Thing 1 of 23: confuse your eyeballs with personal web portals

The first thing we’ve 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 you’re only working with 3 or 4 sites all the time, it’s 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 morning’s headlines, that makes sense, but I’m not sure that’s typical of most academic users. Part of the kind of scholarship I’m doing involves slowing down, concentrating on the one thing at a time, just reading, thinking, writing. There’s not much I need to know now, this minute, as opposed to after I’ve 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 they’re changing them in helpful ways.

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3 thoughts on “Thing 1 of 23: confuse your eyeballs with personal web portals

  1. I have iGoogle as my home page, albeit with a few tweaks. I’ve hidden the left-hand sidebar using iGoogle Tabs Remover — https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/10113/ — then I have a clean page with my RSS reader, Google Maps, Google Calendar, Google Docs and the translator gadget all handy. I played around with other gadgets and stuff but keep coming back to these so they’re my starting page, now.

    That said, it isn’t for everyone. It’s good to know what’s out there as options and not get stuck in a permanent rut, but not useful to always be chasing novelties at the expense of, well, just getting things done!

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    • That sounds like a much more useful set of gadgets to have handy than some of the things the standard template suggests. I think that is one of the big problems with iGoogle currently – it’s very hard to find the useful gadgets in among the dross, partly because the browse categories are so generalised.

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  2. One of the things I don’t quite get about these multiple-element layouts is that they seem to rely on you having a huge screen. Surely these can’t work well on a Netbook or similar; none of the elements would ever be large enough to use and the front page then just becomes a springboard that you have to leave to do anything. I suppose the added value here is that they can contain enough content to indicate if something at that site has changed since you were last there?

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