2010 July

Geek Chic of the Week: Widgets!

The Geek Girls received this reader question recently:
Eeeeek. Tell me about widgets! Are these like a Flickr badge that I might put on my blog? What are they for? How do they work? What’s in it for me or for the widgetee?

Wondering about Widgets

So let’s begin a the beginning: what is a widget? A “widget” in the interactive world is typically used to deliver content to a web page or a desktop. They usually involve some sort of feed that goes out and brings back the specified information to the location you want, rather than you going to different locations.

Web Widgets

Web widgets are commonly used, well, on the web. Generally, it’s a box containing information from another site that is embedded on web pages, user profiles (like Facebook, Flickr, and Myspace), and blogs. Below is an example of a widget (provided by Facebook) embedded on a different web site.

Common web widgets include tickers, event countdowns, Twitter feeds, photo galleries, and profile badges. These types of widgets are usually available to the user (you) by embedding them on your site via a set of provided HTML code or JavaScript.

Widgets make it easy to incorporate dynamic content into your site, and make it easy to connect all your profiles together. For example, on your blog or website you could embed a Twitter widget to feature your tweets, a Facebook widget to link to your page or company’s page, and a Flickr widget to feature your pictures. All of these things also ensure that people who are interested in your content are aware of all the different places they can connect with you.

It’s important to note that you can only embed widgets on pages that you have access to add or author the HTML or JavaScript code.

Below is an image showing the process of creating a FourSquare Mayor widget for your location’s site or blog.

Step 3 shows you the snippet of code that you need to embed in your site’s code to display the widget. This may feel far too technical for some of you — luckily some of the new blogging platforms make this really easy. You just drop an HTML component on your page, paste in the code and bam! Easy-easy and you don’t even have to dig into the page code if that’s not your thing.

Desktop Widgets

Desktop widgets run on your local machine: y’know, on the desktop. 😉

These widgets are sometimes called applets because they are like mini-applications running on your computer. These widgets are typically associated with content that the user accesses often, like a clock, calculator, weather feed, or up to the minute stock market results.

On Windows Vista and Windows Live they are found in Microsoft Gadgets; on a Mac, widgets live on the Dashboard (pictured below). By default, there is a dashboard icon in the toolbar; clicking it will reveal the widgets.

Who Wins?

So, why bother with widgets? As a web widget user, you get an easy tool to share the widget maker’s service or product, which in turn generates more traffic or notice for the maker’s product or service. Do you think Twitter would have gotten as big if there was no way to share it within spaces that people were already going to? And what about something like Flickr? Widgets make it easy to feature galleries and share images, but you still have to go to Flickr to upload the actual photos. In the end it’s not taking traffic away, it’s creating traffic by using spaces and sites that people already frequent.

Some desktop widgets exists for the same reason: by downloading a news widget you are interacting with the news outlet’s content and, in some cases, going to their site for additional content. You win by getting the headlines delivered to you, they win by keeping you engaged with their brand and driving traffic to their site. Other desktop widgets (like, say, a desktop lava lamp) are more like phone apps; they’re just for fun.

So, Wondering…I hope we answered your question. Let us know how the widgeting goes.

Geek of the Week: Gini Dietrich

This week’s Geek of the Week is Gini Dietrich. Gini is the CEO of the digital PR agency, Arment Dietrich, and the author of Spin Sucks. One of the top rated communication professionals on the social networks, Gini was recently named the number one PR person, according to Klout and TechCrunch, on the channels, and number one on Twitter, according to TweetLevel.

Gini started in the traditional public relations world, but quickly shifted her focus to digital, which lead her to Twitter. Now she has over 11,000 followers, most of whom she follows back and interacts with! The “red bull” question: what’s your take on following and unfollowing?

In addition to Spin Sucks, Gini is also active on the speaker circuit, delivering 2-3 sessions a month on average. But being such an influential person doesn’t mean she thinks she knows it all, in fact she’s got a lot of people who influence her, from Writing Roads to Elizabeth Edwards. Bottom line: Gini strives to be humble and transparent, and values those who are, too.

Gini is smart, funny and engaging — we hope you agree that she’s a fantastic Geek of the Week.

