Widgets Make Everything Better, Even the Environment

Widgets really do make everything better.  For a long time, widgets have made beer better.  Now widgets make the environment better too.

ABC and the Arbor Day Foundation are doing this REALLY cool campaign.  ABC picked 9 of their widgets and every 10 times someone watches a video on one of the widgets a tree sapling will be planted.

Use widgets, watch videos, and get trees planted.  That ROCKS!  Check out the post I did on the Clearspring blog and go use the widgets.  It’s for the environment man!

2008 and The Componentization of the Web

Last weekend in California there was the 2008 DEMO conference.   The conference serves as a launchpad for new Web startups.  It’s a great opportunity to see what the new thing is going to be.

Over at the GigaOm blog, they boiled down the four biggest themes that came from this year’s DEMO conference. One struck my eye:

Componentization of the web

The web’s full of pieces: static images, YouTube clips, Facebook widgets and Flash plugins. Startups want to let users rework these pieces their own way.

This is exactly what i’ve been saying.  When people find a Web site or piece of content they like, they want to be able to take it with them and do stuff with it.

This theme is also why I joined the widget platform company Clearspring.

So if you create online content, how are you allowing your users to grab a hold of and do stuff with the useful components?

Follow My Widget Adventures at the Clearspring Community Blog

As I mentioned earlier, Wednesday I started at the widget platform company Clearspring Technologies.  As part of my duties as Developer Community Manager, I’m going to be making contributions to Clearspring’s Community Blog.

On Thursday, I made my first post.  Here’s a snippet:

Upon entering our office complex in the morning, I was greeted by our local fire fighters.  Our office was without power because apparently a tree  fell on a nearby power substation.

When you’re a Web-based startup like Clearspring, it’s pretty hard to get any work done when there’s no power.  So what do you do?  You setup a mini-golf course around the cubicles and offices.   It was fun and a great way to get to know some of my co-workers.

There will be many more posts so stop by, drop me a comment, and say hello.

BTW, Here’s a fun sticker I found on our office Red Bull container.

WidgetDevCamp rocked Washington DC.

Friday night and all day Saturday Washington DC held the inaugural WidgetDevCamp

It was a gathering of local geeks to talk about the issues relating to widgets and other modular social applications ( like Facebook apps.)  There was also a lot of widget and social application hacking.

On Friday night we gathered to talk about the overall goal of the event, we discussed high level issues and uses related to widgets, and also brainstormed widgets we wanted to build. Before and after there was also lots of time to hang out and relax.  It was a good opportunity to get to know others who were interested in the space.  I think there were 50-60 people who were there on Friday night.

Bill Rubacky

On Saturday while only 30-40 people there, we had folks leading GREAT discussions.  There was everything from how to use widgets with the social graph, an overview of the Clearspring platform, widget best practices, desktop versus Web widgets, JavaScript vs. Flash vs. Flex for widgets, Facebook app development 101, and much more.  It was great!

Also we had a number of folks who spent a lot of time Saturday doing some coding.  We had guys writing widgets, Facebook apps, and some even playing with Google’s Android mobile platform.  At the end of the day on Saturday, we gave the different developers time to demo what they’d been hacking up and the demo’s caused some really great discussion too.

One conclusion that I walked away from the event with is that all too often people work on their various projects and home by themselves but they’ll have a TON more fun if they can do it with or around other people with like interests.  We need more co-working in Washington DC.  I’ll write more about this later.

If you’d like to have a WidgetDevCamp in your city, please e-mail me at justin AT clearspring DOT com.  I’d be happy to help however I can.

Note: First photo was taken by Jason Garber.  The second photo was taken by me.

Photos from WidgetDevCamp DC

UPDATE: You can see more photos at the WidgetDevCamp DC Flickr Group.  If you took photos of the event, please join the group and add the photos.

So WidgetDevCamp DC was this last weekend… it was awesome!  Here are some photos.  I’ll be writing more about it later.

IMG_0040 IMG_0035

IMG_0032 Peter talking about the social graph

IMG_0028 Mmmm donuts

Widgets are The Future of The Comic Strip

Growing up, reading comic strips was my major reason to read the newspaper.  To this day, I still enjoy reading the comics within the Style section of the Washington Post.  Mainly, I read Garfield, Peanuts, and Dilbert.

But I have the feeling that the physical newspaper isn’t long for this world.  (I think my home town newspaper is getting small enough that it will qualify as a pamphlet.)

People are turning to the Web for their information.  Web applications like personalized home pages are becoming the view port into the world.  The Web can give me what I want… where I want it

If the comic strip wants to succeed, it needs to be modular so that its content  can be syndicated in whatever environment a user desires.

Well… Dilbert has done just that. There is now the Official Dilbert Widget.

You can post the Dilbert widget to your personalized home page, your social network, or your blog side bar easily. From within the widget, you can search view today’s comic strip (pane by pane) or you can view past comic strips.

I think it’s wonderful. It’s on my iGoogle page.

And… Yes, the Official Dilbert Widget is powered by Clearspring Technologies. (Disclosure: I’m joining the staff at Clearspring.)

What do you think of the Dilbert Widget?  Have you installed it somewhere yet?  Could you make it better?  How could you take the future of publishing comic strips to an even better level?

Digg (Quietly) Releases a New iGoogle Widget

Digg's New iGoogle Widget

Google’s personalized home page service iGoogle is one of my viewports into the world.  It is also how I mainly interact with Digg.

I was pleasantly surprised today when I noticed that Digg had updated their iGoogle widget.

Before you could just get a listing of the recent top stories.  Now you can flip see the recent top news stories, images, or videos either separately or together.  There is even the little news story image, like on Digg. You can see your friends activity.  Finally, you can also select specific topics that you want to see.

I think this is a PERFECT example of a Web application letting you take the functionality you enjoy with you.  You use Digg in the comfort of an environment that makes sense for you.  In this case, it’s iGoogle… and a lot of people use iGoogle.

On a related note: why isn’t Digg blogging about this?  Fanboys can only be fanboys if they know what you’re doing.

My Favorite Web Sites Are The Ones I Visit The Least

Recently, I had the realization that my favorite Web sites were the ones I visited the least.  The first thing I do when I find a Web site that I want to visit again is look for an RSS feed.  If I find one, chances are I won’t come to the Web site again for a while.  If the Web site doesn’t have an RSS feed, I’ll forget about it and the site will miss out on some traffic.

My RSS reader has become one of my information or lifestyle hubs.  For me, there are others that I use daily.  My mobile phone and my television are all places where I expect to be able to receive all of my various feeds of information.  They are my viewports into the world.

We are moving away from this idea of having to view a Web site to view Web content.  The thing is… this is so radical.   Web content creators need to realize that they’re going to have to give up a lot of control if they want to be successful.

The content you put online is going to be viewed out of the context of which it was initially created.

This is all part of the reason why I’m so into the idea of widgets.  It’s an easier way for users to aggregate your Web content or Web application… much easier then trying to explain RSS to someone.

For example, the popular online chat application Meebo received 84% of it’s traffic through it’s widget.