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Websites people say have changed their lives (kottke.org)
221 points by imartin2k 181 days ago | hide | past | web | 71 comments | favorite

Funny enough, I don't remember precise websites that really changed my life - usually they would trigger a flurry of activity and would be forgotten themselves.

I don't remember where I read in 1997 that being gay is 'okay' and normal - but that was a major revelation for a geeky teen in a notoriously homophobic and close-minded country (no more suicide attempts for me, yay). Co-incidentally that led me to work hard on improving my English, as all information was in it.

And my improved English led me to start my own website - the only website that changed my life and I still remember all the details of it (even though it is no longer online). It was dedicated to my hobby project - the project that led a foreign company to hire me and relocate me to a Western country. Which triggered a chain of events that brought me to the UK, to a much happier and fuller life than I ever hoped to have.

And finally, I don't remember where I read an article describing the author's struggle with an eating disorder, but I realised that I'm going through exactly the same thing and that I need help. It improved my life dramatically, pretty much kept me alive - but I don't remember what or where it was...

I am surprised no one mentioned Reddit. Reddit really helped me gain perspective.

For one thing, it made me realize how similar people all over the world are. No matter how specific a post is, chances are really high that someone else will chime in and echo the feeling/experience that has been expressed. In short, the positive message is: You're not alone!

For another thing, it is (despite the horrible search function) relatively easy to discover communities that discuss the same topics from different angles. For instance, when it comes to international news that affect country A and B you can read the comments in r/a and /b and thus gain a deeper understanding of the issue.

> For one thing, it made me realize how similar people all over the world are.

For me, it made me realize how similar redditors all over the world are.. =)

4chan(/pol/ and /int/ in particular) is what did it for me. An Indian complaining about Pakistanis looks an awful lot like a German complaining about the French, or an Aussie complaining about Kiwis.

I don't know about that. There's a long history of bloodshed between India and Pakistan, and between Germany and France.

Australia and New Zealand have always been close allies. We only complain about each other in jest.

I think that's the point. If two allies complaining about each other in jest is indistinguishable from two enemies complaining about each other in sincerity, then what's do the enemies complaining about each other really mean?

The issues that seems to trouble the majority of users on Reddit, or at least the more vocal users, seems pretty fare removed from the average persons life. You sort of end up with the impression that the average users for the "mainstream" subreddits are pot smoking, male-to-female transgendered, bacon-eating vegans, 14 year old hippies with college degrees.

If anything I believe that Reddit have shown me that people across the world are much more diverse than I would have imagined. Similar in many many ways, but with vastly different priorities and problems. In the more niche subreddits people communicate extremely well, despite their differences, simply because they share a common interest.

True, in a sense some subreddits are echo-chambers.

Other than my country's subreddit I can't think of anything reddit has contributed to my life, for the past two years.

I go there daily, but I almost never find anything interesting I haven't first seen elsewhere. It's a neat place to waste time, but even on small obscure subreddit, the content just isn't there anymore.

I guess you could say it changed a lot of lives, by becoming "the front page of the internet", but wasn't it negatively? I mean, the sense of community there used to be on sub-cultural forums and irc is lost on Reddit, and anything intelligent drowns in the vast ocean of mediocreness.

Only if you don't login and follow the niches that interest you and things that you don't know about. A very good example for me was /r/WritingPrompts because after I wrote a long comment somebody directed me to it and I managed to start writing again.

/r/StopDrinking also helped me help my friend regain control of his life. /r/fitness helped me regain my health.

Then there's /r/randomkindness, /r/bestof, /r/askreddit and /r/cscareerquestions.

I do log in, follow my interests and I think the country subreddit thing is the only auto/standard one I still follow. The content and the people just aren't there for me.

But I'm happy that it's working for you.

Reddit impacted my life negatively and is a site I would never recommend to anybody in my life. It taught me that a lot of Americans hate Indians, and has probably forever changed my feelings to them negatively. It is the only addiction I have that I am trying to get away from, but always find myself going back. And the weird thing is, on some days, I specifically go look for the bad news.

Reddit is a weird place, many of the smaller subreddits are more like community forums. The larger, broader subreddits, like /r/pics, /r/askreddit and others are the equivalent of mainstream media, only a few "community approved opinions" are allowed to surface.

