THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Find. Join. Learn. Go. The World Wide Hub

Sixty-four websites on Boston life that you should know.

By Michael Prager
November 30, 2008
  • Email|
  • Print|
  • Single Page|
  • |
Text size +

You want to know what's happening: the singer who's coming, the show that's leaving, the news that's breaking, the gossip that's everywhere, the store that's opening, the restaurant that's closing, the blog everyone's reading. Alas, surfing the Web for information about our town is a little like walking our streets -- varied, vibrant, and oftentimes impossible to navigate.

So we're here to help. After consulting with scores of locals and checking out hundreds of websites, we've compiled a list of some of our favorite destinations we think you should know about.

One disclaimer: We've left out some obvious choices, such as most institutional sites (museums, theaters, etc.) and the electronic outposts of established media, including our own (shameless plug alert!), the comprehensive and perfectly named boston.com. Some of these you'll know; we hope others will surprise you. Did we miss a few? Of course. So tell us your favorites at magazine@globe.com.

Click away.

Going Out

Keeping the kids entertained is the mission at bostoncentral.com, and the editors take it seriously, with listings by day, topic, and town. But managing director Stacey Sao, who created the site when she moved to town in 2000 and struggled to find family-friendly resources online, also includes town profiles, healthcare and day-care leads, and even shopping info. Some of the data are thin, but this is still a good place to start.

The organizing principle of cheapthrillsboston.blogspot.com is "$10 or less." Writer Rob Vassegh posts in just-the-facts fashion with a sprinkling of critical content, but look out when he's a writer scorned, such as the time Stuff@Night invited him to, then barred him from, an event.

If your goal is not just to find something to do, but to find someone to do it with, check out bostonlinkup.com and meetup.com/cities/us/ma/boston. Both are Boston versions of larger sites, but they are eminently local. One chief difference: Linkups can be as limited as "Anyone want to catch Indiana Jones this weekend?" while "meetups" are groups -- some have upward of 800 members.

Social networking mashes up with flesh-and-blood encounters at boston.going.com, where members post events. Although some pages are accessible to anyone, only members get to list their hangouts and their pals and can hook up with others of similar tastes. Membership is free.

At "Guerrilla Queer Bar" (bostonguerrilla.googlepages.com), gay and lesbian clubgoers can sign up for a unique monthly event: "descending upon an unsuspecting straight bar and turning it into a gay bar for the night." Lesbian Night Life (boston.lesbiannightlife.com) offers a seven-day "partycast," as well as club profiles. Edgeboston.com covers not only night-life information but other news that may appeal to a gay audience (the readership is two-thirds men), featuring columnists, advice, horoscopes, and more.

Real Estate

Industry insiders devour bostonreb.com, owned by John Ford, and boston.redfin.com/blog, a local appendage of a national online brokerage. The sites have a fair amount of boosterism -- hey, they're in real estate -- but there's also some solid analysis and even off-topic silliness, such as a bostonreb colloquy about London's street-side public urinals.

News/media

Adam Gaffin's hyper-local universalhub.com provides a broader slice of the city than you'll see anywhere else. He canvasses all the papers (and takes particular pleasure in bashing the Globe -- hugs and kisses, Adam?) but also incorporates a range of other sources, from Flickr to a host of Boston bloggers, and the quick-hitting entries on everything from crime to community doings keep things lively.

Bostonist.com is one of the many city-specific sites spawned by gothamist.com(yes, New York had one first). Still, this version has local editorial leadership and contributors who provide daily event tips, keep an eye on the sports scene, and add a few surprises along the way.

Ethnicnewz.org amplifies voices out of the mainstream with offerings from more than 100 ethnic-news outlets. The site, a project of the Center on Media and Society at UMass-Boston that's led by journalism pros, features more specialized takes on news you might have read elsewhere, such as when a Brazilian house painter was shot by police on Cape Cod in July, and brings less-publicized topics to a much wider audience.

You'll find media diversity of a wholly different type at boston.indymedia.org, the local strain of a worldwide network of 200-plus sites dedicated to "the creation of radical, accurate, and passionate tellings of truth." Count on pro-union, pro-Palestinian, pro-protest coverage.

Dan Kennedy's medianation.blogspot.com is required reading for any follower of local media. But the former media critic for the Boston Phoenix, who now teaches at Northeastern and writes for the British newspaper The Guardian, exercises the blogger's imperative to bloviate beyond his expertise, such as when he raised the prospect of a "nasty, brutish, and short postseason" for the Sox (not quite, but not bad either, Dan).

