The internet is an amazing thing. You can search and discover information about the far corners of the world that otherwise may be unavailable to you. If you’re a foodie you can gain access to new trends in dining out or print out any new (or old) recipe that you want. The images that are available through photo sharing websites can change your whole perspective on the world.
Let’s not forget about the social media websites like Facebook and MySpace. Where would people be without them?
Websites like YouTube and iTunes have made music more accessible. They have also changed the way the music and recording industry does business.
If you need a website that contains content strictly meant only for its residents or for people who want to learn more about a specific area the search on the World Wide Web can get a little frustrating.
Even though many websites are based out of New York or Los Angeles that doesn’t mean that those residents have any easy time finding out about what’s available in their city. They have the same issues as everyone else does when it comes to finding out about what’s going on in their little corner of the world that maybe not be covered on websites such as Yahoo! or CNN.
Most major cities have websites dedicated to the tourists, but that information is often limited.
Fortunately in Philadelphia there are several websites that are dedicated in everyday life which can range anywhere from the mundane to the outrageous and here are 10 of the best ones:
1. City of Philadelphia.
The City of Philadelphia’s website (www.phila.gov) has pretty much anything you can think of and even some things you can’t.
You can get the latest press releases or announcements that come out of Mayor Nutter’s office, get access to every city department like the Department of Use and Occupancy or the Water Department and even find out when meetings or hearings are being held.
People can learn what jobs are available with the city government or use a link that will take you to open positions within the state. The city’s Greater Philadelphia Film Office also has a listing of positions for actors, production assistants, script writers or even producers.
There’s information on how to obtain permits, locating a summer camp or afterschool program, filing a complaint and even paying a bill.
For the politically inclined the website offers information on every member of City Council as well as the committees they serve on, the minutes or notes from committee meetings that were recently held. It’s important to take note that the email addresses that are provided for members of council as well as the mayor are not accessible through the website. If you wish to email one of your local politicians you have to cut and paste their address onto your own email functions.
The website is really easy to navigate and in case you can’t find what you’re looking for you can use their search engine which is pretty fast.
2. The City Paper.
The City Paper is a free publication that comes out every Thursday, but they also have an awesome website (citypaper.net) where you can read the latest edition or older editions which you may have missed.
Unlike the Philadelphia Daily News, the Philadelphia Tribune or the Inquirer the City Paper is not pretentious, overbearing or unfair and imbalanced. Their articles are ones that are of interest to Philadelphians without the splashy headlines or condescending tone; they are written so that everyone regardless of their level of education can understand what is being said and why.
Unlike the Metro newspaper the paper doesn’t target a specific age group (18-34), but any age group. The City Paper’s articles also take as much space as they need to in order to tell the story correctly; to give the reader as much insight as possible.
There are two things that are a must read on both the website as well as in the print copy that make the City Paper better than any other news or information site in Philadelphia.
The first is the weekly column The Bell Curve which seems to be a collaborative effort by the staff of writers. In this column they take news, it may have been a big ticket item or something small, and then they make jokes about it which are usually pretty funny. Then they give each item a grade which is either a negative or a positive. At the end of the column they add these grades up.
Case in point: City Councilman Jim Kenney wanted to change the type of salt Philly uses during a snowstorm. He wanted to use a mixture of salt brine with sugar beet molasses. It didn’t matter that the streets had been using the same type of salt since the 1940s.
In February he initiated a resolution asking the Streets and Services Committee to hold public hearings to investigate the use of rock salt. There’s been no word from the committee when they’re planning on doing this. It’ll probably have to wait until they stop laughing.
The City Paper couldn’t resist themselves. In the February 13, 2014 edition they ran with the gift they were just given:
• Councilman Jim Kenney says the city should consider non-salt options for melting ice, like beet juice. And everybody just, like, stares at him.
• The Red Cross says there’s a blood shortage in the area. “Perhaps beet juice would do the trick,” offers Councilman Kenney.
• Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell introduces bills to allow the city to borrow $250 million to build a high-tech police headquarters. “It’ll be beet powered!” says Councilman Kenney. “No, it won’t,” says Councilwoman Blackwell.
• A milk truck gets sucked into a sinkhole in Kensington. “Who needs milk anymore?” cackles Councilman Kenney, his face dripping a ghastly pink-ish purple.
Another great reason to read the City Paper is senior staff writer Daniel Denvir who always delivers outstanding and thought-provoking articles such as “DA Seth Williams creates unit to exonerate the innocent” (04/15/2014), “Taxpayers subsidize wealthy Philly law firms” (04/01/2014), “Should Philly's public gas company be in private hands?” (03/06/2014), and “Rebellion against standardized testing spreads to Philly” (04/03/2014).
