CALI, day 3: RSS & Widgets: How to put your law school on iGoogle, My Yahoo, Facebook, and MySpace, Len Davidson

by Paul Maharg on 21/06/2008

A widget is a portable chunk of code that can be installed and executed within a ny separate HTML-based web page by an nd user. A Library widget box, accessing Blogger, Typepad, many other social software bits. Great idea, cinch to install, great access to Library too — guess how many students at Penn State installed it? 310. Out of 70,000. 0.4%. Why? Len Davidson guessed that it wasn’t cool enough to live on students’ FaceBooks.

Len pointed out how powerfully viral widgets are, and so useful for marketing. Browser toolbars include LibX toolbar, etc — many more on the slides here. Widget classes include file sharing, and chat (google talk,, language translators (babelfish, Windows Live, etc), calendars (, financial info, and much more. Magtoo stitches photos together to creat panoramas, Piclens is a 3D viewer (cool interface), Eyespot is a slideshow creator.

How to get students using widgets? Len said give ’em wow factor. Westlaw.Watch is hardly that, but pretty useful. One person in the audience suggested a social sharing of your library search. Len confessed he didn’t know how that might be done (refreshing…) but it was a good suggestion. The audience, largely tech and librarians, gave more examples.

What about building a widget? And how to increase the 0.4%? All Library widgets already have OPAC search box, links to dbases and links to reference chat — what else? One person suggested a plug-in for Firefox that would access desktop widgets. Another suggested harnessing the social aspects — not so much the wow factor as the cool factor. The Mac factor was acknowledged — one librarian commented that it was easier to manipulate widgets on a Mac, and make them disappear until needed, and widgets were just part of the Mac environment much more. Another commented that Mac users might drive widget use and invention.

Len’s idea was to do things with Student Affairs pages, eg links to events, scholarships. competitions internships, etc. Part of his problem was a lack of support institutionally for social software stuff.

Facebook library pages… Examples include Duke Law Library, Harvard LL, Nova Southeastern LL, Santa Clara LL. Harvard’s library page was hacked, and they used the Facebook page to give access until the Lib page was up & running again… Creating Fb pages is easy. Creating Fb apps is much more difficult — restrictive, you can’t just use html, you got to register the app., and it requires dynamic programming (PHP?). Examples of Fb apps include UIUC Lib Cat. There is a developers’ wiki.

HTML v Flash? HTML will give basic interface, Flash can look, well flash, but costs re time (and software price).

He differentiated between wdiget hosting (updates are easy to propagate) and widget wrapping (code on yr server, wrapper enables installation on other sites). Distribution platforms include WidgetBox, Gigya, Clearspring, Yourminis, and Len gave us the good and bad on each. Fine session.

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