People turn to the Internet for two reasons: to learn something or to be entertained. Fortunately, these two drives are not mutually exclusive–and brands that serve content that’s both entertaining and helpful can hook readers and invite them into their online communities.
The following five blogs can satisfy both needs, being eminently entertaining and undeniably educational at the same time.
A Thing About Words
You don’t have to be a logomaniac (one who is obsessed with words) to get a kick out of A Thing About Words, the official blog of Merriam-Webster’s Dictionaries that recently came out from behind a paywall. The blog is written by Merriam-Webster’s actual lexicographers (dictionary editors) who not only know what words mean but wield them with aplomb.
Yes, you’ll find what you’d expect — word etymologies, usage notes, and information about how dictionaries are made — but you’ll also find some clever and entertaining posts and videos about pop culture language, words in the news, and life as a lexicographer.
Instructables is a do-it-yourself blog on steroids. The Internet is rife with sites that will help you install ceiling fans, change your oil and fold origami Tie Fighters, but all of that is a prelude for Instructables.com. Here, you’ll find all sorts of gadgets and gizmos you would never even have thought of creating alongside the steps you need to build them yourself.
Instructables range from the utilitarian — fire pits, treadmill desks, guitar holders, and so on — to the outrageous — cyborg arms, repeating crossbows, zombie in a pot, and the like. Perhaps the best part, though, is that the blog is itself a “do-it-yourself” project. People from all over the world create weird and wild things and send them to the site.
Though you probably won’t build even half the great projects you find there, you’ll pick up some great tips and shortcuts, not to mention spark your creativity, as you browse the posts.
For armchair linguists, if there is such a thing, no blog will keep you up to date on the state of language while keeping you entertained the way Language Log will. Begun in 2003 at the University of Pennsylvania, linguistics professors Mark Liberman and Geoffrey Pullum — followed by an ever-widening list of linguists, morphologists, logophiles, and word nerds — touch on all aspects of both the spoken and the printed word.
Yes, you’ll find some pretty heady stuff about phonology, orthography, and statistical analysis, but you’ll also find less serious, more irreverent posts about Chinglish and Spanglish, autocorrect disasters, and Colbertisms. Regardless of your language skill levels, you’ll find something here to make you smile and make you think.
An offering from National Geographic, the Pop Omnivore blog is “where pop culture and NatGeo collide.” If you’ve ever wondered about the accuracy of your favorite TV show (like the physics experiments on The Big Bang Theory), whether something amazing you saw in a movie is really possible (Could Spock really have prevented a volcano from erupting?) or what sort of crazy connections fictional worlds have with the real world (like how Neil DeGrasse Tyson helped find Superman’s homeworld), you’ll find something to delight and educate at Pop Omnivore.
Wired Science blog
Wired magazine is always reporting on the cutting edge of technology. They offer a number of category-specific blogs, but the one that, in my opinion, packs the most entertainment, education, and pure awe into its posts is the Wired Science blog. From animal behavior to genetics to galactic discoveries, this blog brings the most amazing and unbelievable stories of the universe to your screen, helped along also by some of the most beautiful telescopic and microscopic photography you’ll find anywhere.
Estimates of the number of blogs on the Internet range from 400 million to 1 billion. No doubt, you have your favorite places to laugh and learn–and brands are taking notice. Where else (besides here at digital relevance, of course) should we look to broaden both our minds and our smiles?
Image credit: Snowbrains.com