ABOUT Jonathan's Useful Links Page

Me in VeniceWhy I created this links page
I found that when I was working (rather than just surfing) I tended to go back to the same sites again and again (New York Public Library, COPAC, University of London Library etc). As I work on a number of different computers, it helps if I can have the same links available on all of them. I also want to be able to share links as simply as possible with students, colleagues or friends.

Why not use 'Favourites'?
Internet Explorer lets you drag and drop links to the bar immediately above the browser window, so that you can click on your most used sites, but you can only fit about five or six at the most there - and if you're not at your usual computer, you've got someone else's links, not yours. There are programs and sites available which allow you to upload your 'favourites' on to a server and share them - but the ones I tried showered the page with graphics which made using or updating the page painfully slow - not to mention the usual penalty for using free sites such as banner ads and adservers.

Favourites suck anyway. If you open the 'favourites' menu on the left, it reduces the size of the browser window. If you use the drop down menu, you have to wait for it to drop down, open a folder, select the link - and watch while the page you were looking at disappears because you don't have the option to open a link in a new window. Organizing favourites is slow and difficult, because you so often are left trying to remember what page a URL refers to, or guessing what Untitled Document might mean.

The desktop concept
What I wanted, in fact, was a 'desktop' in the true sense of the word - something with a limited number of high-level links that would fit on a single page and would always be there in the background. But Windows saves links to the desktop with the same annoying icon for every page, rather like an over-designed kitchen where you can't tell the difference between the breadbin, the fridge and the dishwasher. A desktop with fifty icons on it? Yuk.

If you want something done properly...
So I did it myself. This meant I could do away with needless graphics or javascript to speed up loading, and I could make all links open in a new window, so that the desktop would always be there, as a desktop should be. Originally, I restricted the number of links to a number which would mean you wouldn't have to do any scrolling, but the page has grown a bit since then. I'm trying to decide whether to syphon off some of the lower-level links onto a separate page to get back to the single-screen desktop - a hard decision, because the most important feature of the design is that the desktop is a 'flat table' in database terms.

Why 'Jonathan's Useful Link Page?'
As you'll see from my job title - Lecturer in Music Studies with Responsibility for IT in the Faculty of Education at the Royal Academy of Dance - my work covers a number of different disciplines - music, dance, education and IT. I can't think of a blanket-term to describe what I do, or what my page does. It reflects what I want to do when I use the internet, rather than being a true subject gateway, so I left it at 'Jonathan's Useful LInk Page'. It's mine, it's a page and it's got useful links on it.

The Web sees sense at last...
In view of all of the above, I was delighted when I discovered that the people at PALATINE (Performing Arts Learning And Teaching Innovation NEtwork) at the University of Lancaster were making a dance links page. It goes live in October, but the structure and some sample links are already there. The design of the page is just what the web needs - simple, fast loading and visible at once. For anyone involved in dance or dance education, this is looks likely to be one of the most useful high-level resources available, so I'm honoured that they've included a review of this page on their site.

How you can help
I would welcome suggestions for more links, especially if you think know of better high-level links than the ones I have for particular subjects. I've recently exchanged a 'library jargon' link, for example, for the Online Dictionary of Library and Information Science, a much more infomative site. I'd be glad to consider any suggestions about aspects of the design.

And finally...
My top five favourite sites:

Alltheweb - fast, reliable and allows you to search for complete strings
COPAC - search 20 UK Academic libraries at once. it uses Z39.50 so you can download records using Endnote or Reference Manager
New York Public Library - unbeatable for works on dance, in my opinion
The American memory collection - yes, a real digital library from the LIbrary of Congress. If this is the future, I like it
Berkeley California Internet Tutorial - what everyone should know about the web and no-one tells you

© Jonathan Still 2001 You may quote from these pages, but if your selection includes a reference I have made to someone else's work, please make sure that the attribution is clear. By not doing so, you may implicate me in plagiarism.

Updated Sunday November 3, 2002 10:15 PM