In which I make a start page and try to figure out what they mean for libraries

Whew. I have a start page. It was a growth experience, as are many of life’s little joys.
I found Netvibes somewhat frustrating to work with. I had two main problems, the first being slow loading and the second being the widgets. Widgets! I knew what widgets were, but I had never knowingly put one anywhere, and I have very little idea how they work.

One of the first things I did was add Facebook and Twitter to my page, and that gave me the idea that I would be able to easily add all my social networking and personal sites to the page. That plan fell apart a bit with Yelp, Delicious and Amazon. As listed on the site, widgets for those items tended to give me other people’s lists, not my own. I ended up being redirected and signing up for http://www.widgetbox.com, and eventually got my wish list added, I added Delicious as an RSS feed, and I threw my hands in the air with Yelp. It turns out that the Yelp Widget as designed by the Yelp people is not meant to be used in “environments.”

Ignorant as I am, I would have benefitted from a better preview for the widgets, to save me from the rigorous add and delete strategy. I was also bitterly disappointed by the options for crossword widgets. I wished there had been more games you could play on your page.

For me personally I think start pages perform the same tasks I ask of the browser, and not as well (although my familiarity may be part of that perception). While I am a devoted fan of RSS technology for not making me to go to 10 million different websites, I actually like being able to visit my different social networking sites. When I log in to Facebook, I get a delicious feeling of anticipation. Will there be comments? New friend requests? With a start page, the encapsulated widget ruins the surprise. My RSS feeds are safely tucked away in my reader, and I have so many I want them on their own separate application. Bookmarks and the history bar help me remember where I want to go.

All in all start pages for libraries are again something of which I am skeptical. In Planning & Pitfalls: Using Pageflakes for a Public Library Portal, Edward Byrne says “A web-based solution had obvious advantages in terms of time and staff involvement, as it allowed the Internet desktop to be managed centrally, with changes applied in one location taking immediate effect across the whole network of Internet PCs” I thought the Dublin library’s start page was excellent, but I wonder why they didn’t make a Internet start page within the library’s website including all of those links? From what I understand, many of the widgets available on Netvibes can be used on any web page. The library’s web page is still a centrally managed resource. I really like the content the Dublin Library provided, but I would like to see libraries improve their own web sites as resources.

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