Warning: Reading this story may be hazardous to your productivity. The Web sites within may divert you from the dull tasks in need of your attention and may cause you to goof off for hours instead.
Oh, who are we kidding? You weren’t going to get any work done today, anyway. So you might as well waste time in style–and these sites will help you do it. Figuring that you’re already familiar with the Facebooks and YouTubes and Onions of the Net, we decided that any further serious undermining of your motivation to labor entailed digging up some obscure nuggets to commingle with the more familiar destinations. Our only criterion: Every site should be entertaining and habit-forming. And we found ’em–40 of ’em. Now just put up your privacy screen, kick back, and start clicking. Caveat: If you get caught, it won’t do you any good to tell your boss that we’re the ones who suggested it. And let me say for the record that I didn’t waste any time on the organization of this list!
Hey, get your mind out of the gutter–Stripgenerator is about comic creation, not clothing removal–though we wouldn’t claim that the two paths have never crossed. The site lets you build your very own customized comic strip in a matter of minutes. Choose from an array of characters and objects, and then bring your strip to life, one square at a time. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, sign up to start your own “strip blog” and have your content featured on the site’s home page.
FMyLife (the site isn’t entirely clear about what the “F” stands for, but “Flee” wouldn’t be inappropriate) encourages people to send in anonymous real-life stories of worst-case scenarios that came horrifyingly true–things you’ll just have to read to believe. The stories aren’t always G-rated, so visit at your own discretion.
A must-try for any music or film fanatic, LivePlasma helps you find new movies and music by building interactive maps around your current favorites. It’s like six degrees of separation, customized to your cultural interests.
Do park visitors generally need to be told “Please do not sit on crocodile”? Must employees at a company parking lot be reminded “Do Not Sleep Below the Vehicle”? Silly as these things sound, they’re actual warnings posted on public safety signs. Safety Graphic Fun works to compile the most ridiculous placards, outlandish announcements, and attorney-inspired posterior papering from around the world, some of which are astonishingly absurd. My favorite: “Touching wires causes instant death. $200 fine.”
Interact with total strangers in the strange new world of Omegle. This simple site pops you into a one-on-one chat room with a random person, and there’s no telling where the conversation may take you.
Answerbag is all about interesting and instant information. Post a query about almost anything and get answers within minutes, or browse through other people’s Q&A to be enlightened, disgusted, and entertained.
“Fail” is the blogger-adored modern stamp of disapproval for anything that falls below whatever arbitrary standard a critic feels like imposing. The proprietors of FailBlog.org open the “fail” doors to the world, encouraging readers to submit images of people, places, or things that in one way or another didn’t work out right, and then inviting all visitors to vote on how many thumbs down the depicted blunder deserves. Whether the specimen under the FailBlog microscope is a poorly designed building or a curious case of inconsistent pricing, the site’s findings are sure to generate some laughter wins.
Slashdot is the granddaddy of all tech time-wasters. Pursuing its mission of delivering “news for nerds,” Slashdot posts a cornucopia of geeky information, complete with snarky comments and community discussion.
When you want a tantalizing tale with a sensational twist, turn your browser toward Fark. The site collects the Web’s hottest and strangest stories, pointing you to standout content as well as to obscure local items that you might otherwise have missed.
Popurls makes it easy for you to keep up with all of the Web’s headlines. The jam-packed aggregator presents the most popular content from social media sites, news sites, and even video sites in a simple-to-use single page.
Step into the director’s chair with Fuzzwich, a fun site that lets you build your own video animations. You pick the setting and the characters, and then customize them with faces cropped from your personal photos. Then, you use the site’s editing program to move the characters around and have them interact. Once you get tot he stage of adding music and text bubbles, you’ll be hooked. Fuzzwich even offers embed codes so you can show off your creation all over the Web.
Parents and social media don’t always mix. See sidesplitting screenshots of what happens when generations collide at My Parents Joined Facebook, a blog about uncomfortable family encounters in the virtual world. Remember, you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your relatives.
Oh-no-she-didn’t. Indulge your inner Springer with a visit to Passive-Aggressive Notes, where you can take a long, leisurely inside look at other people’s petty, infantile squabbles, all laced with not-so-subtle passive-aggressive undertones and innuendo.
Videos that are just itching to go viral await you at Break.com. You’ll find more funny, sexy, and scandalous clips here than you would in Paris Hilton’s entire home-video collection–and that’s saying something.