While I have no data to back this up, I would say that the larger a community becomes, the lower the tolerance and quality become. Perhaps because the number of things people have in common shrinks as you add people.

As an American I have to say I don't know any Americans that hate Indians. So please don't think that because you have met some portion on Reddit that feel that way!

As an Indian living in the US, I don't know any either. However, there are only a limited number of people I know and I do go to Reddit to gain perspective on a number of things - and advice/opinions there have helped me in real life. So I often tend to trust (well voted) opinions there. Reddit hatred towards India combined with the much revered NYTimes also often showing signs of it has started to make me believe that there is more anti-India sentiment lurking in America than meets the eye

The internet has led me to believe that Indians are extremely sensitive and insecure about their reception and reputation in other countries.

There are 1 billion+ Indians and 330m+ Americans. I'm sure some hate each other and some love each other. If you think America generally as a whole dislikes Indians, perhaps you can explain why they have the highest average incomes of any ethnic group in the US, own most of the hotels, and lead several Fortune500 companies.

This is probably the third thread I've randomly come across in two days where Indians are whining about their supposed reputations abroad. Keep it up and it'll become true!

Indians is such a big category though. I have Indian DNA, lived most of my life away from parents in western counties. I can't speak hindi to save my life.

But occasionally you'd find the person who'd be a snob and judge you from the skin. Then you'd say something and they'd be like "where are you from". "I'm from here". "No no, wheeeeere are you from?". "From Africa". "Where are your grand parents from?

While I want to assure you that Americans (at least, liberal Americans) love Indians and have no hatred towards them, I want to zero in on that throwaway sentence:

>I specifically go look for the bad news.

I've found myself doing that too. It is kind of creepy. I'll hit up /r/worldnews thinking, "Which reef is dying? Who is today's terror target?" It's really screwed up, but I think we're wired to crave that drama, even though real people with damaged lives are at the end of those blue links. Maybe we need to be more intentional about browsing those subreddits which we know collect the day's misery.

China too. Reddit users seem tolerant until you find yourself in the outgroup.

HN is the new reddit for me.

Reddit was indispensable for me during my teenage years. I was a lonely, isolated homeschooled kid and my parents didn't let me do much. With Reddit, I was exposed to different viewpoints, all sorts of things I would never hear about from my parents (I vividly remember discovering what BDSM is from an AskReddit thread), frank discussions on depression and anxiety, and in general a nice community to take the edge off my isolation. I also found friends there, a couple of whom I'm still really close to.

Given how Reddit has changed over the years, I wonder if I'd have that same experience if I were several years younger, just discovering the site today.

reddit is what convinced me that on the whole people are stupid, unfair, and not really worth conversing with.

I used to try and give people's thoughts and opinions weight, but at some point I just couldn't muster up the mental energy anymore.

Yes, true. Most people who started to use reddit have gained massive amounts from knowledge from it. But reddit itself is not content. Content is what people create in the subreddits. Saying "reddit changed my life" is the same as "email changed my life", no specific enough.

I think most Kottke readers are 30+ years old, and formative web sites are those you've frequented when you were younger. So Reddit for most Kottke users came way after MetaFilter or Dreamless.

Please don't forget robotwisdom. It was one of the more important sites for me, right up there with Slashdot. The fact that robotwisdom was run by a semi-homeless guy was a big eye-opener and made it clear that people of great intelligence can have real mental/emotional problems.

Surprisingly, I never heard of robotwisdom until now. Thanks webnrrd2k!


So much information, generally well written, and a good level of detail on many pages. I've used the "Random Page" link a few times.

Just this morning I read "Apollo 8"[1], since I heard samples from the radio broadcast in a song last night.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_8

Mr money mustache

After living in US for a year or two, was very interesting to discover alternative view on "typical" lifestyle. While I don't agree with all his recommendation, I did buy cheap small car :)

there are also some subreddits on frugal life, early retirement, management of your finances. While there is a lot of advertisment and untested theory in there as well, I have to agree that it helps a lot to gain some money skills.

