This whole Web 2.0 thing is producing an embarrassment of riches for those wanting to share their thoughts on the web without having to go to the effort of developing their own websites from scratch. A decade ago, Geocities was pioneering the idea of web communities but, without the infrastructure and tools that we enjoy today, it and its kind were ahead of their time.
In these blogging days, life is a lot simpler but that means that temptations exist. Temptations like those caused by garish animated GIF’s in the late nineties, a lame attempt to spice up otherwise dull websites. Returning to the present, it is plug-ins and widgets that could convey the excess.
With WordPress, the plug-ins are more “behind-the-scenes” sorts of affairs but it is so easy accumulate several for stopping comment spam and keeping an eye on web traffic, to name just two applications, and so on that you need to be careful that a bag of nails does not result. In fact, I am now considering the rationalisation of what I have got while the number remains in single figures.
WordPress 2.2 adds widgets to the list of temptations; WordPress.com already has these but the number is small and you can be sure that that will explode now that self-hosted WordPress blogs get the functionality. The trouble with these widgets is that you need to be adept with CSS so as not to end up with an eyesore akin to those seen a decade ago, though theme authors can help with this. I am not activating the widgets capability for my hillwalking blog because I have many other (better?) things to be doing.
Another thought on widgets: the tag cloud widget previously held in captivity at WordPress.com surely must now find itself in the wild, a worrying prospect given how rubbish they can appear. However, Jakob Nielsen et al. shouldn’t get too concerned as trends that go too far scar the memory and preclude their return. Just consider those animated GIF’s…