'43 Things': The world's to-do list

We all go through life with our own personal 'to do' lists. Not just the ephemeral goals like picking up the dry cleaning or alphabetizing the garbage, but the larger ambitions, like buying a home, starting a business, or sorting out that whole Cold Fusion muddle.

I have my own list, including, for example, seeing Ireland (partly for cultural reasons, partly because I've been told it's an ideal country to tour on a motorcycle), and I might occasionally share some of those intentions with friends - but it frankly never would have occurred to me to share them with the entire wired planet. More than 20,000 world citizens have taken that route, however, and the resulting catalog of almost 100,000 assorted ambitions is available for inspiration and entertainment at 43 Things.

Officially launched last December, 43 Things is, at its most fundamental, a shared and public 'goals blog.' And with people in more than 2500 cities currently posting their desires, the site would seem to have tapped a significant demand for global self-disclosure. (The name itself derives from the capacity of each subscriber's free account to accommodate up to 43 personal goals - the choice of 43 being an entirely arbitrary one. In the words of the webmasters, "We think 43 is the right number of things for a busy person to try and do.")

There is also a component of communal support here, as people with similar goals are brought together -both with other aspirants and with those who have succeeded- for advice, encouragement, and the chance to follow each other's progress. ("Hello, my name is Pat~2kj@Hotmail.com, and I want to learn to knit." "Hello, Pat~2kj.")

The visual design of 43 Things is basic, with the site's drawing power coming from its unique function and content. The home page is dominated by a sampling of some of its subscribers' goals, presented in a variety of type sizes to make the list intelligible while giving a rough idea of each option's popularity. The inventory changes every time you load the page, and can range from the commonplace (Volunteer, Learn to Play the Guitar), to the ambitious (Climb Mount Everest, Become President), the trendy (Drink Eight Glasses of Water Each Day), the...unusual (Become a Ninja, Learn to Raise Just One Eyebrow), the ironically self-referential (Get off the Internet), and even the self-fulfilling (Try Out 43 Things).

Creating an account is a simple affair, and you can declare your goals by either entering them into an "I want to" text box, or if somebody has already posted an idea that appeals, clicking on the "I want to do this" button prominently displayed in the upper left corner of every page. Personal pages list both your unattained ambitions (with links to entries and encouragements) and those successfully accomplished.

Choose a goal to browse (let's start with something simple like, Fall In Love), and a new page opens - with a count of other 43-ers who share that particular objective (1253, at time of writing), links to all of their individual entries, and a chronological listing of additions on the topic. To the right are lists of people "willing to help with this goal," Worth It or Not Worth It verdicts from "People who've done this" (94% in favor at the moment), and targeted advertising links (a feature perhaps more useful for a more tangible goal, like Getting a DSLR Camera). At the bottom of the page is a short Amazon.com-style, related items list ("People doing this are also doing these things"), and a smaller version of the home page's random sampling.

At the top of every page, a Google-style "Zeitgeist" link takes you to such information as recent additions, all-time Most Popular Goals (Stop Procrastinating, with 1705 hopeful members), and the Most Popular Achieved Goals (switching to the Firefox browser, with 581). Presumably all those procrastinators will start achieving first thing next week.

Whether you've signed in or not (and whether you take it seriously or not), browsing 43 Things could spark (or rekindle) a dream or two - though if you're interested in a specific achievement, a keyword search provides the most practical way to access all your options. For example, entering "Ireland" reveals Visit Ireland, Go to Ireland, Travel to Ireland, Live in Ireland, Tour Ireland, and twenty more permutations. Of course, random keyword searches can lead to enlightenment of a different sort. "World" yields results under Rule the World, Conquer the World, Dominate the World, Control the World, or for those holding a really big grudge, Destroy the World. (And under "People doing this are also doing these things" for Destroy the World? "Move out of my parents' basement." Sleep soundly in your beds tonight, people of Earth.)

So, from learning to dance to riding a camel it's all here. The actual usefulness of the content will vary with the entries that others have made, but at the very least, 43 Things might remind you to "Floss Every Day." (162 people.)

43 Things can be found at http://www.43things.com/.

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