The one I can recommend the most is learning to write down and track your finances manually (i.e., without Mint). I'm a lazy bum, so I stop doing it after a few months every time I start, but when you hit a strain of bad luck that drains all your savings you will be happy as hell to have these skills navigate you through the storm. I'd say without these skills I would be insolvent right now, which is worse in my country than the US, afaik.

While there are much good advise in those subreddit, much of the content is also extremely US-centric. That's fine of cause, that's where many of the users are, but some of the advise aren't really applicable in some other countries, and some is just plain bad advice in you're not in the US. The whole renting vs. buying of instance, Reddit users almost always recommend renting your home, but that just throwing money away in some countries.

Rent vs. buy is a great example of how useless broad unqualified advice is. Whether to buy or rent varies from district to district within the same city, as well as from city to city, and also state to state inside the US, never mind different countries.

It also varies from individual to individual; their savings, their finances, where they are in their career.

Therefore don't learn the conclusions, learn the decision making steps and information gathering tips. Then apply them yourself and see what it yields for your context.

Yes, I have the same problem. And it's really a pity that there is no local content in the same quality in my country. I also bought some native books, but they don't think strategically about money. It's just "grandma's advice" put on paper.

I love such summary sites, and probably will spend the next weeks reading/watching stuff from this one. However, I have to note a mistake I often make that other people may make as well:

Often when we think "wow, that's life changing!" it's actually a strong emotional response of surprise. It is really helpful when it happens because the content provided demands it. It helps us to learn faster and stay motivated to the end of the content. But sometimes it's not the content itself, but the presentation. And just like Coka Cola may taste exciting when you haven't been drinking any sugary drink for years, the presentation itself may be the only thing exciting about it. It creates the emotional response by artificially triggering our buttons, but not because it really has some valuable lesson.

I really need to remind myself of that before I start to dive in. Hope it helps some others to filter the real content from the sugar water as well.

For me it was a band fan club website. It was built on top of a highly customized version of phpbb. There were quirks so that people could change the color of text and embed pictures etc even though that wasn't allowed. That was what sent me down the rabbit hole: how did they change the color of the text??

Unfortunately, eventually it led me far enough that I found an xss vuln and upon reporting it they shut down the ability to comment/post/pm at all. So now it just sits there frozen in time.

I eventually scraped the site (some 2GB of posts) and rebuilt the site from scratch with pyramid/sqlalchemy/postgres. I offered it up for use, but didn't get much traction. Still, that was a very fun project. Interesting how the site was still sending me down the rabbit hole all those years later.

Pubmed clinical queries section:


If you or your family have any sort of medical issue, that's the best place to get high-quality, reliable medical information, especially in the "systematic reviews" section - which is basically journal quality summarization of the relevant research.

EDIT: to get the maximum benefit, you'll probably need to use Libgen together.

I remember Dreamless, Praystation, k10k et al with some fondness as part of a special era on the web when people were just making things for the sheer joy of experimenting with this new platform and seeing what was possible. Some of it was pretentious nonsense, some of it was quite fun, most of it would be dismissed as frivolous today. The web as an app platform really profoundly changed things but in many ways we stand on the shoulders of these early efforts.

Praystation was great, the flash community at the time was almost like an interactive underground demo scene where people showed off their flash skills.

Makes me think of flash cartoon sites as well from the time: Joe Cartoon [1], Spumco (JohnK, Goddamn George Liquor Program)[2], etc. Made many people see that you could get animation and web comics/entertainment to anyone with this tech, many shows to this day still use Flash/Animate[3] or now most use Toon Boom[4].

[1] http://joecartoon.com/

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCE0d5xCHJ4

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Flash_animated_televis...

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toon_Boom_Animation

Terence Tao's 'What's New'[1] and Mathoverflow[2]. Books and papers in mathematics don't tell you much about the penumbra of stories, hopes and plans around the formal work, particularly at the higher levels. These sites make (some) of that intuitive knowledge accessible to everyone.

[1] https://terrytao.wordpress.com/ [2] https://mathoverflow.net/

Hacker News changed my life, I found my first job thanks to a Who's Hiring post. :)

I'm surprised that Khan Academy isn't listed anywhere. Their videos were incredibly helpful when I was in college.

