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Michael L.

5 Level 5 Contributor
  • 67 Reviews
  • 418 Helpful Votes
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Experience: Computers & Technology, Entertainment, News

Member since April 2007

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About Me

I am interested in the development of new technologies and how they can benefit society.

How I Can Help

I have a background in computer science, business, and internet technologies.


museums, music, movies (in no particular order)

67 Reviews by Michael

GlobalPost is a fairly new online news website providing very high quality international news for the internet. Started by Phil Balboni, it's mission is to "redefine international news for the digital age...with a decidedly American voice." As traditional news outlets founder and foreign media bureaus close all over the world, GlobalPost runs a lean operation by hiring individual global correspondents in over 50 different countries.

Having followed the site for some time, I've been impressed with their coverage of international events, but more so by the quality of their reporting and writing. I particularly like their video features and opinion pieces. GlobalPost just seems to be heads and shoulders above most other mainstream news sites out there today.
This is the official site of the Yes Men, the two activists (Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno), who play pranks on corporate behemoths to help raise awareness of important social issues and social responsibility. You can read all about their high-profile hijinks on the site and they are absolutely hilarious.

My favorite is where Bichlbaum poses as a representative from the National Petroleum Council at Canada's largest oil conference and proposes in his keynote speech to make oil out of the humans who died as a result of their industry in the first place. http://theyesmen.org/hijinks/vivoleum

The site has recently been redesigned and now, in addition to links to their books and movies, includes a frequently updated blog and the new Yes Lab, which helps others perform similar activism-focused pranks on their own. It's good to see them leveraging new media to spread their ideas and increase their influence.

This is a great site to support the Yes Men, learn about the evils of corporate greed, become more active in social issues, or just have a good laugh.
8tracks is a very cool site where anyone can put together their own mix, usually around 30 minutes of music (or roughly 8 tracks). It's a convenient way to find the best crowdsourced music by genre. It's very similar to the old muxtape, but apparently legal, so hopefully it will be around for a little longer.

On the site, everything is organized clearly by genre and user. You can browse or search for a genre, and then list all the mixes in that genre by date, popularity, or random. You can also follow certain individuals if you really like the mixes they've created. I really like the minimalistic interface, which lists the song information, lets you skip tracks, and incorporates a lot of social features like commenting and sharing.
I wouldn't consider myself a very spiritual person, but I do enjoy spending time on this site. Gratefulness.org promotes the ethics of grateful living and uses it to inspire not only personal growth, but positive changes across the world. I have sent many friends to this website when they are feeling overwhelmed or depressed. They have all been surprised by what just a few minutes of reflection can do.

I find the articles in the practices section particularly well written and deeply impacting. It's amazing how reading about and developing an appreciation for something as simple as water can really change your perspective and affect your mood for the rest of the day -- http://www.gratefulness.org/p/index.htm

Can living a more grateful life really change the world? I'm not sure, but I do believe we will all be happier individuals if we learn to better appreciate the things we so easily take for granted in our lives today.
This is one of the few New York Times blogs I find worth reading. Nicholas Kristof is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who cares more deeply about social issues than any other journalist I can think of. Having traveled extensively and lived all over the world, he has developed a profoundly unique understanding of the world and human life. His blog covers a wide range of development issues, including health, human rights, education, and civil war. This is a must read, if not for the reason of becoming more engaged / involved in some of the most pressing issues of our time, then at least for its ability to put the happenings of our own lives and the things we take for granted into their proper perspective.
I usually listen to Digitally Imported, but Mugasha is what I stream at work now. Mugasha has put together a very impressive set collection from most of the top DJs (Armin van Buuren, Ferry Corsten, Tiesto, etc.) The interface is great -- the player breaks up the sets into individual tracks so you can see the title and the artist of each song, and also jump around. For each track, it shows how many people have listened to it and how many people liked it. And if you find one you really like, Mugasha makes it really easy to share it with your friends or purchase it on iTunes.

I do have two small complaints about the site. First, the collection is very trance-heavy. There isn't much progressive house yet, so you'll be disappointed if you're looking for your favorite Sasha or Digweed tracks. Second, the music player is embedded into the website, like Pandora, so you have to keep the browser / webpage open for the music to continue streaming. If you forget and start browing around, your song gets cut off. By contrast, Digitally Imported allows you to stream directly to Windows Media Player or Winamp, so you're free to leave the website to do other things.

Aside from these minor issues, the best and most important thing about Mugasha is the music. Two words: Tiesto ClubLife. Enjoy!
I wish this radio station existed outside of the internet so I could step away from my computer once in a while. I've been listening to Digitally Imported for almost ten years now and the quality of its programming keeps getting better and better. The live tracks from Markus Schulz's Global DJ Broadcasts and Armin van Buuren's A State of Trance are simply the best that trance music has to offer today. Because it's a radio station, the music is broadcast live, consistently fresh, and very difficult to find. Digitally Imported also offers a variety of other stations, including trip hop, drum and bass, progressive, and house, but the trance station has always been the most popular.

