Scott's Workblog

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February 20, 2007


The Elgg team have now created Explode, a service for generating a social networking widget.

Some input for Dave and co at Elgg:

Its a nice idea, and I like the approach taken, though I think Stephen Downes is onto something in his post suggesting improvements, specifically on the integration of OpenID - given that the 'identities' in the system are effectively URLs already, make them OpenID URLs.

If the data is distributed, then the code could be neatly packaged at the client end too - as all the assertions that the widget makes are directed outwards (I friend-> URL: get Icon for person with URL), you can leave the whole thing on the client end, as a single Javascript file. This can still enable some tracking back at the service end (though users can always hack it out if so inclined)).

Still, having a hosted solution does make two things easier: discovery, and advertising. Discovery becomes a non-issue one the widgets proliferate (users' blogs enable them to be found); advertising is a real turn-off but shouldn't be discounted without exploring the options.

Stephen identified the potential for extended discovery as a business model - essentially doing some clever mining of information to provide matching and filtering services. That sounds interesting, but I don't think its a business model. These would instead I think be a draw for popping over to the service home site, and then cross-selling some other things there. As MyBlogLog essentially uses its widgets for selling its premium visitor tracking service - which really has very little to do with social networks!

I think as far as comments are concerned, there is an interesting possibility here - I haven't had comments enabled on my site for years. If I was going to enable them, I'd have to hack around with Zope (my legacy platform!) and the Python OpenID libraries, CAPTCHA routines etc. Really, I just can't be bothered. However, the Explode widget has essentially added some comment functionality to this blog! Now, add in the OpenID functionality and you've solved a problem I didn't even consider you could solve for me - how's that?

I still have to figure out where in my ultra-minimal design I can fit the widget, so in the meantime, its here in this post... I've now readjusted my layout!

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