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Posts Tagged ‘OpenSocial’

Clearspring Empowers Widgets

November 30th, 2007 2 comments

Clearspring released their early-access In-Widget Services API a few weeks ago. The initial release only supports Flash ActionScript 2, but ActionScript 3 and JavaScript are planned for later versions. These APIs were previously only available to Clearspring’s internal studio team.

In-Widget Services

Clearspring provides a number of APIs that you can use from within your widget. These APIs allow you to do things like invoke our viral sharing services programmatically, get information on the viewer of your widget, access properties of the widget and where it is located, and more.

The APIs are divided into three logical categories, each with a number of properties and functions:

  • Context
  • Menu
  • Track

The In-Widget Services API is now available for your widget if it is registered with the Clearspring platform.

What really makes this interesting is now you will have to ability to get information about your widget that you couldn’t get before. This information can then be passed back to your own server side services powering your widget. The widget can now be aware of its location and become an intelligent app. You’re no longer limited to “dumb” badges and widgets.

context.DOMAIN

The domain (if known) in which the running widget is embedded. If domain is unknown, DOMAIN will be undefined.

context.user.geo.getCountry

Returns the user’s ISO-3166 country code (e.g., “US”).

For example, with context.DOMAIN you will be able to determine if your widget is placed at myspace.com or some other domain. Pass this information back to your server and display appropriate features to the end-users. If the destination site has APIs, you could even display a friends list or other details the platform provides. There is no technical reason why widgets can’t access the social graph and become a social apps, as long as the platforms open up their systems and policies.

Another example is access to the country location of the user. This can obviously be used to customize your widget for specific users based on their location, culture, language, localized services, etc.

These are just couple of methods available. See the documentation for the complete list of available services and methods.

Widgets can and will become more intelligent as standards are agreed upon and platforms open up. They will become applications much like Facebook Apps. While they may not be as fully integrated as a platform specific application (though they can come close), they will be more portable and flexible than a platform app.

A few of the items were already available to developers who knew what they were doing, but Clearspring extends the available information and makes it much easier for developers. Clearspring is leading the way in deploying a powerful widget platform to go beyond what you typically see right now. We just need developers to start innovating and taking advantage of this. Much of the focus and news lately has been on Facebook Apps and OpenSocial, but widgets are still a very viable and powerful tool.

Rather than trying to define a widget or an app, we should be embracing all methods of development and approaching it with the idea that the best solution is the one that is right for your business.

And, we should stop thinking of widgets as just badges. They can and will be “Intelligent Widget Apps”.

9 Best Practices for Social Applications

November 24th, 2007 No comments

We came across the Google best practices via Sexy Widget. And, as with the previous post (5 Questions to Ask When Selecting a Widget Platform), here are the first three items. Visit Google for the complete list.

Google – Social Design Best Practices

1. Engage Quickly

Across containers, there’s a common tendency for a user to take a chance on an unknown application, and shortly thereafter remove it if no immediate value is found. The lesson to be learned from this interaction is that first impressions really do matter, and it’s necessary to engage the user quickly before attention is lost. To this end, we suggest you focus on the 30-second experience; before distracting the user with expert features or sending invites, slow down and give the user a simpler taste of what your application is about. Try the following:

  • Show value and identity by making the purpose and core features of your application absolutely clear.
  • Populate the application with fun or interesting content (especially content from friends) that makes for a browse-friendly experience.
  • Make it easy for the user to add content, change settings and feel ownership of the application. This increases a user’s desire to keep the application on his/her profile.

2. Mimic Look and Feel

Across OpenSocial containers there can be a lot of variation in the look and feel of pages and profiles. When designing your application, it can help to attempt consistency with the container UI by using similar fonts, tabs and buttons.

In cases where applications strive for stronger identity, it can be good to create a UI look and feel which is slightly distinct but still aesthetically strong to play on a user’s tastes and need for self expression.

3. Enable Self Expression

The profile page in a container is often a representation of a user’s identity, interests and tastes. From the perspective of the owner, it’s a means for self expression and a starting point for exploring the social graph. From the perspective of viewers, it’s a place to learn, communicate, and find shared interests. Applications best take advantage of the profile by enabling self expression through common interests around entertainment, brands and groups. Self expression is also enabled through specific forms of communication like gestures and gifts or conversations around special topics.

Don’t forget our own 10 Things to Consider When Building Widgets.