I vacillate between wanting a spartan blog that loads quickly and looks sharp, and one that features all sorts of widgets that increase interactivity, community and information. A Web site owner can easily overdo the use of widgets, and relying on many third party sites for functionality can serve to slow the user experience, as browsers are forced to make calls and retrieve data from multiple points. But despite this, I've implemented a few widgets worth highlighting.
1. Recent Comments (from Storago)
Google's Blogger platform doesn't offer an easy way to highlight recent comments, so after searching the Web for options, I added a tool from Storago.com that highlights the five most recent comments on the right sidebar of the page. The widget says when the comment was made, by whom, and on which post. This way, if somebody finds a post from the archives worth commenting on, I don't miss their note, even if its off the front page.
While I don't get dozens of comments a day, I do get some regulars, including Tony Chung of Geekwhat, Gal Josefsberg from 60in3 and Erin Gurney of Ballhype. Others of note include Webomatica and Galeal Zino from NextBlitz.
2. Recent Shared Items from Google Reader
There are a lot of great bloggers out there, far too many for me to post about each day. I've subscribed to more than 100 RSS feeds, and read more than 500 items each weekday. Those which I find most interesting, I'll share via my link blog from Google Reader. Google has made it very easy to share this in Blogger, which you can see on the right sidebar.
Google Reader Trends says that in the last month, my most frequently shared bloggers were TechCrunch, Robert Scoble, Mashable!, Engadget and Read/WriteWeb - all outstanding blogs.
ZoomClouds takes tagging to a new level. Rather than asking me to proactively tag each of my posts with a specific topic or set of topics, ZoomClouds watches what I write about and reports the keywords, in descending order of use. The larger the font, the more frequently I blog on that topic.
It should be no surprise that my top 5 topics, according to Zoomclouds are: Apple, Google, Microsoft, TiVo and iTunes.
Despite some criticism of the site's uptime, and continued competition with Google, Technorati is well integrated with the blogosphere, offering tools that summarize a site's Web influence, tagged as "Authority", with the option to read a blogger's profile, add to favorites, and search previous posts. Over the last few months, I've seen my blog's authority jump all the way from the mid-50s in late March to almost 100 today. While some of those counts may be spam blogs, I know Technorati is doing a great deal to avoid overcount.
Technorati tools: Blog Summary, My Profile and Blog Reactions
MyBlogLog, now a Yahoo! property, showcases icons that display recent visitors, and gives a better sense of a site's community. Even those of us without thousands of visitors a day can get an understanding of who visits the site, what other topics they like, and when signed in, let other bloggers know I've been visiting their site. Depending on site settings, MyBlogLog will add me to a community based on how many times I've visited their site. The service also tracks site visitor traffic and popular outgoing links, though I can honestly get that data in a multiple of other places...
MyBlogLog: Join the Community View the Community and View My Profile
Other widget-like details in the sidebar are gussied up links to LinkedIn for professional networking, and signups for my RSS Feed from Feedburner and blog by e-mail from Feedblitz.
While not fully comprehensive, there's a lot here. What other widgets do you use on your blog and think I should look into?