Useful Widgets

Work’s pretty busy this week, so you get the post I wrote for EchoDitto‘s blog. Please pardon the professional tone and altruistic subject matter. Scroll down for obligatory Footloose reference.

Being the early-adopting nerd that I am, I’ve gone through my share of widgets. I’ve tinkered with every site- and PC-based widget engine from Konfabulator to Yahoo Widgets to Google Desktop. At work I use a Mac, so I got to experiment with those guys, including an ill-fated Christmas Countdown widget. But as much as I love fun technology, the overwhelming uselessness of widgets thus far has tainted my expectations for the platforms that enable them. The fact is, I’ve never had any stocks to check. If something’s really important, I’ll place the RSS feed or bookmark somewhere prominent within Firefox. And don’t get me started on how many different ways I can check the weather.

Which is why I owe Katya Andresen thanks for her Net Squared DC presentation last night for changing all of that and making me realize their potential again. The Six Degrees project
has done something genuinely groundbreaking. They want people to do good in the world, but they don’t really care if you go to their website to do so. They’re doing what we’ve grown hoarse repeating: If you let go of your message a little and empower your supporters, big things can happen.

Six Degrees allows users to make badges for their cause and take their fundraising elsewhere: their blog, their MySpace, and so on. In doing so they’ve essentially enabled individuals to become their own charities, in the same way that tools like WordPress allowed people to become their own publishers.

And it works. Think about it, when is the last time you gave to charity? Chances are, it was for a friend or family member who was running a race or otherwise soliciting donations for a cause. And you gave. You do support Save the Baby Zebras, but you gave to them because your friend or family member asked you to, and what’s important to them is important to you.

Six Degrees keeps things interesting with a Top Six Badges contest for matching grants that judges based on how many donators you’ve attracted rather than how much money you’ve accrued.

Oh, and I almost forgot the best part of this whole thing: It was started with the help of Kevin Bacon, who bought the Six Degrees domain after realizing that most mentions of him on the Internet were about the six degrees from Kevin Bacon game and not his stellar performance in Footloose. The celebrity tie-ins continue with Celebrity Badges from Jessica Simpson, Kanye West, Nicole Kidman and others.

Anyway, thanks again to Katya and to everyone else for coming out and making this another great NetSquared event. Join us next month on March 13th at 7pm!

Leave a Reply