21 June 2007

widgets are nice, strategies are better

The rise of the widget is starting new discussions. Sure, there are the fun distractions like the cutetracker, and I've got a few items in my sidebar. But some people are realizing that these snippets of embedded code can have some interesting and strategic applications. I'm particuarly interested in what the online environmentalists are doing with widgets.

First, Treehugger made a small splash when they previewed the Green Index with daylife labs back in February. It looks a little like a stock price but it's actually a rough measurement of how the media discusses certain "green" topics. Sure, it's a cute discussion starter, but this kind of tool can begin to help advocates design messaging platforms and target specific issues. I haven't seen Treehugger or daylife offer the code publicly yet, though I noticed Triplepundit features a Green Index badge. Maybe they're a beta tester. (I thought better of just lifting the code from there.)

A slightly bigger splash has been made by One Billion Bulbs, a nifty online campaign that encourages people to switch to compact fluorescent lightbulbs and slap a widget on their blogs to keep track of how many bulbs they've switched. I learned about the campaign just by coming across the widget on a blog.

I'm really fascinated, however, with their strategic partnership with Pajamas Media, the conservative-leaning, politically-oriented blogging network. The same network that is currently highlighting a Canadian media report on "global cooling" has suddenly gone green?

Seriously though, it's a really innovative idea. Conservative political bloggers and their audiences are one of the most, if not the most, well-connected online network. They've got millions of loyal readers. OBB just found an opportunity to talk with a group of people that otherwise might be skeptical toward them, and to help them take a common-sense step to improve the environment.

Furthermore, conservatives may have found an opportunity to try to co-opt liberals on the environment. I'm old enough to remember when "conservation" was a conservative value. And a few years ago, I was on the floor of the Senate during a months-long energy bill debate where Republicans were sometimes put in the awkward position of voting against amendments advocating conservation. Now they've got something to be "for."

And already, Instapundit is bragging that his readers are out-conserving the liberal kossacks.

Again, the widget introduced an interesting and fun way to address an important issue. But the online partnership strategy that accompanied it could have some interesting political ramifications down the road. The partnership is the real news here.

Well played.

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