The first thing weve been asked to do as part of the 23 Things Cambridge course is to set up a personal web portal (with iGoogle). You can put personalise the Google front page with an assortment of gadgets: news headlines, weather, searches for library catalogues, tools to remind yourself to do things, etc. The result is to create a tool ideal for multi-tasking just at the point at which people are starting asking whether multi-tasking is really the most productive way to behave. Do you need to know the headlines and the weather forecast every time you start up your computer? Is the time saved by having a COPAC searching widget to hand just going to be lost by having a virtual pet monkey also to hand?
There might be ways of working in which combining such gadgets on one page does make sense. If you have a lot of bookmarked sites and search services that you are always using, then a template like this one in Pageflakes might make sense. But if youre only working with 3 or 4 sites all the time, its almost as quick just to have them open on different tabs of the browser.
Librarians are increasingly obsessed by the need to stay current, to know what is going on as it goes on. If you have users who react to the mornings headlines, that makes sense, but Im not sure thats typical of most academic users. Part of the kind of scholarship Im doing involves slowing down, concentrating on the one thing at a time, just reading, thinking, writing. Theres not much I need to know now, this minute, as opposed to after Ive finished translating a particular section of a document. Web 2.0 technologies may change the way we work, but we may need to stop sometimes and work out whether theyre changing them in helpful ways.