(For those of you who don’t know what she’s talking about when she mentions Summer of Dresses, check out the website here.)

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Are you a geek? Do you know a geek? Is there someone you’d like to hear from? Drop us a line at [email protected] or leave us a comment on our Facebook page!

Podcast #19: The Follow/Unfollow Debate

In podcast #19, we talk about what effect being plugged in with technology can have on our productivity. We also touch on the subject of Twitter follows. Should you follow back everyone who follows you? Does the number of people you follow say something about how engaged you are with them?

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Podcast Summary

First, we have to welcome Nancy back from her summer vacation; things weren’t the same around here without her. During her time away, she noted that she got a lot more work around her home, which got us thinking: does being plugged in affect your productivity?

Then came the dusty muffin discussion…if you’re unfamiliar you can watch the Betty White SNL clip here.

In the latter half of the podcast, we argue about discuss the question: how many people should you follow? Does following more people mean that you’re more engaged, or does it mean you’re stretched too thin? Does not following everyone back mean you think you’re some kind of celebrity?

There are a million different ways to look at this question, and a million opinions about which approach to Twitter is the right one. What do you think? We want to hear from you!

Geek of the Week Invitation: Matt Wilson

We wanted to extend an invitation to our first manly Geek of the Week, Matt Wilson, with a little video showing him what it would be like if he accepts the invitation. We worked up some scenarios and put our team to work on creating a visual representation of what the future could hold.

Check out the video below and let us know if you think he’ll accept or not.

Geek of the Week: Jen Kramer

This week’s Geek of the Week is Jen Kramer. Jen is a Joomla geek who’s been building websites for nearly a decade, but her geek roots actually go back to the 70’s when she learned BASIC while sitting on her computer programming grandmother’s lap. You heard that right: her grandma was a coder. We can’t get over how geek-tastic that is.

Jen has a broad knowledge of what it takes to make a “quality website,” but she’s also a fan of open source tools, like Joomla, because you can have a say in what it does or what’s included in the next release. We also LOVE the analogy she used for how to describe “free” open source tools to clients: there’s a difference between free beer and a free puppy. Get it? Listen to the podcast for more!

As a Joomla expert she recently published a book called, “Joomla! Start to Finish: How to Plan, Execute, and Maintain Your Web Site” and is a featured presenter on Lynda.com with presentations ranging from Joomla specifics to general website planning & strategy. Now, if all those things don’t keep her busy enough Jen also leads the Joomla! User Group New England.

Here’s a big thank you to Jen for spending time with us and being our Geek of the Week!

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Email Extensions

A while ago, geeky reader Lorelei from Seattle wrote to ask, “Does the type of email you use matter (yahoo,gmail etc)? A tech guy on NPR seems to think it really says a lot about a person. Thoughts?”

Here’s how I personally feel about this:

1. Your email prefix means more than the extension (e.g. [email protected] vs. [email protected]). Whenever possible, use your name or some variation of your name for your email address. If possible, avoid numbers. Numbers just seem outdated and less professional. If you have an old “unprofessional” email address, go ahead and keep it for personal stuff. You can set up a new one to use for more professional communication.

2. The extension might mean something to some people, but it means less than the prefix. The only extension that seems really outdated is  @aol. @gmail seems more current. @msn, @hotmail and @yahoo are just sort of…whatever.

I think the geekier you are, the more those extensions “mean” to you in the sense that you may pass judgement on people based on them. But reallly? I don’t think I’d refuse an interview to someone just because they had a Yahoo email address. I may, however, think twice if their prefix is [email protected] (Man, I hope that’s not someone’s real address, but it probably is. I’m sorry in advance for using you as an example! I’m sure you’re a nice person.)


Lifehacker brings up a good point in their post: there are times when what’s most important is to have your own domain. Like my address @meghanwilker.com vs. my address @gmail.com. If you own a small business, it adds to your credibility to have an email address at your own domain instead of one through a free service.

Again, it depends on your audience. Most muggles could care less about what kind of email address you have, so if you’re selling teddy bears on eBay it probably doesn’t matter. But, if you’re looking for venture capital in Silicon Valley, it’s a different story.

Hope that helps! Now let’s just hope krazzygurl1980 doesn’t come after me…