Clearing a folder of “old stuff” out the other day (you know, the folder on your computer where you drop everything unwanted off your desktop into every six months or so, and hope to go back and sort it, archive it a little later on — but never get round to doing, and so it builds up, being transferred from computer to computer) I found a static HTML file called “homepage.html”.
It was a hand coded hand HTML file from about the year 2000, that had a pretty calming blue background, white Arial copy, FONT SIZE=”2″ and a three column table on it. Each column contained links to sites, that I tried to visit at least once a week. It was loosely divided up into sport/news, culture (ie. music), and web (which must have been Wired, Webmonkey, and the O’Reilly websites). Why? The idea was more to get me to visit these various sites regularly, daily if possible, and the thinking was a page like this something as my browser’s homepage would make those pages more immediately on hand, a shortish list to work through. Bookmarks? There for more irregularly visited sites (and I had a about 150 sites bookmarked back then).
It was also a prompt for when I started up my machine to take something new in, a reminder right there at the start of the day that there was a world outside of my computer, a world outside of the office, and if all else failed I’d connected with the world. Additionally if I needed inspiration, respite or a distraction from work later on during the day, clicking the home button was all that was needed.
Ah, a mid-afternoon cuppa. While I drink that do I look at the latest Red Meat or see what cool things Wired had written about?
(It was also about this time that URLs could still be weird, wonderful and difficult to remember, usually involving a ~ followed by a username. None of this millions of easy-to-remember URLS like we have today.)
I kept this up for about another four years. Four years! The list changed, and definitely grew, as my role changed at Brahm (finger on the pulse!) and the web grew even more interesting (some might say endless). So, 2004-ish I set my browser home page to default to the Guardian website; and with a tabbed browser about a year later (Firefox?) I had five or six sites open in their own tabs. Look at me! Reading the Guardian every time the browser opens! Look at me later! Able to read through these numerous sites one by one, tab by tab, so I am on top of things!
I had a quick dalliance with Google Reader as my home page for a few months, to read through my ever expanding RSS subscriptions, which was inevitably overwhelming as it sounded. “You have 1030 new unread articles” wouldn’t have been an irregularly high number that greeted me most mornings. Neh. I resisted the urge to have a fling with a “personalised” Google home page (even though a few years on service-wise there are strong parallels there with one of my iPhone screens).
Nowadays I use Chrome as my browser of choice. Nowadays I can’t be arsed. I don’t have a start-up page any more. I don’t have a page dedicated to my daily browsing. Instead I have nothing bar just five “escape pod” bookmarks sitting above the browsing window: Ffffound, the Guardian, Empire, and – for when I want to bring myself down a peg – the Grimsby Town FC site. The problem is I am now a man of habit. I know I will open the Guardian site first thing – as long as their isn’t some urgent first thing checking of a project. I know at some point, usually mid-morning or mid-afternoon I will go to Ffffound, and I start or finish lunch with a quick razz through the Empire news pages. The rest of the day I sent here, there, and everywhere by other sources – emails, Tweets, even conversations (which usually means tapping a search query into the the address bar in Chrome, and AWAY!, we’re off!).
Part of me still yearns for that static page of old, there when I opened the browser up every morning. It brought an amount of order to my day that I could intertwine with my workload, by presenting me with a list of options that in some way would develop my mind. Maybe I can go for it again. But would the file, the lists be as small? Interesting question. I doubt it. Maybe I should try it and find out. Or maybe I should accept it, it was method that worked back then and I have moved on. Maybe I could evolve and use Delicious more. I don’t know. I just don’t know. Maybe I am putting too much emphasis on this. But I think your home page, what greets you when you start up your web browser, is important. Am I alone in all of this?
(For the record, in my first job at sportinglife.com back in 1998, after my first few months I changed my browser homepage from the website I worked on to the Dilbert website home page. This meant I started the working day with a smile, even if it was laughing at the work culture I was about to endure for the rest of the day.)