Metablocks

Archive for March, 2009

Blidget Pro Nice but Very Limited

I had a chance to play with WidgetBox’s Blidget Pro. I liked the concept (and wizard builder) but found results a bit constrained.  I quickly upgrade to Pro just to check it out. The Pro promised additional tabs (a not so impressive total of 7 tabs) and the ability to create custom themes. The tabs provided the ability to pull content from Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, Vimeo, Hulu, Blog/Feed RSS and Custom (HTML text) with a decent handful of settings. Here is my creation:

The ability to brand the widget seemed limited and a couple of more tabs would have been nice. Given its price point and feature set, it is obvious that Blidget Pro competes with the Sprout Builder for the low-end of the market, which makes sense. Widgets are becoming a “mass market” phenomena and more and more small business/individuals/prosumers are looking for quick and easy DIY (Do it Yourself) solutions. I am guessing a couple more of the widget builders (iWidget, SpringWidgets, i.e.) will go this route.

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  • We recently submitted a widget (that used Gigya for distribution) and were told that the “email friends” capability in Gigya (and presumeably in Clearspring) did not comply with MySpace’s Terms of Service for OpenSocial applications, which states that “All app communication must be made by OpenSocial APIs and/or the MySpace RESTful APIs”. If you are planning to delivery your Gigya or Clearspring enabled widget as a OpenSocial app on MySpace, be sure to disable the email tab!

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  • Gydget Widget Examples

    One widget company I haven’t really talked about is Gydget. Here are some Gydget Widget examples I thought I would share. Gydget is a widget “builder” that is focused on providing marketing solutions focused to the entertainment industry. The service is aimed at bands, sports teams, and celebrities looking to get the word out to fans across the social networks they visit. The service is the spawn of former city events info provider Attendio.com and sort of competes with companies like Clearspring, Gigya, Springwidgets, Sprout Builder and iWidget.

    Music and Entertainment Widget Examples

    Gydget Related News:

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  • Music Widget Examples

    I did a post last week on an important trend in digital music sales: music artists and widgets. Here are some examples of music widgets out there (most are “single use widgets” vs. “evergreen widgets”). Next week will dive into some helpful information on what makes a good music artist widget.

    Sprout Builder Widgets
    – Build using Sprout Builder

    Clearspring Widgets
    – Use Clearspring platform for distribution

    Gigya Widgets
    – Use Gigya platform for distribution

    Other

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  • Using Web Kit technologies, Dashboard Widgets are created using HTML, JavaScript, and CSS. But Widgets aren’t limited by their use of web-based technologies. They can tap into the immense power of Mac OS X.

    Tiger introduced the Dashboard, which provides a new & unique class of mini-applications called Widgets (or gadgets). While the Dashboard will prove a powerful feature for Macintosh (Tiger) users, for widget developers it introduces a rich new media development environment. Widgets are quick to develop and easy to deploy (on the mac and other platforms), and they can leverage on the Macintosh all of Tiger’s advanced technologies. Widgets are perfect for working with small amounts of data or interacting with other applications, both on your desktop and across the web. And they provide an excellent way to add functionality to an existing application. This means there are many opportunities for developers, whether creating new products, or adding market-differentiating value to an existing one.

    Xcode 2.0 include the info you need to get  started. Dashboard docs are located in the ADC Reference Library (see Apple Applications). For Dashboard code and sample Widgets are available.

    Understanding Widgets

    Widgets are ready to use when Dashboard is activated and disappear when the Dashboard is put away, allowing quick “at-a-glance” usage. Since Dashboard is part of the system and doesn’t require the installation of any additional components, Widgets can become essential tools for users. Each Widget is task-specific and lightweight. And if a Widget needs a little bit more interface room for setting preferences, Dashboard lets them “flip” over and use the back of the Widget.

    Widgets fall into one of the following categories:

    * Accessory Widgets are usually self-contained and do not require support from an application or Internet access. Clocks, timers, calculators, and note-takers fall into this category.

    * Application Widgets can be associated with a full-fledged application. This type of Widget enhances the application by providing a less complicated and often read-only interface. The iTunes Controller, music widgets and Address Book Widgets fall into this category.

    * Information Widgets are designed to work with data from the Internet. These Widgets allow you to monitor external events such as the weather, flight status, or stock price

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  • OpenSocial Development Support Group

    Since we helped launch a rather complex MySpace application for the Travel Channel early last week, we have learned a LOT about hard core OpenSocial development (on MySpace in particular). Unfortunately there are very few resources available out there to build that have built and understand how to built world-class scalable applications for MySpace! Most of the me-too apps currently put together do not take advantage of any of the rich features the OpenSocial platform has to offer and are buggy and/or simplistic.

    During our development process there was really no resources to turn to when we ran into problems, we simply had to solve them ourselves. None of our colleges in the social media have really cut their teeth yet with OpenSocial, so it was basically us. Today we got a call from a fellow developer in Canada working on a similar large project and in a couple of minutes were able to help him out with some of the problems that previously took us days to solve.

    Based on that experience, we have decided to create an internal OpenSocial Development Support Collective – a group of OpenSocial developers (we are currently limiting the number to 10) who have similar experiences/expertise on the OpenSocial platform and who can share development best practices and know-how, and when necessary - pick up the phone and call each other. We have used this model effectively before and it makes a lot of sense given that we work closely with other social media developers and marketing agencies on large projects so collaboration has always been key to our success.

    If you are an OpenSocial developer (or social media development house) that has successfully developed and deployed one or more applications on the MySpace, Orkut or Hi5 platforms, and would like to join our collective, please contact me.

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  • Sprout Builder Developer II

    I wrote about sprout builder development last and wanted to follow up with some more information about the company and sprout widget builder.

    Sprout Builder is a web-based widget development application (or authoring platform) whose goal is to enable users to quickly and easily build non-complex interactive content. Users create sprouts by combining text, shapes, and prebuilt interactive content and templates, and then generating a SWF (flash) file that can be embedded within any website, blog, or social networking site.

    The company is based in Honolulu (Hawaii), the Sprout Builder team designed and built the service using Adobe Flex 3. In general users can build simple FLV player’s, RSS readers, slideshows, countdown timers, and mp3 players,i.e..

    Sprout builder is a front-end solution. Once deployed, content cannot really be changed dynamically (as with a widget content management platform). There are no economies of scale when developing widgets for more than one product/service/artist. You create widgets from scratch (you have an widget asset library) but that’s it. The components are limited and you don’t have programmatic control over them as you do with Widget matic. Will share some examples next week and a side by side comparison to Widget matic.

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  • Sun Microsystems is not known for its social media offerings, at least not yet. Sometime ago Sun quietly launched Zembly! is a web-based mashup development environment that promotes itself as a web app and widget engine. One of our clients asked us to evaluate the service as a prospective mashup builder (similar to Yahoo interactive feed aggregator and manipulator – PIPES, ie)

    zembly Zembly = Sun Microsystems Social Media?!

    Zembly supports a very decent list of API including offerings from Facebook, MySpace, Meebo, Orkut, Del.icio.us, Amazon AWS, Clearspring, Flickr, Google, Twitter, Yahoo (YahooTrip), YouTube, Weather Bug, Zillow, and Zvents.

    System is still in beta so rest assured, much of this will improve (I hope). Here is my initial take on the overall web-based application (we haven’t started development yet so expect more info in the future):

    • Somewhat Confusing Process: The development process is NOT intuitive. After you sign up for the service you are left with no where to go (a tutorial would be a good idea).
    • Poor Navigation: Use of language is a bit ackward. The primary navigation for example reads “you | docs | samples | search..” which is not intuitive, nor consistent. Secondary navigation is not great either! (Things | What’s Happening | People | Inbox). This is usually symptomtic of software written outside the U.S., but I sure problem can be easily fixed.
    • Bipolarism: Zembly tries to be BOTH a social network AND development studio. I would suggest they pick one..the latter. The application explains that the ‘What’s happening’ tab lets you know what your contacts or friends are doing at zembly..do you really honestly think your friends are on zembly?
    • Bad Wizard: The wizard was very confusing. Again a non-standard user interface and poor use of language (mixing general/confusing terms like tabs, widgets, services..) are to blame.
    • Lacks Intuitiveness: Overall the UI needs to be more intuitive. Non-standard UI controls (such as the yellow bar at the bottom of the wizard that closes the app?!) and non-standard layout leave the user in an unfamiliar place, not knowing what to do.
    • Over Socialized: The application appears “over socialized”. It is simply packed with too many social media features that MAY make sense in a social media app but probably DON’T make sense in social media app builder! Your avatar, your rating, your thumbs up/thumbs, your news feed, tags, services, comments, actions, feedback, friends, ex-friends, wife, kids, employees..okay, I joking but social media feature creap can be overwhelming (and distracting)
    • Good Concept: Concept, however, is great! Web-based mashup studio slash workbench! Next week will try to build some apps on the platform and we’ll let you know how it goes.
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  • Facebook Happenings – March 26

    A lot of readers enjoy our widget news and trends weekly posting and some have asked why we don’t do something similar for Facebook, so here it is:

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  • Sprout Widget Developer

    Someone asked me if we build widgets on the sprout builder platform, we do.  Sprout builder is a decent “do-it-yourself” widget tooklit that’s okay for creating “single use” widgets. We generally point clients to a better solution, such as our Widgetmatic widget management platform. When Sprout was free, building simple easy widgets on it was a viable options for many small companies. With Sprout’s new pricing, it is becoming a less attractive widget builder.  Sprout Builder and Sprout Mixer are both decent products but are really aimed for use by small to medium sized business who don’t have complex widget needs. Enterprises or divisions of larger firms can probably better benefit from a comprehensive, scalable and flexible widget content management and deployment platform like the Widgetmatic 600/630/650 series.

    sprout builder logo Sprout Widget Developer

    Sprout builder does have a development SDK but view developers have integrated their services for Sprout (I believe they only Twitter, Yahoo Maps, Google Charts/Forms, PollDaddy, Chipin and Seemic – versus the 30 or so directFrom(tm) servies available for the Widgetmatic platform).

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