If you are tired of the ever-increasing shallowness of Facebook, search for a better place. A quieter place. The web and the information deluge it puts us through can stifle our thinking. Just like you need to take off for the countryside once in a while to reclaim your zeal and zest, you also need to move away from the cacophony on the web and move to a quieter corner. That is, if pulling the plug isn’t an option. The second best course is to feed your brain some intelligent fodder.
My friend Justin talked about why our information diet is probably terrible. But does it need to be? Intelligent picks from the vast web can refresh and inspire our day. And what could be more inspiring than taking a peek into the lives of both ordinary and extraordinary people with insights. Maybe, you can find some sliver of usefulness in the conversations of these achievers. Look upon this as interesting interviews or a talkfest of ideas.
A collection of in-depth interviews with artists from all walks of life. That’s how Conversations.org is described in its own words. The magazine is a gift-economy experiment and that’s why it’s a rare site without any advertisements. The focus is on the content. And the focus of the content is on creative artists like photographer Elaine Ling, light and space artist James Turell, and more through their interviews and first-person accounts. If you are interested in the creative side of things, this volunteer run site could be worth a look.
If the previous interviews were on artists, these ones are conversations with designers, illustrators, developers and other creatives. The ‘one minute’ is a bit misleading as the interviews run on for quite a bit, even by textual reading on the web standards. In short, the site is a celebration of the diversity and the imaginativeness of the creative world. The one question of interest is always on how a particular artist started out and if there was a defining point in their careers. Some of the insights are really noteworthy for any freelancer especially if you are searching for a definition of success. Also, before leaving the site, do visit the nicely designed Quotes section.
Quite frankly, I haven’t heard about any of the individuals on this single-paged website. But it is an interesting experiment to document their personal stories in one minute flat. The site describes them as a series of video portraits. As the site says, artists, entrepreneurs, designers, and rainmakers offer insight into their individuality, their motivations, and what really makes them tick. 28 videos hosted so far on Vimeo and each of them is excellently produced.
Edge describes itself as an intellectual adventure but in the true nature of the web, it is ‘open-minded and free ranging’. Scientists, artists, philosophers, technologists, and entrepreneurs are contributing to the site with their conversations and trying to make a difference. Each conversation has the bio of the person, so you will get an idea of their work and background. You can browse the conversations by topic, year, and tag. Conversations are also supported by video embeds so you don’t really need to read through. The interesting part of Edge is the Annual Question posed by the editor, John Brockman. The answers are collated and released as an anthology. This year it’s: What should we be worried about?
The Setup and its series of interviews won’t motivate you to better the world, but it just might give you enough clues to better yourself. The site’s core theme is productivity. The interviews go up and about to ask people from all walks of life what they use to get the job done. For instance – What hardware and software do you use? Or what would be your dream setup? You will find drummers, food scientists, hackers, developers, and even a cosplayer. Usually the hardware and software varies with the history, but you also get to know how these creatives are using technology in their lives.
If you love books, you will love going behind the scenes with Don Swaim and his interviews with some of the top writers of the earlier century. The uncut, behind-the-scenes interviews were the core of Don Swaim’s long-running CBS Radio show, Book Beat. Listen to authors like Jeffrey Archer, John Irving, Arthur Hailey, Elia Kazan, John Updike, and many more all arranged alphabetically. You can listen to the interviews or download them as MP3 files.
What would you think of Sir Richard Branson passing on the most important piece of advice he ever received to you? Bet you wouldn’t mind. BBC’s Five Minutes With pursues the world’s who’s who and gets them to reveal more about themselves within the time on the clock. The roster is filled with famous names and the five minute stipulation doesn’t tax your own attention span.
I hope these seven websites with personal stories and interesting interviews expand your mind. There’s a lot of great content out there that’s available for free that can do just that. We have tried to inspire you (and ourselves) with sites like TED Talks and other knowledge websites of its ilk. Then, there’s nothing like a great conversation or an interview with insight. Is there? What do you think about these seven websites that talk to achievers and everyday men and women? This is also a personal list; can you recommend a few more websites with intelligent interviews and conversations?