So make sure you check out this website because it has something for everyone.
3. Curbed Philadelphia.
Curbed Philadelphia (http://philly.curbed.com/) is a website that covers the real estate market in the city. They cover every area of the city by neighborhoods as well as by news that pertains to the market.
Unlike real estate websites like Zillow or Trulia which are websites in which realtors can showcase houses they have for sale, Curbed Philadelphia goes several steps above and beyond just selling houses.
The websites does a fabulous job informing both potential home owners as well as Philadelphians who are interested in the growth of their neighborhood and trends. They don’t just cover the real estate market as far as home sales goes, but rental properties as well.
They also take the time to understand who their audience is (85% are college graduates and 53% use the website as a research tool) which helps them post articles and information that are relevant.
They also offer some great information and really beautiful images.
Curbed isn’t just in Philadelphia although this particular website only focuses on this city. There are also Curbed websites in New York, Boston, DC, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Seattle among others.
There is also a Curbed National which focuses on design and décor because usually after someone purchases a home or even rents a home they go to work putting their own personal stamp on it.
4. Abandoned Philadelphia.
What Curbed Philadelphia is to the real estate market Abandoned Philadelphia (http://abandonedphiladelphia.com/) is to urban blight. They understand how powerful urban blight can be and how abandoned properties can devastate neighborhoods as well as the city.
They’re even keeping count just in case the mayor and members of council forget. In case you’re wondering there are between 40,000 to 50,000 abandoned properties within the city limits.
Abandoned properties aren’t just ugly, they’re dangerous too. These properties are fire hazards as was the case in April of 2012 when an abandoned factory burned down killing two fire fighters, attract rodents which spread diseases, and become habitats for crime with the homeless as well as drug dealers and addicts. People who own a home that sits next to an abandoned building will see their property value plummet.
This website encourages their viewers to get involved by letting them know about properties and they also educate people about the actions (or lack thereof) of the city’s political leaders when it comes to dealing with the blight.
The website provides the latest information about policies, laws, impending bills or ongoing problems in regards to the overwhelming issue of urban blight in the city.
After Mayor Nutter had signed the Land Bank bill into law on February 13, 2014 the website posted an article on the bill on February 17, 2014.
While the other media outlets added more confusion as they attempted to break everything down while tooting their own horns Abandoned Philadelphia’s article gave Philadelphia residents what they wanted: something understandable without all the controversy and media-issued calls for panic.
This is a website that truly cares about one of the city's biggest issues that has gone unattended for decades. Abandoned Philadelphia is now attending to it.
Need to get somewhere? Would you like to work for SEPTA? What about the possible strike?
The SEPTA website (www.septa.org) has all the answers plus answers to questions you may not have even thought of yet.
The website is probably one of the easiest to navigate and even helps you plan your trip down to the last penny you’d have to spend in order to get where you need to be.
The website issues advisories if a route has to be changed or redirected and does a really good job at it.
Schedules are a lot easier to read than the ones that are offered by the New Jersey Transit System (good luck with that one) plus they’re accurate too. You can either print them out or download them onto your computer which is an added convenience if you are trying to go green by having less paper in your life.
Any news that affects their ridership or how they conduct business can be found on the website. The more urgent announcements are always posted on the main page, but any other announcements can be found in the media link at the top of the page as well as listed on the right-hand side of the website.
Love or hate SEPTA if you will, but at least they have an awesome website.
Uwishunu’s (http://www.uwishunu.com/) motto is “Philadelphia from the inside out” which is a great description of the website and what they have to offer.
On the surface it may appear to be a website for the tourists, but it’s more for the people of Philadelphia because it always has the most current list of things to do in and around the city for everyone.
The website is updated every day and offers a wide range of things to do whether it’s going to a restaurant, attending a concert, a museum, art gallery or any type of special events. They also have loads of things families can do together with many of them being free.
The activities that are listed aren’t just held in Center City, but in various neighborhoods. They also have a page full of activities in what they call The Countryside which is a nice way of referring to the suburbs.
The website is a creation of Visit Philadelphia that used to be known as the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation. The website, however, has moved a little bit beyond what their creator once featured. The website is a happy, feel-good experience and provides visitors with the ability to see much more of this city than blight, political corruption and trash-strewn streets or, as Philadelphians are fond of saying, “Home, sweet home.”
The website actually restores a sense of pride for the residents of this city.
7. Committee of 70.
The Committee of 70 (http://www.seventy.org/) is a non-profit organization that serves as a watchdog group for the residents of Philly when it comes to understanding or being informed about the activities of the city’s (and sometimes state) politicians which is good because there really should be someone watching them.
