After attending the launch party for the Cam23 project last night, I felt inspired to really take on the first Thing. I am one of those people who already uses igoogle, so setting up a personalised page was not a new concept for me. I instead began by looking at pageflakes and netvibes, and was particularly impressed by the latter. Like all these tools, I feel that their usefulness has more to do with the ability of the individual to design and maintain a page rather than the innate usefulness of the tool in itself. Even when personalising a page with these tools, I find that there is always something that looked useful at the start but then clutters up the page, but I only realise how useful it really is after I remove it. Perhaps this says something about my psyche rather than the tools involved!
I did learn something new about igoogle despite already using it: I had no idea that it was possible to set up tabs in the igoogle menu bar in order to separate personalised pages into different groups of useful gadgets. This is such a fantastic idea in theory: something like the COPAC widget may be wonderfully useful whilst cataloguing but then redundant whilst browsing personal things like horoscopes or the weather. It is the perfect solution for people who like to compartmentalise their lives; one tab for work, one for home, one for weekends etc. However, whilst I am glad that I found out about the tabbing potential of igoogle, I do not enjoy segragation of life spheres. For me, web 2 technology and the developing way in which we connect and work leads to our work and personal lives merging. This is no bad thing; in fact, it allows us to see ourselves and each other as rounded people. Obviously, a degree of professionalism needs to be maintained, but surely that is also the case when people exercise restraint when posting personal content. As information professionals, it is a positive thing that these web 2 tools inform our professional lives, and inevitable that they impact on our personal spheres.
I did add an rss feed to my igoogle and was impressed with the box that comes up to contain the feed and the ease of adding the feed. However, personally I prefer to use a reader and already use bloglines. The thought of moving my feeds across fills me with a type of dread akin to repackaging all my books for a house move. I also quite enjoy the fact that I do not have everything that I need to look at in one place; the concept of giving igoogle or netvibes access to my twitter feeds, my rss feeds, my email and everything else is one that I find slightly worrying. I need very much to stay in control and not to place too much information in the hands of one provider. Already, I do not like the fact that, if I am logged into igoogle or gmail, my ID is remembered if I use google as a search engine. I fear personalisation of results and the resulting commercial exploitation of my data. Therefore I prefer to keep things in a variety of places, under different logins and passwords. But the main reason for my need to keep some information separate is simple: I love that feeling when I log in to a particular tool - be it gmail, igoogle, twitter or bloglines - and see the notifications or feed numbers or new messages. Having everything in one place would diminish that slightly.
Looking at how libraries use netvibes was really interesting and I was impressed with how so many libraries are designing pages that pull together their electronic resources and content to one place which looks and feels fresh and current. It is important when looking at these types of tools to remember their relevance to library users as well as to librarians.