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David Lee King

I am a portal…



Yesterday, I taught another one of my Introduction to Web 2.0 classes – this time at the Missouri Public Library Director’s meeting. There were about 50-60 library directors there, which was pretty cool!

Afterwards, they asked some great questions. One of their questions really puzzled me at first – someone asked me to explain the difference between a portal and an RSS feed. Really. I said something about how a portal is really just a large website with lots of links on the main page, and how an RSS feed isn’t anything like that at all – but still wasn’t really satisfied by my answer.

So as I was driving back to Kansas City, I was mulling it over… and here’s what I came up with.
Anyone remember Netscape’s front page from, say, about 1999? It was a portal site – lots of links, and the page pulled up information from different sources – reuters, stock information, sports stuff, etc – and stuck it all on that single page. I think you could even customize it a little bit. Pretty cool for the time.

Even though it was customizable, it couldn’t REALLY do all I wanted it to do. It couldn’t, for example, pull up the list of new fantasy novels at the local public library. It couldn’t deliver just the news I was interested in. So there were some definite limitations.

As I was thinking about that library director’s question, and was remembering all that stuff about portals … it dawned on me just how excellent of a question that really was. Because, with RSS:

I am the portal

And that’s a huge shift. In 1999, I had to rely on a company to gather the information they thought I might want. But today, with RSS, I don’t have to rely on said company. I can, instead, rely on MYSELF to gather whatever it is I want.
I can get the information I want, when I want it.

So now I have my answer (not that it’ll ever come up again :-).

Anyone else have creative, useful answers to questions about emerging digital technology? I’d love to see them.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • http://www.goblin-cartoons.com/library/ joshua m. neff

    This isn’t horrible original, but I always explain RSS feeds this way: it’s like having a subscription to your favorite magazines, instead of having to go to the newstand everyday to see if a new issue is in. (For some reason, I’m thinking I stole that from Jenny Levine. But maybe I think I’ve stolen everything from Jenny Levine.)

    But it really just boils down to the same thing: I am the portal, and I decide what information I’ll get, and when.

  • http://www.goblin-cartoons.com/library/ joshua m. neff

    This isn’t horrible original, but I always explain RSS feeds this way: it’s like having a subscription to your favorite magazines, instead of having to go to the newstand everyday to see if a new issue is in. (For some reason, I’m thinking I stole that from Jenny Levine. But maybe I think I’ve stolen everything from Jenny Levine.)

    But it really just boils down to the same thing: I am the portal, and I decide what information I’ll get, and when.

  • http://libtechbytes.blogspot.com Helene

    I like your thinking. RSS does enable us to each become our own portals. Whenever I teach RSS and a newsreader class (BTW: The class title is “What the @#$* is RSS & where do I get a Newsreader?”) to our staff, I find participants understand RSS better when I tell them this …

    RSS is the way information travels, it’s a news stream of information that is constantly updated. For the information consumer (average user) RSS is invalable without a newsreader/aggregator to pull the newstreams together and make them easily accessible.

    For the information consumer the newreaders(portal page) is the key tool to use. For the information provider, the tools that push/create RSS feeds (like blogs) are the key tool to use. RSS is just the newsfeed that ties the info consumer & info provider together.

    I find this explanation really creates the lightbulb moments for our staff.

  • Mike

    I just made a presentation to our Management Team about a new vision for our public library’s E-Branch. I wanted to head off any question about whether this was “just the web site” we were talking about. So at the outset, I explained it this way:

    A library isn’t just the building it’s housed in. It’s the sum of its people, services, collections, procedures, and so much more.

    In the same way, an e-branch is more than a web site. It’s a collection of skills, technology, content, design, and more–brought together in one place (yes, a web site) to serve our users’ needs.

  • Mike

    I just made a presentation to our Management Team about a new vision for our public library’s E-Branch. I wanted to head off any question about whether this was “just the web site” we were talking about. So at the outset, I explained it this way:

    A library isn’t just the building it’s housed in. It’s the sum of its people, services, collections, procedures, and so much more.

    In the same way, an e-branch is more than a web site. It’s a collection of skills, technology, content, design, and more–brought together in one place (yes, a web site) to serve our users’ needs.

  • http://edulib.blogspot.com/ Mark Carden

    I guess RSS newsreaders are a lot like personalised news portals, but for me the key differentiators / advantages of portals are:
    They are both designed by someone else and customisable by me.
    They offer not just information but also the ability to carry out transactions.

  • http://edulib.blogspot.com/ Mark Carden

    I guess RSS newsreaders are a lot like personalised news portals, but for me the key differentiators / advantages of portals are:
    They are both designed by someone else and customisable by me.
    They offer not just information but also the ability to carry out transactions.

  • http://libtechbytes.blogspot.com/ Helene

    I like your thinking. RSS does enable us to each become our own portals. Whenever I teach RSS and a newsreader class (BTW: The class title is “What the @#$* is RSS & where do I get a Newsreader?”) to our staff, I find participants understand RSS better when I tell them this …

    RSS is the way information travels, it's a news stream of information that is constantly updated. For the information consumer (average user) RSS is invalable without a newsreader/aggregator to pull the newstreams together and make them easily accessible.

    For the information consumer the newreaders(portal page) is the key tool to use. For the information provider, the tools that push/create RSS feeds (like blogs) are the key tool to use. RSS is just the newsfeed that ties the info consumer & info provider together.

    I find this explanation really creates the lightbulb moments for our staff.