Also, if you're interested in learning about electronic music, di.fm recently purchased Ishkur's Guide, which is the best primer on the topic I've seen online: http://techno.org/electronic-music-guide/
I've been using this site to file my tax returns for six years and it keeps getting easier and easier to use Granted my taxes are pretty simple to begin with, but with TaxAct, I am able to reliably file both my federal and state taxes in under 30 minutes for just $18. There are no hidden charges and the interface is super easy to use.

Among the features I really like:
- automatic importing of information from your previous return, which basically fills out 90% of the return for you
- system of automated checks, flags, and alerts to catch any possible errors
- comparison of this year's returns with previous year's returns
- ability to print or save your forms via PDF
- ability to immediately file forms and pay taxes electronically

One thing to watch out for -- TaxAct partners with third parties to offer certain services, such as paying your taxes via credit card. If you choose to use those services, there are usually steep transaction costs which are not disclosed by either TaxAct or the partner. I find this borderline unethical, but believe it to be more the responsibility of the third party.

Overall, I've been very happy with TaxAct and will continue to use them in the future. I've actually seen the interface and features get better every year, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a convenient affordable online service to file their taxes.
This is simply one of the most amazing services I've encountered in the past few months. GeeksToGo offers a free virus removal service through its community of expert tech support volunteers. In the unforunate event that your computer gets hit with a virus, malware, or spyware, you no longer need to mail out your machine, call an outsourced tech support center, or pay someone to fix it. With GeeksToGo, you can post your problem and within a matter of minutes someone from the community will commit to solving your problem. All interactions are online -- the removal specialist will give you access to free utilities and provide very clear step-by-step instructions to remove the virus. You get emailed whenever the tech is ready to tell you the next step and everything is recorded in the forums, where it is viewable and searchable by the general public. How is this free? Apparently, GeeksToGo is a place where aspiring "geeks" go to learn from the best and train to become experts in their field. In return, they are expected to contribute back to the community by providing free tech support to those that seek it. From personal experience, I can unequivocally say that the service is extremely effective and I am inspired by the community that runs it.

One day, I noticed that I had contracted the very nasty Google Redirect virus. Basically what happens is when you do a Google Search and click on a search result, the virus redirects you to a randomly generated page instead of the webpage you were trying to go to. If you click back and try again, it will give you another random page. Eventually, maybe after five or six times, you will get through to the proper page, but the problem persists with any future searches. I researched the problem for about thirty minutes and found a few relevant threads on the GeeksToGo forums. While there were published instructions on how to fix the problem, the forums state that each computer is different and that you should start a new case if you want to utilize their help. I registered in about thirty seconds, posted my problem, and was very surprised to get a response within 15 minutes. The person assigned to help me went by the handle "handhfan" and was extremely helpful, friendly, and responsive. He never took more than five minutes to get back to me whenever I messaged him.

What was most surprising was how competent and patient he was. The virus I had was a fairly new and stubbornly resilient strain. We tried over ten programs to get rid of it and after six hours, were still unable to stomp it out. "handhfan" was surprisingly honest and said he needed some more time to research and consult some other techs in the community. I was worried that I would never hear from him again, but at 7:30am the next morning, I get a message and we're at it again. After two hours of downloading utilities, generating logs, running custom scripts, and cleaning the registry, the virus was finally gone! As a final step, he sends me a bunch of free programs to protect my computer in the future and asks me to send him the quarantined files so they can "analyze" the new strain. The place is run like the freaking online CDC. Having successfully used the service over the course of two days, I can't rave enough about them to anybody who needs friendly free tech support.
Where dreams become heart attacks. It takes no more than a few minutes on this site to make you wish you didn't eat that cheeseburger earlier today. This is a great community-driven photo blog that chronicles the most disgusting foods that people love to eat. It serves as a critique against the reckless over-consumption that has fueled the current obesity epidemic. The fat gluttony guy in the movie Seven comes to mind. As does Guy Fieri and his diners, drive-ins, and dives... yuck!
Seth MacFarlane's twisted comedy hits the internet! - Nobody can deny the recent success of Seth MacFarlane and the mainstream appeal of his edgy and offbeat humor. Despite two separate cancellations, The Family Guy developed a strong following on its way to becoming a $1B franchise, solidifying Seth's place among television's creative elite. Recently, Seth signed a $100M deal with Fox for The Family Guy, American Dad, and The Cleveland Show, making him the highest paid writer / producer in the history of television.

Seth's new website, which showcases his latest project -- The Cavalcade of Comedy -- is a great introduction to his comedic genius. It consists of minute-long internet shorts made in partnership with Burger King (the official sponsor) and YouTube (for distribution). The videos are crass and brilliant and, after being disappointed by www.FunnyOrDie.com, I can appreciate how challenging it is to create something consistently entertaining for an online audience. I can't wait until all the videos are released, but my current favorite is the $25K Pyramid episode. Take a look and tell me what you think!
Currently the best iPhone application available - Shazam is the application I've always dreamed of building, but never thought possible. Just hold your iPhone up to any streaming music and it will instantly tell you the title and the artist of the song that is playing. It works whether you're in your car or in a club, and the results are amazingly accurate. I'm not sure how they do it, but I think it has something to do with the beat/bass patterns, because it seems to work even when the music is not very clear or when there's a lot of ambient noise.

