By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 1997, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 1997, The Syracuse Newspapers
In many ways, the Web creates virtual communities—places that exist only in a non-physical realm—but those virtual places always seem more interesting when the people who run them and the computers that keep their data flowing are just down the street.
The sites I'm describing here are just a few of many local ones. It's a personal list, not intended as a survey of all the important local sites.
One of my favorite stopping-off points when I'm browsing on a quiet evening is the Digital Librarian at http://www.servtech.com/public/mvail/, created and maintained by Margaret Vail Anderson. She's a Cortland librarian who has put together a list of hundreds upon hundreds of good Web sites in nearly 90 categories.
Digital Librarian is a vast resource. Anderson briefly describes each site on her list and adds new ones often. Unlike Yahoo! and the other big commercial sites, where advertising slaps you in the puss on every page, Digital Librarian is free from commercialism of any kind. This is a must-have site for your list of favorites or bookmarks.
A helpful site for area PC users is CNYPCUG—the Central New York PC Users Group—at http://www.cnypcug.org/. The site lists meeting times and agendas (members get together the first Monday of each month), and describes special-interest groups and classes.
For Mac users, the place to travel to is the home page of the Syracuse Macintosh Users Group. (Yes, it's "SMUG"—although I wish the acronym were a little different in these times of trouble for Apple.) Go to http://www.dreamscape.com/smug/smug.html. Ignore the warning about what you may miss if you're not using Netscape; the logo shown on the page extols Netscape 2.0, which is an old, old, old version.
A civic site with laudable goals is Leadership Greater Syracuse at http://leadsyr.com/, which is looking for candidates for a yearlong course in community leadership. The city of Syracuse, the county government, the local Chamber of Commerce and Onondaga Community College help sponsor Leadership Greater Syracuse. Full information is available at the site.
Information of all kinds about New York—cities, regions, politics, government, history and much more—is well organized at NuWeb, at http://www.nuwebny.com/. (The site should win one of those you-are-a-Web-turkey awards for the poor design of its pages, which are full of graphics and even an uninvited sound track. The main page takes too long to load. Fortunately, the content is worth waiting for.)
Sybercuse (http://www.sybercuse.com/) gets two you-are-not-a-turkey awards—one for the cute pun and the other for giving everyone an immediate choice on the opening screen of a low-pain page without many graphics or an Excedrin page with everything but an animated kitchen sink. Both versions are exceptionally good examples of modern Web-page design, too.
Sybercuse is a kind of hip-and-slim version of our own Syracuse OnLine site (http://www.syracuse.com/), although the two sites are much different in many ways.
Armory Square, where I used to live, has a beautiful Web page at http://armorysquare.com/. The main page has the standard work-in-progress disclaimer ("we're under construction"—but then what site isn't these days?), but it has a lot of useful information and some helpful links already.
St. Joe's is on the Web, too. St. Joseph's Online (http://www.sjhsyr.org/) can link you to the St. Joseph's Healthcare Network, and it has all the usual stuff you'd expect—visiting hours, accommodations, "Wellness Place" activities, and a lot more. The main page is unique in this group (and rare among most pages on the Web) in listing, right at the top, the site's URL, the organization's name and address, and a phone number you can call for more information. (I recall a nasty argument I had with a major Internet Service Provider who failed to list the company's phone number anywhere on its site. Only on a page hosted by the ISP's parent company could you find the ISP's customer service number.)
New to town is Cybershop Express at http://www.shopstore.com/. It's an online shopping mall run by a local company. (Its customers can come from anywhere in the country, of course.) The product mix looked interesting when I stopped by, and the prices weren't bad, either.
Finally, the city of Syracuse itself has a site at http://www.syracuse.ny.us/. Someone (maybe me) needs to tell the webmaster to stop scaring non-Netscape users with the warning about what you may be missing if you're not using Netscape's browser—surely we're past that point by now—but that's the only criticism I have of this very fine site. Pages load quickly and the links to other sites are quite helpful.