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.