I am not aware of any evidence that Stoneage people sat around waiting for the Online Delivery Van from the supermarket of their choice. In the past if we wanted something we had to physically go and get it. Nowadays thing are different. We can, if we choose, veg in front of the screen and make the goods come to us.
The same goes for news. Yes there is still a town crier in Topsham, where I live, he has a nice little label on the back of his nice little Rover. On Saturday we go to the paper shop because it makes us feel that the weekend is with us. True we could turn the telly on for news, but, now with computers and RSS feeds news can come to us, on demand, in the flavour that we desire.
We also get notification of our friends’ lives to compare, contrast and fret over with Facebook. We get those necessary minute by minute updates via Twitter and interesting oh so essential insights through blogs. We can feed our (British) obsession for the weather and convey our day to day endeavours to the wider world through a fully synched Google-iCal-Nokia-Suite-calendar-widget-thingy.
Then we can sit worrying because we know we have forgotten some aspect of this helpful technology but don’t know which. In the past we worried about the gas or the tap being left on now I suppose it is ‘is my firewall operating?’ We can also add a certain piquancy to our annoyance when the various online alarms start going off just after the meeting that we have just set off for has been cancelled, via text of course.
But all this technology can be useful and fun, it just needs a bit of management and this is where start pages come in.
Manage Information with Start Pages
Most suppliers will happily offer some sort of portal that you can access your emails through. This will be a web page that can set set as the home page for your internet browser. Frequently though they are advertising-heavy affairs that slow your computer if not your life down. The trick is to integrate all of the information that you want. It has been said that screens are the real estate of the desk, and this is true, but real estate (whatever that is in English) shouldn’t be squandered.
I am a sinner, I am not tidy by nature. If I could capture the special ability of my desk detritus to replicate and transfer this to farming I could transform the lives of billions. I keep trying, (we are the people who try). One aspect of this endeavour is my start page. Through it I can check Twitter, Facebook, I have a calendar which is available and synched to my phone and my computer. I have a to-do list that I am very bad at to-doing. If I can’t be asked to look out of the window, or if the desk detritus has been particularly prolific, I can check the weather online. In addition I get BBC news headlines and I have an RSS reader all on one screen.
In addition all of this information is pulled together on any computer that I choose to log on to, anywhere. Lets, prioritise;
- Calendar: To be honest mine is not ideal, it will only iSync one way* but I add my details online, the Mac then syncs itself to it so I have an offline record and my smartphone synchs to the mac. ( *I won’t go in to the ins and outs of the sync process here). I am considering MobileMe though.
- To Do List: Top of the to-do list is get in the habit of using the to-do list
- Social Networking: Make your own call whether or not you buy into this. I have just glanced across to my second monitor that shows the start-page and can see that Sarah Beeney had a “flippin delicious supper”. I assume from the use of “flippin” and “supper” that she is “jolly posh”. My.
- RSS feeds: Hands up, I was late to the table on this one. There are a huge number of people out there with genuinely interesting things to say, and the best thing is they do, online, regularly. Find an RSS reader and start subscribing. if you don’t like what you get unsubscribe. I get design tips, coding tips and plain stupid humour.
Information on the screen where it works best for me
When I chose a start page I needed one that would allow me to place the information on the screen where it works best for me. I wanted one that didn’t take an age to load because I was getting all manner of advertising that I didn’t want. Sometimes some of the widgets that I add don’t work as well as they might, generally though if you are looking for interfaces for Twitter, Facebook and the like there is a choice so find a better one if you aren’t happy.
If I want to I can change the look of the page but for me less is more this whole exercise is about functionality and communication.
Google (iGoogle) and Yahoo allow you to set up start pages easily. Less well known are netvibes and pageflakes, and on a wider scale Apple’s MobileMe offers a huge amount of functionality although in this case at some cost. You will however need to invest a bit of time to find out which is best for you but in the log run this will be a worthy investment.