Shazam is truly a technological breakthrough. I've never seen anything this accurate before. Eventually, I'd like an application that can identify any song you for which you can recite the lyrics or hum the tune, but this is definitely good enough for the times I hear a song I like at a bar. And as an added bonus, after Shazam identifies your song, you can turn your phone on its side and it will start playing the music video on youtube!
Calling all Flight of the Conchords fans... - This is the very first and arguably most comprehensive website dedicated to the Flight of the Conchords. If you don't know who they are yet, it's not too late!

Just watch some of the videos here: http://whatthefolk.net/vision.htm and you'll be hooked.

Whatthefolk keeps an up to date journal of all the latest FoTC news and has links to anything and everything FoTC-related: profiles, videos, episode guides, tour dates, lyrics, etc. The forum community is also quite strong and they're fun to chat with.

Spend just a few minutes on this site and you'll be *down* with the Rhymenoscerus and the Hiphopapotamus before you can even say the words "I put a wig on you!"
Mesmerizing artwork based on visualization of human systems - Aaron Koblin, most well known for his "Flight Patterns" piece, has built up a very impressive body of work on his website. This site showcases many of his data visualization masterpieces, constructed from complex software programs and very large data sets.

Among my favorites are Ten Thousand Cents, in which ten thousand people were asked to draw a sliver of a one hundred dollar bill. The finished product shows the power of independent collaboration and also includes graffiti from frustrated contributors!


I also like The Sheep Market, which Aaron created by paying 10,000 people 2 cents through Mechanical Turk to draw a sheep facing to the left. Each sheep drawing was recorded and you can watch how they were all individually constructed:

why are there no other great sports sites? - why is espn so dominant in the sports space? every guy i know watches sportscenter and refreshes this website every five minutes at work. but is there not another website for sports info? and don't say cbs...
I tried the Peloton for the first time at a friend's place and was skeptical at first. I'm not a big cyclist, so I had a hard time understanding why anybody would pay thousands for a bike + a monthly subscription fee. But I actually enjoyed the experience.

The bike is much more compact than I expected it to be. The screen is fairly immersive and the trainers in the videos are all very attractive and motivating. The workout my friend chose for me was very difficult, but went by quickly. I liked getting the immediate feedback on my heart rate, speed, and output. At the end of the workout, I was able to see how I performed relative to others, review all my summary stats, and could barely walk. I'll need to try it again when I'm in better shape!
This is a neat site that reports on fake and fraudulent campaigns on GoFundMe. With the rising popularity of crowdfunding, charitable sites like GoFundMe have become the easiest place to contribute to a cause. But scammers have also taken advantage of these platforms to steal money from good samaritans through fake campaigns. GoFraudMe monitors reports of fraudulent campaigns from social media, local sources and direct donor reports, and then publishes them for everyone to see. It's a great way to double check a campaign before making a donation.
First off, let me start by saying the the SNOO is a beautiful piece of furniture. Even if all it does is sit in the corner looking pretty, you might be able to justify its hefty price. I was a bit skeptical at first, but I must say the SNOO does do everything it claims to do. It combines a white noise machine with a swing with a swaddle with a bassinet. It can literally replace all of those things and save some space in your house.

It's actually quite simple -- the SNOO pipes in white noise and rocks at different levels of intensity that you can control with your phone. And it automatically adjusts the intensity based on how much your baby is crying. It even has a weaning feature that helps the baby adjust to life without the SNOO as it grows older.

So far so good, but verdict is still out on whether it can help sleep train a baby to sleep through the night by 2 months! Now that would be something...

Tip for consumers: The SNOO comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. And that includes shipping, so it's hard not to give it a shot if you're desperate for sleep.

A few years ago, one of my credit cards had a security breach and some members had their personal information stolen. As compensation, my credit card company offered one year of free identity-theft protection from a company called Debix. I really enjoyed the service, which monitored my transactions as well as my credit from the three major credit bureaus and alerted me whenever anything suspicious came up. Fortunately, I never received an alert and therefore never needed to use their extended services of identity repair or identity-theft insurance.

I'm not sure if I would actually pay for the service since I can easily monitor my credit on my own. However, since I used the service, they have rebranded themselves as AllClearID and switched their focus to providing data-protection services to businesses. Because of this, their identity monitoring services are now subsidized by their business customers and completely free to regular users, so I would recommend checking it out if this is something you are worried about.
Simple website showcasing great mobile application design patterns. All screenshots are taken from popular mobile applications and arranged in a very browseable grid format. You can also filter the types of screenshots by selecting one of the UI elements from the left column (e.g. comments, search, etc.) If you're interested in UI design or thinking of building a mobile app, make sure to check out this site.

Michael Has Earned 418 Votes

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