Crime

Law-and-order enthusiasts can go directly to the Boston Police Department's site, bpdnews.com, for statistical summaries as well as narratives on the more interesting cases, such as when a drunken fellow accused police during booking of being "a bunch of softies" for not responding to verbal abuse with physical abuse of their own.

There are two sites where you can check most-wanted lists in the region, the FBI's www.fbi.gov/wanted/fo/bswanted.htm and the DEA's usdoj.gov/dea/fugitives/boston/bos-list.htm. They're the only places you can be sure to find Whitey Bulger.

Sports

Any diehard Boston fan knows the game isn't over until the blowhards weigh in, which makes bostonsportsmedia.com a great place to keep track of it all. Proprietor Bruce Allen mixes in his own observations with thorough wrap-ups from the "commentariat."

If you want a perspective straight from the bench, Curt Schilling's 38pitches.com is oh-so-2007. Instead, try Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo's blog (yardbarker.com/author/column/14282). During the NBA Finals, he told his fans -- and the Lakers -- all about his ankle injury. More recently, he talked about how the presidential election has given him extra motivation this season.

If you want a view straight from the couch, the bloggers at www.rootbeerandbacon.com serve up a mix of frustration, humor, and Monday-morning quarterbacking that fans can relate to.

For the wacky, click over to Alex Reimer's audio blog (www.thesportsstuff.com or www.youcastr.com). He blends right in with his fellow sports fan-boys, until you realize the guy is in high school and has been doing this for more than three years.

Finally, if you love the Sox, don't miss the quirky, wry cartoon panels of soxaholix.com.

Business/Finance

The tag line for xconomy.com is "business and technology in the exponential economy." Under founder and editor Robert Buderi, a former editor of MIT's Technology Review magazine, the site combines a steady feed of high-tech-news tidbits and other postings by its staff. It also hosts the Xconomist Forum, opinionated items penned by a gaggle of tech gurus, including Dean Kamen and Nathan Myhrvold.

Readers whose financial realm is more domestic than industrial might like "Boston Gal's Open Wallet" (www.bostongals.com). Its anonymous writer shares her finances in depth (net worth in November: $486,054) and her strategies for wealth.

Arts

Start with bigredandshiny.com. The electronic mag has been offering news, reviews, commentary, listings, calls for work, and more for four years, and its lively blog is anchored by previews of the week in art.

Greg Cook includes journalism and criticism among his many pursuits (he also has done cartoons for Nickelodeon magazine and creates graphic novels), and both contribute to his blog, the whimsically named "New England Journal of Aesthetic Research" (gregcookland.com/journal).

Joel Brown's hubarts.com is all blog, but plenty newsy nonetheless, with attitude-filled posts ranging from museum news to Berklee jazz to the BSO.

Music

If you crave local music and you haven't seen Brad Searles's bradleysalmanac.com, go there. Now. He covers the Boston scene broadly, deeply, and passionately, sharing audio, photos, and set lists from the many shows he attends.

For a younger, more frenetic voice, take a sample of "Arts and Culture Bostonia" at under21inboston.com. The writer, 19-year-old DJ Max Pearl, brings both expertise and unfiltered (i.e., not exactly G-rated) enthusiasm to his discussions of noise, hardcore, lo-fi, experimental, and other categories outside the mainstream.

Pianist/composer/conductor/critic Matthew Guerrieri authoritatively chronicles classical music at sohothedog.blogspot.com.

Theater

Theatermania.com/boston combines news, show reviews, and listings of what's playing and what's opening soon. Discounts are offered to members of the site, but you could also go to www.artsboston.org if you're seeking a deal. If you'd rather tread the boards than sit in the house, check out New England Theater 411 (netheater411.com) for audition listings.

Literature

Readers and writers seeking community will find it in at least a couple of spots, beginning with grubstreet.org, the online avatar of the eponymous nonprofit writers' center downtown. The main page promotes both the center's classes and its members' successes (disclosure: I'm a member), while its new online forum The Narrative Ark (tangler.com/forum/the-narrative-ark) connects writers through topics such as writers' groups that are forming and antidotes for writer's block.

Centerfornewwords.org, a New Age successor to Cambridge's New Words Bookstore, combines a passion for words with the cause of empowering women. Book It, a subset of bostonist.com (bostonist.com/tags/bookit), is a reliable calendar of readings and author signings.

