How do you keep the pulse of the Internet? At present (and for a good while now), there are over a billion websites. You can Google/Bing searches and possibly save the searches for future use or make them a Bookmark/Favorite. That is ok. But I want to go somewhere and see what my agents dug up for me to look at and examine. It is almost a Genealogy Newsletter (ok, but I want more than Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter). But I want it is tailored to my needs and interests. Eastman is broad, but seldom specific to Slavic (Polish, Russian, Czech, Ukraine, Belarus, etc.) research, or to a specific locale: Detroit, Toledo, Buffalo, Philadelphia, etc.
Enter iGoogle. I have been using it for a year or two now and have steadily tweaked it to my purpose and tastes. iGoogle is what we techies call a customized portal (similar to Yahoo or AOL, but more like My-Yahoo). People may be vaguely aware that Google has more software available than its iconic Search Engine. But where is this software? The Google products are located:
iGoogle is near the top (presently second). Ok, so now you register for an account and login to Google and igoogle.com instead of google.com (for both search and portal capabilities). You can use Classic Google or iGoogle (so you are not locked in to the new search portal) and go back and forth. Now you need to add TABs (I pick one per subject: Genealogy, Science, Financial, etc.). So create a “Genealogy” Tab. Now you can add gadgets or feeds. I have a mix of some of each on my Genealogy TAB. I like to have Google’s Translator gadget and Sirius Genealogy Date Calculator as handy gadgets. Useful tools to my research right at hand.
Next we need to define the blogs or RSS feeds of websites that we need to cull information from on a “regular” basis. Now a blog is just an article (or web log) that an author creates with useful info/data. The RSS thingys are just the Internet’s way of broadcasting to you what has changed at a website, but you must subscribe (no fee). This is how I can stay on top of what is happening elsewhere on the Internet (without intensive googling, web surfing or reading many emails/newsletters or magazines). HINT: you may want to subscribe to this blog if you are a Polish Genealogist or a genealogist with some Polish ancestors.
OK, I did add Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter to my Genealogy Tab as he does one of the finest newsletters on genealogy. I also subscribe to Tracing The Tribe and many other Polish genealogy websites. Libraries, Genealogy/Historical Societies, and Archives specific to locations where my ancestors lived are excellent candidates for my Genealogy Portal that I am creating in iGoogle. Here’s a winning tip, I use what’s changed in Ancestry.com (in my shared area) as a feed. That is the essence. Tailored like a nice suit.
Now left-brain people will thrill that you can arrange your page and set how many lines each feed gets or how many columns you can have (1,2,3 or 4). You can even “skin” your page to improve the esthetics (eye of the beholder). Now I put my feeds up near the top and the gadgets near the bottom, so I do not have to scroll to see info. I do in fact tweak my page periodically to get the most useful feeds near the top or to get rid of feeds that are not useful or are too static (unchanging). Since I am researching ancestors across the ocean, I do have foreign-language websites too (hence Google Translator). Here’s what a finished product looks like ( a partial screenshot) …
So now iGoogle is my Hubble-Space-Telescope into the vastness of the Internet taking snapshots and presenting me a daily synopsis of what is going on far and wide that I may want to apprise myself of. That’s it, a technological solution to information overload and time management — as this is my window and I make it a discipline to make a quick daily check of what is going on.