Google gadgets

So I’ve been messing around with various different widget frameworks on and off over the last few months as preparation for a workshop I’m going to be involved with. I started out with Yahoo Widgets (née Konfabulator) mainly because the examples that I’d seen looked the prettiest. Although perhaps not strictly widgets, I’ve also started to look at facebook applications, but that’s a subject for another day. My favoured widget framework at the moment is Google Gadgets for a number of reasons:

  • The barrier to entry is low because it’s pretty much standard javascript and html with an xml descriptor.
  • You write a gadget once and can view it in iGoogle, GoogleDesktop, Blogger or in an iframe embedded in any webpage.
  • As with all Google APIs the documentation is great and there’s a lot of developer support.
  • It plays nicely with other Google APIs.
  • …finally, if you’re going to back one widget framework, who would bet against Google?

I find the best way to learn is just to get stuck in so I created a couple of simple examples, one to display a user’s timeline from twitter and another to display recent announcements made on another site I wrote, Tell’M. They both follow very similar principles: pull down an rss feed, parse it for interesting fields and render the display. Both also have a few user preferences that can be set to customise the feed.

My interest had moved on to other things recently but this week I started to look at gadgets again because the workshop is coming up soon. I found my two gadgets in the google directory and was disheartened to see that my twitter gadget had received two negative comments – one because of a security restriction of ajax (cross-domain policy) and twitter (which will only accept a POST to update status so I can’t use script injection). After a bit more digging around I found that Google now display average weekly page views for gadgets and my twitter gadget is receiving 14,546 page views per week! I guess it’s easy for a developer to do something just to satisfy their own curiosity and think that nobody else will ever use it. I’ve now added Google Analytics to both my gadgets just to check that all those page view are not generated by me! :-)

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