Yeah, yeah–everyone spends too much time on Twitter. But Twitterfall offers a new way to connect with your fellow tweeters and discover interesting conversations. Just type in the term of your choice or select an option from the list of current hot trends, and Twitterfall will start dropping in related updates, one by one. You can control how quickly the tweets fall, and you can stipulate any number of combined terms that the tweets must include.
For all of Twitter’s strengths, it seems to attract an inordinate number of tools whose tweets make you cringe. At Tweeting Too Hard, you can browse through Twitter’s most “self-important tweets,” voting up the worst offenders with sarcastic “back pats” as you go.
Cast a spell on your productivity with this virtual magnetic message board. Join other people in shifting big bright plastic-looking letters around, like the ones on your parents’ refrigerator when you were a kid, or draw on a collective scratchpad to see what comes out.
GraphJam gives humor a statistical edge by inviting users to create funny graphs or charts that illustrate various aspects of life. One recent submission attempted to break down the content of Yahoo Answers (65 percent material for FailBlog; 25 percent spam; 10 percent legitimate questions). GraphJam makes it a cinch to build your own satirical analyses; and with in-site voting and embed codes a-plenty, you’ll have no shortage of time-wasting toys.
Search for songs across the Web and play them to your heart’s content at Songza. The site finds both audio and video files from multiple sources, and then allows you to create playlists and share them via Facebook or Twitter.
Video isn’t its specialty, but iMeem excels at tracking down the music tracks you want. Find and stream your favorite tunes and save them to custom playlists. A quick caution: You do have to create a free account to gain access to the site’s full functionality.
Hello, sir or madam, may I interest you in a retractable table top for your toilet today? That’s just one of many wacky inventions featured on Patently Silly, which displays some of America’s most unusual patents.
Family photos are always awkward, but some go beyond the typical intergenerational tension and tiptoe into disquieting new territory. AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com pursues the mission of finding and flaunting the most unbearably awkward images from real photo albums submitted by real users.
So what constitutes awkward? Oh, I don’t know…maybe having a medium-size marsupial on your arm, hovering near the back of a child’s head and eying his tousled hair as potential nesting material? Yeah. And you thought your sister’s braces were bad.
If only you could find out what all those college girls were constantly texting about. Oh, wait–you can. Texts From Last Night collects the most insane (and allegedly real) late-night texts from users, shame included. You can imagine the kind of language and subject matter involved, so click through at your own risk.
With a decidedly less high-tech but far more innovative approach, PostSecret publishes actual postcards mailed in by people looking to share their deepest secrets. The site’s creators call it an “ongoing community art project.” (For more on PostSecret and other sites like it, read “Online Confessions: The Web Bares Its Soul.”)
I’ll bet you never noticed how much Perez Hilton looks like the Grinch, or how similar Daisy De La Hoya is to 80s singer Pete Burns. The user-driven community of Totally Looks Like did, though. Intrigued?
Who needs look-alikes when you can build your own face? Monoface, the brainchild of a Minneapolis-based ad agency, lets you play Mr. Potato Head with real people. Click to combine different eyes, noses, and mouths until you find a suitably funny combination. With nearly 760,000 possibilities, it’ll take you a while to run out of steam.
Play trivia and make a difference with FreeRice. Every time you get an answer right, the site donates 10 grains of rice to global hunger programs. FreeRice is run by the United Nations World Food Program and uses revenue from in-site ads to pay for the food.
A world of data awaits you at Archive.org. The site is home to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, where you can look up versions of Web pages dating back to 1996. It also hosts the Live Music Archive, an impressive collection of free live concerts.
The Hot or Not craze of the early 2000s gets an aww-inducing update with Pets in Clothes, a site dedicated to cute animals wearing cute duds. From cats in sunglasses to dogs in nurse outfits, the cuddly images just keep on coming. Taking a cue from the Hot or Not model, Pets in Clothes progresses through photos by having you rate each image on a scale of 1 to 10. And of course, you can submit your own pet pics for inclusion.
Cult favorite Homestar Runner is still going strong. Start with the latest Strongbad E-Mail missives and gain a whole new appreciation for the all-powerful Lappy 486 and, of course, scroll buttons and random. Keep on scrollin’ on, friends.
Got a favorite time-wasting Web site we didn’t mention? Add it in the comments section below. Just make sure it’s worth our time.