twitter future-casting is already a real thing, particularly in regard to economic forecasting,gauging collective moods, and so forth. Developing algorithms to sort all this information better and better is one of the web’s many frontiers. Baltimore-based Sickweather crawls social-network status feeds looking for, well, people saying they’re sick, using a “patent-pending” algorithm to sort illness-sick from stuff like “sick show, brah.” Sickweather takes all these results and maps them, outlining sickness “storms” when a critical volume of mentions is reached. It still feels more proof-of-concept than 100 percent practical, but we’re glad to have ideas like this in Baltimore. (Michael Byrne)

10 I’m Google (dinakelberman.tumblr.com) OK, so this one is sort of cheating because Dina Kelberman, whose name is right there in the URL, is the creator of Important Comics and thus a City Paper contributor. Nonetheless, I’m Google would fascinate us even if hatched in Terre Haute. Every now and then, Kelberman posts an assortment of maybe a dozen web-gleaned images (or occasionally videos) of one odd, random thing: explosions, say, or living-room blanket-and-pillow forts, or (a personal favorite) warped vinyl siding. They tend to be depopulated, functional-looking images, as if shot for a particularly service-y stock house or B-to-B use or matter-of-fact documentation, and they are most intriguing for how much they are alike. Not only are they all pictures of the same thing, more or less, but the pictures are often so similar as to suggest some sort of deep logic behind the depiction of these things. Or maybe that’s all in the choosing. In any event, the effect is sorta like Google developing an artistic sensibility, which we’re gonna guess was kinda the idea in the first place. (LG)

 

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