Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Web Portals

I seem to recall hearing a lot about 'web portals' a while back. Everybody wanted to be your 'start page' so they could have more 'eyeballs' (and thus more ad revenue, or whatever). I never found any of them to be where I wanted to start online. My start page is always about:blank. Anyway, it seems that I don't hear so much about this any more, though I'm not sure why.

Even not so recently, I knew that, essentially, google was my web portal. When I hopped online, I had some goal in mind, and knew that google could get me there. Recently, google's reader has become at least as important in my online experience. If I don't have some specific information I want to look up, the only page I think to visit is reader (and gmail I guess). Instead of going out to the web, rss and atom feeds have let me bring the web to me (Chris's comment, if I recall). When I've run out of new feeds, I'm at a loss of what to do, or where to go. There's lots of good stuff online, but if it isn't in a link from some feed, or so, I won't notice it. Perhaps that's ok. It is quite easy to suffer from information overload online, and there is plenty that I'm supposed to be doing.

Anybody else have similar online habits? Or am I doing it wrong? Fail? I guess part of my question is: what exactly is 'surfing the web'? Stubling around random webpages with a browser extension (= productivity killer)? Or just following links from pages that I visited with a specific goal in mind?

It seems like my style of surfing the web, by browsing my feeds, is, at least vaguely, dangerous. In a book I read recently (I think it was 'Ambient Findability' though it could have been 'Convergence Culture', both of which I enjoyed), the author pointed out the idea of the online experience being a great big echo chamber. I only see the part of the web I agree with, basically. Unless I specifically go searching for something contrary to my views (political or religious, e.g.) I am not likely to really test my ideas and assumptions. I won't grow, intellectually, but will instead just reinforce whatever ideas I already have, because they are all I read about.

What I feel like I notice even more is just the sense of being in a bubble. In my little bubble, everybody is keen on 'Web 2.0' (if not the name), the semantic web, open standards and APIs, tech, tech, tech. Everybody has heard of the same things as me (essentially). Things like OLPC, Linux, Twitter, Twine, etc. My guess is I would have culture shock just going next door to talk to my neighbors, whose bubble is likely vastly different (if online at all).

So what? I live in my little niche, you live in yours, right? Live and let live?

Have a point in mind when you start a blog post, even if you have no readers.

No comments: