not yet a widget revolution

i'm a widget believer - but that's mostly a hunch. Sitting in the Widgety Goodness (WGUK07) conference today, my experience is as much of absence as of goodness, even though I agree with Ivan the organizer that widgets will change everything. The geek in me is interested in the distribution mechanisms and the API's - but where's the sense of social relevance? Maybe we've got to wait a while before a new danah boyd can write about the cultural significance of widgets.

Which is a shame. Because surely, surely, this user-powered collaging of the web landscape will have some impact on power relationships online. Isn't that why people are getting excited about Open Social (even though WGUK07 speaker Ankur Shah explained why this is still more hype than reality).

wguk07 logo

The overwhelming perspective seems to be 'how can we as digital agencies use this for the client brand'? Fair enough - but missing the wider impact. To be fair, speakers like Russell Davies put a lot of emphasis on utility, on how a widget can tell me something useful i didn't know. Even better, Russell put it up a gear by reintroducing the idea of fun, and pointed to embodied / offline examples like the Sharkrunner game . (Note: like Charlie Leadbeater i suspect that Alternate Reality Games have a lot to teach us about tools for social change).

When I was at Amnesty we launched irrepressible.info with a widget that allows you to undermine censorship by publishing fragments of censored material on your site. MAPLight.org said they would use NetSquared funds to create customized ‘widgets’ showing campaign contributions and votes in U.S. Congress, updated in real-time. And Steve Bridger has already blogged about a widget response network for emergencies like Darfur and Chad . Maybe when we run the Social Innovation Camp (details coming soon) we'll follow Channel 4's example and run a widget category. As widgets become more widely used I'm sure we'll see widget-based social innovation - and that'll really pump up the goodness in Widgety Goodness.

UPDATE: for interesting posts from other participants, check out the post-conference feeds at  the Widgety Goodness backnetwork .