Staying Abreast the Hobby

I wanted to take a moment to look at how I collect and collate news and information about the tabletop roleplaying hobby. My target audience is those that have just plugged into the online element of the hobby, but I might even be able to show the old geezers who have been doing this since BBS [1] a new trick. It might be especially useful to new bloggers as staying abreast of the latest and greatest will either allow you to be a leader or at least abstain from contributing to the echo chamber [2].

Mad Brew's iGoogle
Mad Brew's iGoogle

Tabbed Browsing

I don’t know if many people aren’t using a tabbed browser, unless you use an old version of Internet Explorer (and if you do, get a frillin’ update). I just happen to have a dual monitor set-up, so I keep a browser nearly maximized on one of the screens. I usually have anywhere between two to four tabs opened in that browser (#1 in the image).

The primary tab is my iGoogle home page, which I’ll cover in depth next. The other tabs tend to be aggregator sites that I don’t really want cluttering iGoogle all the time. I suppose I could add them to a separate iGoogle tab, but these work for me just fine. Some examples sites that you might find useful include:

iGoogle

If I’m married to Microsoft, Google is my mistress and I think their “web 2.0” homepage is the bee’s knees. What is exactly is iGoogle you ask? Well, it’s a customizable homepage that you can add widgets (Google calls them gadgets) that retrieve information and interacts with other web services. It also loads Google Chat just as if you were in Gmail.

As you can see from the screenshot of my iGoogle page (residing in Chrome, which I highly recommend), it is customizable. You could create your own theme if you wanted, but I’m using the official Dungeons & Dragons theme. I’m not sure if you can make the header any thinner, but I’d prefer information to eye candy.

You can create numerous tabs within iGoogle (to the left of #2 in the image, this is my “Networks” tab) and fill them with the gadgets of your choice. On my iGoogle set up, I have a Google Group gadget where I can keep tabs on new messages in the mailing lists I subscribe too (I dislike cluttering email with group messages).

Below Google Groups is my Gmail gadget (#3). It displays the 5 latest emails. Below Gmail is my Facebook Gadget (#4), which is basically an iframe of the mobile FB site. Again, I like to keep the inbox clutter free, so I don’t allow a lot of email traffic from Facebook. This gadget also lets me see updates from RPG related pages I have fanned and updates from friends involved in the industry.

In the right hand column I have my Google Reader gadget (#5) which allows me to follow my favorite blogs (not necessarily RPG related). You may have noticed I use browser tabs to visit feed aggregators instead of subscribing to them. I find that is the best method to keep a high signal-to-noise ratio of relevant information in my feeds. I sort of browse the aggregators to see if anything catches my eye from time to time (and to make sure I’m not contributing to the echo chamber).

The final piece of my iGoogle experience is TwitterGadget (#6). It’s an excellent Twitter client, and while it doesn’t support fancy crap like grouping my connections, it is still feature rich. I utilize Twitter more and more every day as a source of news and information. Twitter excels as an information broker.

Conclusion

I highly recommend iGoogle to organize your information sources, and I totally encourage you to find new gadgets that get the job done better than the ones I have (been awhile since I set up my iGoogle page). In fact, if you’re code savvy, try your hand at making one.

I also welcome readers and fellow bloggers to share your own methods of hunting and gathering information. Post your tips in the comments or write your own articles and post a link here.

References


[1] A precursor to the World Wide Web. Go read the Wikipedia entry.

[2] This happens when you have multiple sites reporting the same tired crap.

Listening to: Dr. Steel – People of Earth – Atomic Superstar

4 thoughts on “Staying Abreast the Hobby

  1. @Stargazer: I think the big selling point for me is that if I wanted something that isn’t already available, I could always code up a widget myself.

  2. I used iGoogle for a while but I ultimately found it a little too clunky in my browser for regular use (not that it isn’t a great tool, and clearly it works for you). TwitterGadget remains a big favorite of mine, though, since you can also stick it into Gmail as a gadget.

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