Companies & Industries

Top Desktop Diversions, 2007


Here's the latest installment of harmless Web sites that can give you a mini-vacation during the workday

You work hard, you sit in meetings, you scramble and juggle, bob and weave all day long. On top of that, you read more every day in your e-mail account than our great-grandparents read in their lifetimes. You brain gets tired. Your eyes get tired. You deserve a break, every now and then, even at work. Maybe especially at work.

Don't even have the energy to leave your desk? Take a look at our third annual list of Top 10 desktop diversions. (For last year's, see BusinessWeek.com, 3/27/06, "Top Ten Desktop Diversions, 2006") This new batch are all free, require no downloads, and are just a few mouse clicks away. Best of all, they're perfectly appropriate for the workplace, provided you don't spend too much time on any of them!

1. It's a Draw

At youdraw.com you get to make a little drawing, enter it into a gallery along with a few million other drawings created by other people, and even send your little drawing to a friend via e-mail. There's probably even a business application for YouDraw, like if you had to draw a picture of the new logo you're designing for the fall new-products catalog… O.K., maybe there's no business application, but it's fun.

2. Word Games

At urbandictionary.com you can stay abreast of the latest slang emerging from wherever slang emerges from, and even define a new slang term before anyone else. You'll never be as cool as your kids, but you can still impress them (and the twentysomethings in your office) by knowing what "United Statians" and "iPerbole" mean.

3. Mr. or Ms. Know-How

Visit wikihow.com/Main-Page to learn how to do absolutely anything (e.g., Get Rid of Roaches, Sleep Better, or Make a Tropical Breakfast) or add your own advice to educate the masses. WikiHow is populated by regular humans who don't mind sharing their expertise on how-tos of all stripes. (There is even an entry on How to Waste Time, but don't get excited: It starts with a tip about looking for things that need doing, like cleaning a room or walking the dog.)

4. Plan a Movie Night

Movie reviews are collected over at rottentomatoes.com so that all you have to do is type in the name of a movie, and all of the reviews (plus a handy, overall Critics Tomatometer rating) are collected for your convenience. Rotten Tomatoes also features regular "best of" lists, such as the site's current compilation of the 100 best-reviewed sci-fi movies.

5. Get Little

It's not a diversion exactly, but every working person should know about TinyURL, which is so indispensable that there should be a special key on our keyboards that takes us directly to the site. You can stick any seven-lines-long, tedious URL into the little box, click your mouse, and get a compact URL back, suitable for posting or e-mailing without those annoying line breaks.

6. Pig Therapy

At http://drawapig.desktopcreatures.com, not only do you get the rare opportunity to draw a pig in any style or genre you fancy, but you also get a personalized analysis or what your pig drawing says about you! And when I say "a personalized analysis," I mean you can avoid years of costly therapy, just by drawing a pig. Seriously.

7. What Tetris?

If you're ready to take on another addiction (now that The Sopranos is a memory), go to bored.com/blockfrenzy/index.html and play Block Frenzy, a simple game that asks you nothing more than to move a red block to safety as blue blocks converge and diverge to eliminate it. Nothing to it! Six hours later, glassy-eyed, you'll come back to your senses in an empty office. I'm warning you.

8. You Make the Call

Jaxtr (jaxtr.com) makes it easy to use your phone even in situations where you wouldn't normally give out your phone number, because when you use Jaxtr, you don't give out your phone number. You give out a link (like jaxtr.com/lizryan) and people use that to call you on your cell phone, office phone, or whatever number you choose. You decide who gets to talk to you, and when they do, it's voice-over-IP so the call is either very cheap, or free. You can add a little Jaxtr widget to your blog, if you're a blogger, so people can click on a button and call you at that moment. If you're not around or don't want to take the call, it shows up as a text message in your Jaxtr in-box. Wicked!

9. Claim Your Bio

Zip over to zoominfo.com to see what random snippets of information about you are floating around the Web. You can "claim" your profile (you have to enter a credit card, but it isn't charged anything) to make sure visitors get the straight dope about you. Search the site to find about what everyone's been doing professionally since you last got word from them, and learn tons about your clients, your competitors, and that cute person you spotted at the gym. Think of ZoomInfo as the WikiPedia version of LinkedIn, as it were.

10. Because You're Smart

When you're feeling stymied in your own job and you want to help somebody else out with his or hers, stroll over to LinkedIn.com and chime in on a question in the LinkedIn Answers area of the site. From using RSS to creating a sales compensation plan to motivating Gen Y employees, you can browse the questions and answers or share your own wisdom with the LinkedIn crowd. While you're there, you can ask a question of your own, and impress your workmates tomorrow!

TELL US YOUR FAVES:

Go to Reader Comments and send us your favorite online diversions suitable for the office.


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