Awesome! The emergence of a design pattern for widget-based sharable workspaces

I work in quite a diverse set of communities with rather different concerns, and so when they all seem to simultaneously hit on the same solution its work taking notice.

This week I was at the PLE conference in Southampton, and attended a talk by Sylvana Kroop and colleagues from the EU-funded ROLE project where they presented their idea of a personal portal environment made out of widgets, which users assembled by locating widgets that helped them with specific goals. If users come up with an arrangement of widgets that help them meet their objective they can then share it. You can get a good idea of it from this video.

This was followed by Wolfgang Reinhardt who presented the results of paper prototyping a system consisting of dashboards of widgets organised to help users reach specific goals for research. There is the paper here, and you can get a good idea of it by looking at the pictures in there of the paper prototype, and also in Wolfgang’s slides on slideshare which have some additional wireframes.

Now, I work on an EU project called OMELETTE (along with SAP, Logica, T-Systems and lots of other organisations that aren’t really connected with PLEs and eLearning) and in that project we’re developing technologies for creating and sharing workspaces consisting of widgets that help a user reach their goals. (The main differences here being it also involves telecommunications service mashups, so there is lot more sophisticated work going on for the services that widgets interact with, and that its aimed at a range of industries and applications rather than education).

And finally I’m also involved in an EU project called ITEC (along with SMART, Promethean and European Schoolnet amongst many others) that involves bringing assemblies of widgets into a range of “shells” (portals, interactive whiteboards, tabletop systems, tablets etc) that fulfil specific goals.

Spooky, eh?

OK, there is a clear genesis for this idea, coming from earlier work in portals and things like iGoogle (or even stretching back to Xerox PARC). But still, the goal-seeking and solution-sharing aspects are relatively novel.

As a committer in an Apache incubator project that develops a W3C Widget rendering engine (Apache Wookie) and also in another one that develops a Widget-based portal solution (Apache Rave) I can see a lot of opportunities here for collaboration and creating a sustainable technology platform and application ecosystem that outlives any individual project. (Rave itself represents an open collaboration involving three formerly separate widget-based dashboards from different organisations: COIN, OGCE and OSEC).

The question is – can funded projects change their working practices to do this effectively? I was impressed with the EU project officer for OMELETTE at our recent review who was very enthusiastic about the project contributing directly to open development communities like Apache from the outset rather than working in private. She really seemed to grasp the importance of open innovation and sustainability, which gives me hope that perhaps these diverse projects can find a way of collaborating – if the will is there.

(PS: even spookier, Wolfgang’s group named their prototype “AWESOME”. The original codename for Apache Rave was also “AWESOME”)

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5 Responses to Awesome! The emergence of a design pattern for widget-based sharable workspaces

  1. Pingback: Post by Scott Wilson (Widgets and D… | S/R

  2. Pingback: Awesome! The emergence of a design pattern for widget-based sharable workspaces | S/R

  3. Hi Scott, interesting projects’ overview. An important aspect which I guess I didn’t see mentioned in your post is the Search optimization or principles of information prioritization in a process of choosing of an app or a service. Finding what exactly your workspace needs is one of the most crucial aspects out of all in the sea of information.

    Shared learning or collaboration environments by itself (at least according to me) are nothing that new, the only new thing is rather how they can be enabled on multi-dimentional platforms and devices and how there could be a standard for open-source environment projects.

    • scottbw says:

      Hi Lucy, yes I agree, the dominant “app store” model tends to support novelty rather than discoverability, and in each of these projects there is some form of recommendation service to help discover the apps that are useful for the workspace, whether based on social recommendations, semantic analysis, or pattern mining.

      I think also particularly with apps and widgets there are issues of quality and choice – there are any number of photo apps and widgets, but which is the right one for you? Whereas in other areas (e.g. patent search) there is little effective choice.

      In ROLE they also have this idea of “social requirements engineering”, so having processes to make it easier for users to flag up gaps in available widgets, and to make connections between users and developers to create new ones that meet their needs.

  4. Pingback: Creating “Write That Thesis!” at the ROLE developer camp | Scott's Workblog

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