It's Presidents Day here in the United States but for most people it's just a day off work. Cynics, fair-weather political watchers, "Joe Six Packs" (did you want to avoid hearing that phrase again?) - we present to you below some of our favorite online resources for casual political awareness. We'd suggest that these sites will facilitate a basic foundation of day-to-day political awareness.
These are our favorites, we'd love to hear your suggestions as well.
The Big Picture
It's not explicitly political but the Boston Globe's Big Picture website is a must-see collection of big photos of important events from around the world. Collections like Observing Ramadan, Scenes from the Gaza Strip and China's Lantern Festival are great for grasping what's going on in other places a little better, almost on an emotional level. Who doesn't like really big, high quality photos?
The Sunlight Foundation is dedicated to casting light on the otherwise dark operations of government and one of the ways they do so is by creating really accessible political websites. OpenCongress is their best work, it's an easy-to-use site to keep track of what's being debated in Congress. Drop by for a quick glance at what the hot topics of the day are and what different sides of the debate have to say, or dive deep into the system to set up tracking feeds for your favorite politicians, legislation or issue. We reviewed OpenCongress in depth here this summer.
Obama on iTunes and YouTube
You use your computer a lot more than you listen to AM radio, we'd guess, and it's now easier than ever to keep an eye on the President thanks to the White House's video podcast feeds and YouTube channel. We thought this was pretty remarkable when it was first announced and we still think so today.
NPR Podcast Creator and Mobile Site
Want to catch an occasional short news piece about your home state or pet issue? Check out the handy new NPR podcast creation tool. We reviewed this in December when it launched and continue to be really impressed. Just enter keywords and you'll be given a custom RSS feed to subscribe to podcast news stories that contain those words. It's fast, free, easy and helpful.
Check out the very nice NPR mobile site, too. That's a great way to call in and get a few minutes of info about what's going on in the world. Have a little time while walking someplace? We like to take that opportunity to grab a few moments of learning.
So this one's a touch sophisticated but we just couldn't help but mention it. We presume readers here know about Techmeme, the best place to find the hottest conversations about technology on the internet. We hope you also know about the sister site Memeorandum, which aggregates hot political conversations.
That's a fun site but it's much more useful if you've got the Memeorandum Colors Greasemonkey Script installed. Take five minutes and install it, you'll be glad you did, it does not require any technical skill at all. The service uses data mining of historical linking patterns to color code the links on Memeorandum by political leanings. It's really nice to see a cluster of blog posts about a topic and be able to pick out the one conservative perspective, or one liberal one and one conservative one.
A handful of other resources we'd also recommend you check out include:
10 Facts Every Westerner Should Know About the Middle East is simply a blog post by an atheist semantic web fan and IT security guy named Daniel Miessler. It's a good read, we like to pass it around.
LittleSis is an awesome collaborative research site that describes itself as "an involuntary facebook of powerful Americans, collaboratively edited and maintained by people like you." It's a lot of fun to browse around and could prove useful for political blogging.
Global Voices Online is a long running site that brings together bloggers from around the world. Political holidays should not be marked in isolation, it's an international world.
BreakingNewsOn is a Twitter account that finds and publishes the most "breaking news" you're likely to find anywhere. It's a really neat little project, though with a very strange background story. According to a write up on TechCrunch, founder Michael van Poppel launched the project when he just happened to get his hands on an unpublished videotape of Osama Bin Laden which he subsequently sold to Reuters. So remember kids, if you happen to find any such materials, don't forget to see if you can parlay it into a news discovery project on Twitter too. Odd, isn't it?
So those are some of our favorite sites to grab a quick bit of politics. What are yours?