Why I loathe Portaportal
The following is an attack on an idea and a structure. I am in no way trying to attack you if you use Portaportal but I would like to change your mind. I encourage you blasting back in the comments but if you call me names, I’ll likely cry.
Sure, I get a lot of dirty looks from educators when I loathe Portaportal1. Portaportal is, after all, the educators friend.
“Look how easy it is!”
“I can share links with my students!”
Yes, yes and yes but just about everything is easy and shareable these days. I have two2 main problems with Portaportal.
Round One – The Surface
I’ll deal with the minor stuff (relatively) first.
“But,” I can hear the rebukes, “Craigslist is ugly and look how popular it is.” or “I don’t care what it looks like as long as it does what I want.”
First of all, Craigslist is ugly but it’s taking you to free things you actually want. Portaportal, especially in an educational context, is taking you to something you’ve been told you want. That’s a big difference. I’ll put up with ugly if it’s free, bringing me to things I, in my heart of hearts, want and there’s no more attractive3 solution.
Secondly, there’s no reason for educators to eternally accept and be happy with 3rd tier solutions. What would you think of a business using Portaportal? Maybe you wouldn’t notice or care. I would. I’d look at it and wonder with all the more powerful and more attractive ways there are to share links on the web, why in the world would they choose this one. I would then assume they didn’t know about anything better or they decided this was the best. Either way, I’m not drawing good conclusions4.
Round Two – The Core
This is the big one.
Teachers shouldn’t have to double up on work. It’s a waste of time and energy. Portaportal is an online parallel of the old school organization of bookmarks/favorites. I set up my categories (folders in everything but name). I can have categories within categories. If I want a link in two categories, I have to enter it twice. If i need to remove it, I need to remove it twice.
The fact that there’s no real way to aggregate and separate is a key issue. If the link is in my site, I can’t easily make it appear in your site or elsewhere.
- It doesn’t integrate well into a work flow. If you’re going to use this as your main bookmarking tool then you’ll need multiple portals and keeping things separated is not something I even want to contemplate. If it’s not your main tool then you’re eternally taking something from your bookmarking option of choice and then manually adding it to Portaportal
- This isn’t the way I want my teachers thinking about bookmarking. It’s on the web but it’s not networked. There’s no social aspect I can easily harness to see who else might be an advantage to me.
- There are no RSS feeds to let me know when things have changed.
- This site is eternally outside my other web presences. There’s no way to break off categories from Portaportal and put them on other websites or blogs I have.
So this all started because of a brief twitter conversation with Craig Nansen. Here’s how I use delicious (but really, I could use any bookmarking service with a tag specific RSS feed) to do things that mimic Portaportal in some cases and far exceed it in other cases.
Delicious has a built in “linkroll” generator although it’s hard to find now. Here’s a direct link. Once you’re there you can set up all kinds of specificity in your feeds based on single tags or a combination of tags. You can then cut and paste the code into WordPress or Dreamweaver or whatever.
You’ve got the option to include your notes and tags. I like that. I can add or remove metadata based on intended audience.
A Few Examples
The first, and easiest, is just putting the delicious feed into a sidebar or blog post. You can see that in the sidebar here. There are a number of plugins that can help as well. To put a similar feed in a blog post or page you’d just paste the link roll code into the editing window in html view. To mimic what Craig did in Portaportal5, I’d set up pages for grades and then child pages based on subject. The interesting thing about doing that would be having a multi-subject list on the grade page for most recent stuff for general interest browsing and then a more direct subject based option if you wanted more specificity. That’d be especially relevant in k-5.
Secondly, you can use FeedWordPress to autopost from specific tag combinations. You can do that for a specific user account or do it more generally based on a tag (or tag combo) from any delicious user. I’m using that with my tech integration class. They’re posting links of interest to delicious with the URedtech tag and it auto posts them here.
The third is a page I built about 4 years ago. I freely admin it’s not particularly attractive but it’s ugly in a way that I can control. There are all kinds of feeds coming in via a variety of delicious linkrolls. Additionally, there are feeds coming in from a flick RSS feeed and one from a Technorati search. Granted, this is far more than most teachers would want to do but it’s an easy thing to set up as a template.
Other Things I Like
I use the send option all the time in Delicious. Once again, it cuts out steps for me. Instead of cutting and pasting into an email and then that person going from email to browser, it’s all in the browser and all in the context of bookmarks. It keeps things clean and concise.
I find lots of things through my network of strange bookmarkers. I’m not really interested in the increased community available on diigo or other sites. I just want to skim the data here. For me, and you may differ, bookmarks are about harnessing collective energy. I don’t need or want the extra layer of conversation around these bits of data.
In the end, of course, you do what works for you. Different people need and want different things. I just hate to see educators following technologies that are essentially dead. Portaportal doesn’t build skills or help expand people’s thoughts on how information should be shared and organized effectively and efficiently in a world where information can flow. It’s still stuck in the box mentality. It creates the illusion of progress while still maintaining the exact mindset of the past. Maybe it’s a necessary middle step. I don’t think so. I’d rather see a clean break with that mentality and its related inefficiencies.
1 It may be because I say it in a really low voice and really draw out the looooooaaaaaathe part.
2 Three if you count the name.
3 By attractive I don’t mean glittery and bespangled but well designed and thought out in terms of a variety of design elements.
4 Harsh, I know but most kids and parents are pretty harsh in their appraisal of teachers and education.
5 I do want to be clear, I’m in no way attacking Craig. He does great things and is an amazing educator. I have the utmost respect for him and what he does. I just really, really don’t like Portaportal.
6 Yes, yes, I know. Purple and green. Not my choice.