The Committee of 70 was founded in 1904, is considered non-partisan, has never endorsed any candidate, and works on a mission to bring about real government reform. The good news is that regular Philadelphians are happy that they have somewhere they can go to, but the bad news is that aside from providing the public with information it’s unclear whether this website or group has had a real impact on the way the politicians in this city operate.
Still, the staff continues on because they know that informing the public is better than one-upping a sleazy politician and the real test of power comes on Election Day; that their voice is used as a tool for the empowerment of the city’s residents which is awesome.
The Committee’s wish list is pretty basic. They want the government and their political leaders to be honest, efficient, fair and effective something that tends to be lacking if you listen to the council people for any length of time. Still their goal’s never waiver; they continue to serve as a voice for the public.
The politicians in Philly like to make things sound really complicated and difficult, but The Committee of 70’s websites show that that’s not the case.
Through their "How Philly Works" series that is available on the website, problems or resolutions of problems that the politicians want the public to think are complex are broken down into an easier understanding of the issues.
The one thing that is missing on the website is an about feature that every website has to let their readers know who they are, what their mission is and who works for them. The public knows that the President and CEO of The Committee of 70 is former the editor of the Philadelphia Daily News Zack Stalberg, but little else is known about the people who write the articles, investigate the issues and serve on the Board of Directors.
In addition to this website, you can also find The Committee of 70 on Facebook, Twitter (@Committeeof70) and LinkedIn.
8. Greater Philadelphia Autism Society.
The Greater Philadelphia Autism Society website (http://www.asaphilly.org/) offers support, guidance and references for people who have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder as well as their families. They also have an amazing group in Yahoo! (asaphilly) groups where parents can go to get support, a sense of solidarity and information from other parents with Autistic children.
Through this website they also support and promote advocacy, education, public awareness and research for those who are affected by Autism.
The website also offers information to members of the police force on how to recognize someone with Autism such as the inability to communicate verbally (they may use pictures or sign language), they may have a reaction to sudden changes or sounds such as a siren or other loud noises such as the loud barking from their canine unit, and may not be able to communicate what they need or an understanding of what the officer may be saying.
There’s also lots of information about Autism such as what it is, how it’s diagnosed and where to go to get help.
The website also lists activities such as sensory-friendly movies.
So what is a sensory-friendly movie?
It’s a movie that’s currently being shown at the local movie theatres, but has had special adjustments for people with disabilities such as the lights not being turned down low, no trailers and the sound not being so loud. It gives children and their families a sense of normalcy.
It's suggested that you register with the website in order to be kept in the loop of all the new information or activities that are going on.
9. Free Library of Philadelphia.
The Free Library of Philadelphia has a website (http://www.freelibrary.org/) and you don’t have to be in a library to gain access to it.
The website is a wealth of information regarding free activities that are being held at various libraries throughout the city for people of all ages, copies of any magazine or newspaper you can imagine, the location and hours of the city’s library locations, IRS publications and forms, you can check to see if your library has a particular book and they even have lists of books for every age and even some recommendations.
Oh, and they have computers too, but even better than that they have free Wi-Fi so feel free to bring in your lap top, tablet or phone while your child participates in an activity or searches for a book to read.
The library also promoted their 12 year of its One book, One Philadelphia program in which a book is chosen for people to read. This year the selection was The Yellowbirds and even had the author come for a visit as a guest speaker. Everyone who participated in this year’s reading selection was able to attend various activities such as discussions, events and workshops.
10. The 700 Level.
Do you love Philadelphia sports? Well so do the people at The 700 level (http://the700level.com/). They love it in a way that makes it fun to read; not the way WIP’s Angelo Cataldi does by constantly complaining about and pointing out everything that is wrong with this city’s sports teams.
Although this is a website, the 700 Level is actually a blog. The website is part of Comcast’s SportsNet division.
The term 700 level comes from a phrase called the 700 mentality. The 700 level was once known as the highest level of seats located in Veterans Stadium. It’s also used to describe someone who is hardcore about whatever they’re passionate about; to be seriously devoted to someone or something to the point of almost being fanatical about it. So although Veterans Stadium is no longer there the mentality still exists among many sports fans in Philly.
The website offers news and information not only about the professional teams, but the college teams as well.
They also sell apparel and the website has a pretty impressive offering of things to buy to show your devotion to your favorite team.
So who needs some over-paid pencil neck telling you what’s wrong with Philly’s teams? If you’re a fan you don’t need their help because you know what’s wrong. If you want to feel good about what you read just go the 700 Level website.