Second this. I have learnt about so many new technologies from HN, that 1) it pushed me to finally start my own venture, and 2) the technologies I have learnt about and use in my daily stack all came from HN posts over the years

Something about MeFi that makes it an oasis of basically what the lurid 90's folks imagined the Web would become. Probably because it's from the 90's, but it's a dingy dirty utopia of sorts

HN is up there for me. It gave me a much broader perspective on the happenings within the field. And it encouraged me to move to the great city I now live.

The original Slashdot was an interesting site for me it introduced me the social web format. Previously my only social interaction was IRC. I don't think it changed my life but at the time slashdot certainly opened up a new world to me.

There has only been one site that has been a consistent companion since I discovered it in high school in '99. One site that has served as a foundation in shaping my life. That site is zombo.com. You can do anything at zombo.com.

I have great news for you: https://html5zombo.com/


Reddit's /r/diy got me to learn a lot about electronics. The extremely detailed guides which led to something that could ACTUALLY BE USEFUL was a very good motivator.

/r/StopDrinking was also a lot of help for me (to help a friend). I owe a lot to the community there for helping my friend take control of his life again.

/r/fitness also helped me reach a healthy weight and lifestyle after I had a recent health scare.

/r/randomkindness helps me feel good by doing good for others.

/r/cscareerquestions helped me get a great job and taught me a lot about programming (/r/programming and language specific subs) and career.

Humans of New York:

This photoblog by Bradon Stanton was instrumental in helping me develop a much more open mindset about people and eventually led me to volunteer for the UNICEF after they covered a young girl directly impacted by UNICEF. The European Refuge Crisis was a similarly transforming moment for me.

Toastmasters International: This is kind of like Alchoholics Anonymous for people who haven't given a public presentation before.

Countless TED talks also helped shape my thinking and gave me perspective.

Since a lot of the HN populace doesn't like Reddit I wanted to clear it up that the key to using it productively is to follow only subreddits that fill a niche in your life. And prefer subreddits which have more text posts than link posts. Discussion with a wide variety of people is one of reddit's key strengths. As an example, I usually discuss and read comments about foreign policies on multiple country subreddits so that I can get an idea of how it impacts other countries and what the people are concerned about in the other places.

Joel Spolsky's joelonsoftware.com and the now-dead "Business of Software" forum he hosted. I discovered that it was possible for normal developers without any business training to independently make and sell software online for a living. That's what I've been doing now for 10 years.

Amazon / eBay. Urban-center level access to necessities and more helped enable a move to a rural, old-time village. The kids go out the door. I know my neighbors. No traffic. Lots of flowers and birds.

Advice from Reddit's r/DIY and r/homeimprovement communities helped me take on repairs and improvements that I wouldn't have done otherwise. I learn a lot from the step-by-step photos, explanations of work, and feedback in the comments. Those forums are like the Stack Overflow of home improvement and are really great -- life changing!

HN is on the top of my list!

Rescuetime has been great for me so far. Really helping me stay on track and motivated.

Coursera and edx can be great too, but potential time-sucks if you don't manage your interests carefully.

We hugged the server to death. Cached version at Google: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:upCV-mX...

alternate cache http://archive.is/WZQ9p

another good one: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com

The Last Psychiatrist.

Oh man I really miss his writings. Btw if you want similar style essays but about DB/Bitcoin tech check out http://hackingdistributed.com/2014/03/01/what-did-not-happen...


Was a big one for me. Along with Wikipedia, it's what I think of when I want to believe that maybe the internet wasn't such a bad idea after all.

No TvTropes?

board.shodown.net, k10k, phong, surfstation.lu, designgraphik, submethod, designiskinky, zoorex, zylonzoo, arkinect, pixeldust, deviantart, gmunk, chapter3.net, threeoh, the list goes on...

Never heard of Bullet Journal before. That will change my life.


Domaining.com, people make money with domains. Lots of amazing information.


None moreso than OkCupid.


I'd say 4chan probably changed my life the most. Not only did it have a big influence on my tastes to this day, it also (indirectly) introduced me to some of my best friends and taught me a lot of social skills

So is this just a big page of links? Are AIs writing blog posts now?

kottke.org is just a collection of interesting links with short description. But I like it :)

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