Personal Portals

I’ve been thinking about Personal Portals recently. There’s no definitive definition out there, but here’s a shot:

personal portal

noun A Web page that offers content and services customized for an individual.

Example Citation:

“Some function as ‘personal portals,’ collection spots for all sorts of information that matters to the computer user, such as local weather reports, a favorite sports team’s schedule, local museum openings and CD releases.”

—Siona LaFrance, “Online Calendar Services Vie for New Users,” The Times-Picayine, May 13, 1999

This is not to be confused with a full site like here, but something more, well… personal. At work for example, I have hundreds of bookmarks (maybe thousands) that I have in my browser. Bookmarks in a browser (Favorites) are not the most organized and you end up create folders and sub-folders trying to make them appear organized. Instead, what about using a web page to organize this information (and in some cases, several pages)?

Too many people do not take advantage of the fact that your browser does not have to immediately go on to the web and slow up the system to load the Netscape, AOL or Microsoft home pages which are designed to promote their companies and services. This takes time and gets old fast. Your best bet is to load a page from your local hard disk. This is such a page which loads instantly and links to commonly used sites. You don’t need a web server to do this as you can load static pages into your browser directly.

I find this to be a more organized way to find stuff and is suited to me. Sure, having a system give you the ability to capture your own preferences is great (like a SharePoint Portal Server My Site) but it means you hammer the server everytime you launch your browser? Does that make sense when you don’t have to? At work we have the browsers configured to go to our intranet home page and you can’t change it (a GPO is pushed down setting it back to the corporate website). However if I have to visit a internet site, I’m always loading up a page from our servers for no reason? Okay, again this is the place to push information out to employees that’s deemed important but why not let the user go there if they want? More often than not, just sending me to the corporate page is going to desentize me to the content anyways if I’m always ignoring it because it’s just a tunnel to what I really want.

There are other advantages/disadvantages to this idea. Ctrl+D is a great way to quickly bookmark a site and if I told a user they had to edit a local file to add a new link rather than press a button they’d keel-haul me (look it up, it’s very painful). Overall though, give a user a local template (or choice of templates to start from) and simple instructions to add their own content and you might win some over. You can even have contests or something where you work as to best personal portal page or whatever.

Of course I could never sell this idea where I work but your mileage may vary.

Instructions:

The first thing to do is create a portal page. This can be done by capturing and saving a page from the web or creating your own (if there’s interest, I’ll put together some simple boilerplate pages to use). You can capture a web page from the web by using the “Save As…” function (click on File on the browser menu bar, then drop down to Save As..) and save the file as home.htm in your “My Documents” folder.

Once you’ve properly saved the file then do the following:

In Microsoft Explorer click on View then Internet Options. This opens your options folder and right at the top (under the “General” tab) it asks you for your home page address. Click on the Browse button and locate the “home.htm” file you just saved and then click on OK. You can test the page by clicking on the HOME icon on the browser toolbar. It should load this new page instantly. You can now use the HOME icon for quick access to the many links on the Universal Home Page.

To customize the page just load up that “home.htm” file into a program that can edit it for you like an HTML editor. You can also edit “home.htm” with Microsoft Word! Then save it back to your My Documents directory to use the new links. Be creative and have fun!