Personal start pages, rss feeds and my public Netvibes page

Picture of a home

Image cc from Open Clipart Library by netalloy

At long last I have finally made my Netvibes RSS feeds public, and improved my own personal ‘start’ or home page. I have been muttering about doing this for about 4 years and it was only whilst working from home with a broken foot recently that I had the time and space to do it.

But where to start (sorry) in this story? For those who are familiar with RSS feeds, aggregators, and public pages you may want to skip the next few paragraphs.

Some years ago I began using RSS (rich site summary or really simple syndication) feeds  in order to follow and keep up to date with news, blogs I liked etc – at home and at work – after being shown all about them by a friend/external colleague (who was working at the RSC Wales at the time). If you want a simple overview of what RSS feeds are you could watch this video clip (made in 2007 but it explains it well).

There are several ways to manage RSS feeds but I liked Netvibes. Your page can be customised (colours, design, layout etc) and you can have lots of tabs along the top for different categories of things so you can keep everything in order (I am a librarian, after all). I used these RSS feeds a lot for current awareness, especially as you can have an RSS feed to JISCmail email lists, even ones to which you don’t subscribe. However, with a lack of time to maintain them they got a bit disorganised and then I joined Twitter and started blogging and ended up not using my Netvibes page as much. (And the browser in work at the time  couldn’t handle it very well.)

Then during one of Phil Bradley’s talks at the CILIP Wales conference he described how personal ‘start pages’ (using Netvibes for example) were where it’s at (his is here) and I resolved to tidy mine up and make the rest of it a public dashboard so that other people interested in library things could benefit. This would also fit in with my role as Libraries Development Adviser and passing on information, communicating with the sector etc. Two years later I have finally achieved it! Please take a look at it here and let me know what you think of it.

RSS feeds icon

Image CC from

A start (home) page is where you use a website to be the first page that starts up in your Internet browser. Back in the days you might have used the BBC or something similar as your home page, but with tools like Netvibes your home page can be tailored so you have feeds of what you want on there e.g. weather, news, blogs, widgets for Facebook and Twitter accounts, calendar, to do lists, bookmark widgets etc. In work I can’t change my start page so I have my Netvibes page bookmarked and open it up for the remainder of the day.

I don’t know if personal start pages or public RSS feed pages are still where it’s at (two years is a long time in technology!) but I know a few higher education libraries in Wales use them to signpost resources to students (e.g. Swansea University library service for business and economics, complete with lovely picture of the library staff – some of whom I know- this makes the library service more friendly and approachable)  and the Scottish Government library service has a very extensive one. A few other library examples are Dublin City public libraries and University of Worcester library service.

If you’re interested in setting up your own personal start page, to gather RSS feeds etc, you could check out links to loads of different ones here on Phil Bradley’s website. Some of them, such as Netvibes, enables you to make a public version too, which is what I’ve done here. You can also look at Phil’s presentation about start pages and how to use Netvibes.

Why bother? Well here’s some benefits I’ve quickly thought of:

Personal start/home page

  • Gather rss feeds from blogs you want to follow in one place
  • One place for other information needs such as news, weather, to do lists, calendars etc
  • information comes to you, you don’t have to go to each different website/blog etc

Public pages of RSS feeds etc

  • Useful source of information for people interested in the same things
  • For libraries can be good starting point to signpost resources
  • Much easier and quicker to update than a traditional website
  • Able to use photos so can make it user-friendly
  • Able to post links to videos etc – useful ‘how to’ learning guides

There’s probably many other benefits I’ve missed off.

About alysontyler

Civil servant, yoga teacher and former librarian.
This entry was posted in Academic libraries, Communication, Digital things, Libraries, Public libraries, Social media & social networking, Technology and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Personal start pages, rss feeds and my public Netvibes page

  1. I like this post, I didn’t know much about Netvibes and it looks good.

    Personally though I prefer to use the Desktop for this kind of thing. With Internet now that is generally ‘always on’ the days of having a home page in the browser with this information on seems less convenient to having them always available on the desktop. (Either clicking back and forth between tabs, or having to go back all the time).

    Windows 8 is particularly good for this, but Windows 7 has the RSS desktop gadget which integrates with the list of RSS feeds in Internet Explorer. This makes it particularly easy to add RSS feeds as you come across them and automatically have them show on the desktop.

    Mobiles and tablets also have great desktop RSS apps. My Android tablet has a scrolling home screen where I have all my RSS feeds lined up on one bit of it, and can customise alerts on particular ones should I particularly want to follow them.

    Anyway, thanks for the post!

    • alysontyler says:

      Thanks for the comment and useful information. As you highlight, there a lot of options for people now, including how their mobile devices handle RSS feeds etc. Currently for me, I don’t have Windows 7 or 8 at home or work, and don’t have a smart mobile device, and the work computer is a ‘thin client’ so has no permanent desktop so unfortunately I can’t experiment with some of your suggestions. However, for those that do, your suggestions may be more suitable for some people, especially as you say, it’s slightly old fashioned to have a home page browser. Sometimes I keep up with the game, sometimes I just carry on and do my own thing….!

  2. Hywel says:

    Really useful compilation Alyson – no excuse now for not keeping up to date.
    Blwyddyn newydd dda a diddorol!

  3. Thanks for showing off our Netvibes page! Unfortunately it has been decreed that we focus our subject information within Blackboard but we’re retaining Netvibes for the RSS feed content – it’s very good at that kind of display I think. However it raises the issue of corporate / internally maintained systems vs those out there on the web which are free but potentially uncontrollable and unreliable. Having said that, Netvibes has been around for a long time & we’ve not had any problems with it! We’ve also had some very positive comments from academics on our sites.

  4. alysontyler says:

    Netvibes has been around for some time now so appears to be relatively stable, but I do agree that there is often an inclination to retain control over such tools. As you say, Netvibes is very good at certain things though.

  5. @iwlwood says:

    Thanks Alyson for this, very helpful

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