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Scarlet's Web - #1

(Published Nov. 2008, The Spirit newspaper, Philadelphia)

Welcome to the first edition of my weekly column - Scarlet's Web. Join me every week as I lead you through the labyrinths of the Internet, uncovering off beat, fascinating and useful online resources. Looking for something online or have any web-related questions - feel free to email me at scarletweb1@hotmail.com .

Picture the scene: you're sitting down at your computer, your steaming hot cup of coffee nearby, when you decide to catch up on the latest news from the New York Times/Philadelphia Inquirer/Washington Post online. You see an intriguing headline and grabbing your nimble mouse, click the "more" link. Horrors! Instead of getting the story you requested, you arrive at that super irritating "Register with us, It's FREE" page. Who gives a hoot that it's free - who has time to fill in a three-mile registration form? And frankly, why should we give these publications our name, address, email, family income etc just to read a news article? It's a breach of privacy. It opens us up to Spam. Plus, it's a fundamental waste of time and annoying as hell!

Well friends, somewhere in our good country, some geeky genius, sick to death of arriving at registration forms, invented the supremely brilliant www.bugmenot.com - a mechanism to quickly bypass the login of Web sites that require compulsory registration and/or the collection of personal/demographic information. Just enter your URL (e.g. www.nytimes.com) on the homepage of the site, and in seconds you are presented with a username and password. Plug it into the New York Times registration page - and abracadabra, you're in!

So I know, you're going to ask me, "Scarlet - is this ethical?" As the site founder says, "You'll have to find your own way there my friend." But if you were to torture me into giving you an answer - I'd say, to quote Rhett Butler, lover of the more famous Scarlet, "Frankly, I don't give a damn." There should be no obstacles to accessing content online, and certainly these sites have no right to collect our personal information. Registration is contrary to the fundamental spirit of the Internet, and as such, should be bypassed without any feelings of guilt or angst.

And speaking of angst - for those of you still floundering in the post-election blues, this Web site is sure to cheer you up -- http://presidentgeorgebush.blogspot.com/. Some insanely wicked and witty individual has created a pseudo George W. Bush blog (that's Internet speak for an online journal). It is so hilarious, it made me realize that perhaps it is not so awful having W in office for another four years. What could be more healing for our nation, than a President who has the uncanny ability to make us laugh?

Comments/Questions: email scarletweb1@hotmail.com