Monday night epiphany

Sometimes a technology is just a technology until you have had that magical experience of basking in the rays of the light bulb which just flicked on over your head. I had one of those epiphanies on Monday night while paying my bills online. I noticed a link that I hadn’t paid attention to so far on my account – MyPortfolio ™, and the explanation read: “View and manage your online accounts, including non-Bank of America accounts, from a single location.” Right, I thought. I’ll believe it when I see it. About 5 minutes later (that could be 5 hours later if you don’t have all your passwords on hand!), I had set up a single webpage with live information on my checking account, my mortgage, my 401(B), an investment account, my corporate credit card, my private credit card and (here it comes!) my half-dozen frequent flyer accounts. For kicks, I added in my gmail account, and for levity, a subscription to The Onion. And if I had any online auctions to track, I could have monitored those as well.

I assume that this service comes to me largely courtesy of technologies such as web services, and RSS for the newsfeeds. Apart from the ease of set-up and the invigorating panic attack after realizing that I had just handed a single corporation the key to my entire online life, the whole experience could only be as satisfying as it was because of the pervasiveness of the technology powering the data integration and the high degree of customization – I picked the accounts, and every single one of them made itself available.

At the end of the day, it’s precisely this pervasiveness and customization which will also win the day in making resources from libraries, archives and museums truly useful & cherished. Now that I can balance the depressing view of my mortgage with a sarcastic headline from the Onion while realizing that I’m only 2000 miles away from getting a free flight to Europe, I’m more excited than ever to see what kinds of uses for these types of technologies will emerge in the communities I work with. Care to highlight a cutting-edge project?

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