To me, the month of March means spending time with family and friends at basketball tournaments and rooting for the South Carolina Gamecocks. It's a tradition we have followed from the Metro Conference in 1985 through this year's SEC Tournament in Atlanta.
My late father had a tradition each year — the quest to find the perfect spot to eat. From Biloxi, Miss., and Birmingham, Ala., to Roanoke, Va., and Tampa, Fla., he would take an informal poll of just about anyone we encountered (no one was safe), and each person's opinion could become the new gold standard to pursue.
Whether fashion, food or films, who helps you decide what to try — and what to avoid? Friends? Critics? Clerks? Websites? Rather than ill-informed or overly opinionated feedback, wouldn't it be great to find non-biased, objective suggestions? That's what these sites provide:
Books. What should I read next? (whatshouldireadnext.com) uses a database of 75,000 books to help you decide the follow-up to a title you enjoyed. BookLamp (beta.booklamp.org) can help you find a book that you enjoyed but wished was shorter or had other variables. A Book and a Hug (abookandahug.com) allows you to search for children's titles by age, sex, keywords or category.
Film/TV. Input genre, plot points, location or audience and Jinni.com will suggest movies and television shows to enjoy. Bee.tv, available as a site and an iPhone app, goes one step further to include the device you are using and a rating.
Music. Last.fm, a very popular site and app with more than 40 million users, keeps track of your favorite music while suggesting new tunes. Also try Pandora.com and Songza.com.
Multimedia. TasteKid.com goes beyond the sites already mentioned. Input Janette Oke and view suggested movies and music in addition to other authors. Hunch.com is a generalized service with specific recommendations on products, restaurants or just about anything else — even religions — based on your response to initial questions.
Food. Name food types, mood and dish, and Cookthink.com will direct you to a variety of recipes. If you want to avoid a trip to the store, RecipeMatcher.com and RecipeKey.com each suggest recipes based on ingredients you have on hand. And just for fun, if you can't decide where to eat, try the Wheel of Food (wheelof.com)!
Shopping. Amazon.com and eBay.com use your past searches and purchases to return ideas, though these include gift shopping for others, too. StyleFeeder.com will aid online excursions by serving as a personal shopping engine. For handmade items, try Etsy.com . If you stop at tastetest.etsy.com and vote on a series of pictures first, the site becomes personalized.
Travel. TripIt.com serves as an online travel assistant to suggest vacation itineraries and facts about destinations. Another site I found a bit simpler, wanderfly.com, shares ideas for food and activities based on budget, interests and destination.
Websites. When you search at Wario.com, available as a site or a browser add-on, you not only get a list of responses, but also suggested returns based on what's currently popular. For example, suggestions for a search of "waffle" include a free offer for waffle fries and video of an automatic waffle maker.
StumbleUpon.com will point you to websites you may be interested in. And remember that Google Alerts (google.com/alerts) will send you sites and articles based on topics that interest you. There are dozens of other sites that suggest anything from restaurants to jokes.
And as my dad — who almost always found a winner of a restaurant in the end — found out, more choices (a larger database) and more users make for better results.
Ken Satterfield is advertising/marketing coordinator for Word&Way.