Food/restaurants

There must be something about food that brings out sprightly writing from women named Tammy -- there are two (at least) in our midst. Tammy Donroe of Waltham writes "Food on the Food" (foodonthefood.com), and Tammy Schuetz Cook of West Roxbury writes "Boston Food & Whine" (bostonfoodandwhine.blogspot.com). Of the two, Cook is more food-and-nothing-but-the-food, with thorough reviews sandwiched between lighter fare, such as "Who the hell puts mayo on hot dogs??" With Donroe, food is sometimes only the subtext to her discussions on family or, say, her unnatural farmer fixation (the fixation is unnatural; the farmer is organic), but whatever she writes is fun.

For restaurant news, try "Boston Restaurant Talk" (bostonrestaurants.blogspot.com), and for discussion and tips on local places, head to Chowhound's Boston site (www.chowhound.com/boards/12). For those who would rather talk beverages than bistros, take a swig of drinkboston.com.

Politics

The blood sport of Boston offers a multitude of sites to choose from, starting with the best known, bluemassgroup.com, an active lefty community that you could think of as the unofficial voice of majority opinion (here, anyway). Its three founders make endorsements, have access to Governor Deval Patrick, and are so secure in their beliefs that they once posted to Republicans, asking them to join in the discussion.

The answer to that plea, at least in spirit, is the rightist redmassgroup.com, run by Patrick Johnson and a couple of partners. They host a vigorous community of posters who focus their efforts on the evils of taxation and cronyism (hello, Sal DiMasi) while still devoting space to mock Barack Obama and wonder whether Fox News's Morton Kondracke got Botox.

An ideological cousin is hubpolitics.com, run snarkily by Beverly-bred brothers Matt and Aaron Margolis (Matt's now in western New York). Both keep a sharp eye on the state's political and moral fiber, such as when Aaron backed the Beverly Farms girls who poked fun at Gloucester's spike in pregnancies, and they both stayed on top of the Jim Marzilli mess.

Back on the left, the otherwise anonymous Outraged Liberal, who writes the "Massachusetts Liberal" blog at baystateliberal.blogspot.com, doesn't seem quite as liberal as all of his three names would suggest. He clearly hails from the left, but refreshingly also rides Treasurer Tim Cahill, a Democrat, whenever he gets the chance.

Cycling

Crw.org is the online hub of activity for the Charles River Wheelmen, a 1,200-member club, but one part in particular is of value to anyone who rides. The "cue sheet repository" has turn-by-turn instructions for hundreds of rides its members have mapped.

Therightride.org is a clearinghouse for unsafe riding conditions -- sunken manhole covers, blind curves in tunnels, perilous traffic patterns -- and anyone can contribute.

Commuting

Gridlock gripery isn't a big blogger topic, but one site worth monitoring is trainstopping.blogspot.com, written by two central Mass. rail riders. They humanize what could easily be dull daily reports on catching the 7:09 or the 7:49 and do a good job of aggregating commuter news.

If you prefer the nitty-gritty of train talk, the message board at railroad.net/forums/viewforum.php?f=65 addresses MBTA rail operations from an inside perspective.

If, on the other hand, you'd really rather grab a cab, boston.taxiwiz.com will estimate your fare.

Gardening/nature

Bostongardens.com, written by 69-year-old Hilda Morrill of Milton, not only provides seasonal gardening advice but also postings of events from institutions ranging from the Arboretum to the Andover Garden Club.

The Belle Isle Marsh Reservation, near Logan's runways, may not be Eden, but it's paradise to retired librarian George Cumming, and his visual valentine to the area, "OrientSee" (georgemacumming.com), is rewarding for more than just bird watchers for its intimate accounting of nature.

History

Boston has many of these sites, as it should, but one rises about the rest. Boston1775.blogspot.com provides frequent blasts from our Revolutionary past, propelled by the passions of author, writer, and non-profiteer J.L. Bell, 42, of Newton. He matches inexhaustible fodder with indefatigable constancy, posting almost daily since May 2006. His insights during last spring's HBO miniseries on John Adams transformed the viewing.

Looking for stuff

Two of the better generalist search sites are yelp.com/boston and boston.povo.com. Yelp is yet another example of an idea that succeeded elsewhere and was applied to Boston, but it has a robust community whose members rate everything from banks to beauty shops. Povo, home-grown and fairly new, seeks to be an encyclopedia by neighborhood. Anyone can contribute to the postings.

Izzitgreen.com, also open to outside comments, helps in locating goods and services from an earth-friendly perspective.

