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The Wonderful World of Web Widgets

23 Mar

by Ben Miller

The word “widget” is probably quite unfamiliar to most. The tech-savvy amongst you may well be chortling away at the very thought of it, but in reality it joins a myriad of other additions to the cyber vocabulary that are simply alien to the masses, even in the 21st Century.

As with all things under the sun, from Aachen to Zzap!64, Wikipedia faithfully provides a stunning explanation and introduction to the actually-quite-humble widget:

“In computing a web widget is a software widget for the web. It’s a small application that can be installed and executed within a web page by an end user. They are derived from the idea of code reuse. Other terms used to describe web widgets include: portlet, gadget, badge, module, webjit, capsule, snippet, mini and flake. Widgets are typically created in DHTML, JavaScript, or Adobe Flash.”

In short, it’s a share-aider whose aim is to increase traffic and hits, the execution of which comes under marketing strategy.

But firstly, where did the word “widget” even come from? It is considered that the word widget comes from the combination of the words window-gadget (which would be interpreted as an apparatus, contrivance or device window), although it is known that in 1924 the work entitled Beggar on Horseback by George S. Kaufman and Marc Connelly, the hero of the piece works in a factory that makes “widgets” that are supposed to items or commodities.

In the UK, the word “widget” has an additional meaning – a device used in beer production which helps keep down the temperature of the fermenting hops for long periods without refrigeration.

An interactive widget  (or mini-software) is a tool available on an operating system , a web page or blog . Widgets typically provide interactive information and entertainment. For example, some display stock quotes or weather information, while others can play video games (usually fairly basic as Pong or Space Invaders – all very retro !) .

Widgets, therefore, have an important role in social media. Site widgets are elements that allow webmasters to add “modules” to their websites. Used primarily on blogs, they allow for example to include in the “sidebar” (column on the side) internal information (eg, the last comment) or external (eg, the last notes of other site ). When they appear on the pages of intranet and they satisfy certain safety regulations, the widgets are called “intradget” .

Because you can create a widget according to needs “ordinary or special,” there is an infinity of use widgets. Here are some examples:

  • displays flow RSS that display the latest news on a site
  • post-its
  • weather reports
  • clocks
  • calendars
  • Train schedules
  • mini-games
  • the surveillance system
  • Application Controllers ( XMMS and Gaim)
  • research
  • games

 Widgets are all about sharing content. Here is a very specific breakdown of the Social Media Widget.

Technology and Social Media commentator Corvida Raven has also written a great blog on attention-gathering widgets.


Washington Post on Tumblr

13 Mar

by Ian Kearney



This week the Washington Post launched @innovations, a Tumblr blog which recognises how social media is changing the way people interact with the news .

The goal ? Transparency. The blog which perfectly mirrors the newspaper’s own website aims to provide a new means for journalists to connect with readers as well as showcasing the papers new digital features.

@innovations by The Washington Post

In their first post here’s what @innovations had to say about the social media side of things;

“The news is social. Sites like Facebook and Twitter have fundamentally changed the way we discover relevant information, and led us to discover the power of the crowd.Amanda Zamora, social media and engagement editor, will be Tumbling about social platforms and tools that help drive realtime stories, build relevant conversation and engage readers. Follow her @amzam or e-mail her at amanda.zamora [at] wpost [dot] com.”

While its still early days to see how exactly the paper intends to use the blog, one of the posts entitled Mideast turmoil: behind the Post’s interactive map, gives a chance to engage with the processes that go on behind the scenes in creating the news and provides a richer, interactive experience for readers.

Its always positive to see the media embracing change and while although some might argue that the Washington Post has set up little more than a blog (and that lots of other newspapers have too) this could set the standard for the future of online journalism and social media/reader interaction.