Film

Those huge movie chains spend millions to ensure that you know what's playing, but you have to work a little to learn what's at the Brattle, the Coolidge, and the other independent houses. Antiplex.org cuts the chore to one click, providing showtimes, descriptions, and special-event notices.

For those who want the latest dish on Hollywood on the Charles, bostonmovietours.net/blog could well be just your take. It keeps tabs on local shooting schedules and, more important, gives up the gossip that goes with it. Some of the patter is promotional and sophomoric. Perfect!

Shopping

Getsugar.com has found a nice little niche for itself. Shoppers who sign up (for free) get access to exclusive bargain opportunities at spas, boutiques, and restaurants, among other categories. Pretty sweet indeed.

Fashion

One way to keep tabs on the togs of your more stylish neighbors is to check out beyondbostonchic.blogspot.com. Proprietor Martine Severin does little more than carry a camera in her meanderings and ask the notably dressed to pose when she finds them.

Still searching?

If you haven't found any site that tickles you yet, the blog aggregator bostonblogs.com can put you onto more than a thousand other local voices. It has two components: The first is an inner circle of roughly 25 whose posts are featured on the home page and whose headlines are displayed in a box on Universal Hub. The other is a come-one-come-all roster of anyone who wants to be listed. You can even find mine, "Pragerblog" (michaelprager.com), in there, under "P." n

Michael Prager, a freelance writer in Arlington who frequently covers sustainability and green-technology issues, is completing a memoir about overcoming extreme obesity. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.

It's a Gas

Ravi Jain of Milton easily qualifies as the region's most famous talk-show host you've never heard of. Jain, a 37-year-old artist, teacher, and new-media specialist, is the propelling force behind "DriveTime" www.drivetime.ravijain.org, a series of video blogs shot in Jain's Audi or Volvo, known affectionately as Studio A and Studio V. (The Audi was recently retired.) After a hiatus, Jain and his co-host and wife, Sonia Targontsidis, 32, recently posted new episodes.

Why do you drive?

Hey, we're all Americans here.

No. Why drive during your podcast?

We both work and teach, so it was a question of when I could commit to doing something. I was thinking about this when I was driving to work, and I was at a stoplight, and I had this aha moment.

You posted two episodes in October after a six-month drought. What happened?

I had fully intended to get one episode out before the birth of our child. I actually did a rough cut the night before she was born [in August] but never got beyond the rough-cut stage. We're just getting back to normalcy.

How did fans react to your return?

They said, "I thought 'DriveTime' already ended." But I didn't want it to just whimper out.

I notice that you have tag-lined your most recent entry "the final episodes." When are you going to wrap it up?

Maybe in December. For my previous project, a Web sitcom, I did some event at the Coolidge Corner Theatre. So maybe just having some sort of screening.

One-Man Portal

No one person is at the center of Boston's Web universe, but Adam Gaffin is close. He not only helms Universal Hub, one of the most lively general news sites around, he operateswww.boston-online.com and cofoundedwww.bostonblogs.com, a consortium of bloggers who cross-promote one another's sites to build traffic and sell advertising. All of which leads to the question: When is he not in front of a computer?

How do you do all this?

Basically, I have no life. During the day, I work at www.networkworld.com on our effort to get readers more involved in the site. At night, I go home and ride my exercise bike and do Universal Hub.

Why do you do it?

It's fun. Also, for some of the stuff, I hope I'm providing a view into some aspects of life that you might not see in the daily papers.

You post a fair amount of breaking news. How do you do that?

The people [at networkworld.com] are great, and they don't care what you do on your lunch hour as long as you get your work done. And though my wife would kill me, I do work for them at home on the weekends sometimes. So there's a little room.

Were you a geek in high school?

No, but I knew the geek.

What's next?

At the beginning, one of the things we talked about was trying to have more of a community site, and it hasn't really become a collaborative news site. That would be interesting to try. And after that, world domination, I guess.

  • Email
  • Email
  • Print
  • Print
  • Single page
  • Single page
  • Reprints
  • Reprints
  • Share
  • Share
  • Comment
  • Comment
 
  • Share on DiggShare on Digg
  • Tag with Del.icio.us Save this article
  • powered by Del.icio.us
Your Name Your e-mail address (for return address purposes) E-mail address of recipients (separate multiple addresses with commas) Name and both e-mail fields are required.
Message (optional)
Disclaimer: Boston.com does not share this information or keep it permanently, as it is for the sole purpose of sending this one time e-mail.