In the past few weeks I have tested various custom widgets designed using the WikiPage widget. For some time I've been fascinated by the rather clever way that Special:WidgetDashboard allows you to drag and drop any number of these custom and standard widgets into any of 3 columns on that page. Those columns use the element IDs: sidebar_3, sidebar_4 and sidebar_5.

  • I believe that a variant of Special:WidgetDashboard that more closely resembles the 2 column format of Special:MyHome would be a popular feature. i.e. a wider left hand column and a narrower right hand column.

Add to this the already existing Monaco sidebar and a registered user could have a "landing zone" at each wiki community that is customized to show exactly what that individual wishes to see. Today the WikiPage widgets we create are rendered in the narrow format designed for inclusion in the 206px wide monaco sidebar but I wonder if it might be possible to have a width parameter that accepts something like sidebar|wide|narrow which correspond to the three widths that a user sees today as they stare at their MyHome page. (i.e. 206px|variable|330px)

In the mock up below I show 4 columns but that is because I am using the Widget Dashboard to produce it. I suppose that as widescreens have become more commonplace then 4 columns might be manageable but 206px-(sidebar_1) + variable-wide-(sidebar_3) + 330px-narrow-(sidebar_4) would seem a safer bet for 4:3 aspect ratio monitors using 1024x768 and higher resolution desktop. ((Maybe 800x600 could handle it but I doubt it.)

MyLZ mock up concept

Proof of concept mock up created with help from Firefox and Firebug

A WikiPage widget design based on the plain text version of a bloglist would make a great news feed widget that would fit in the wide (variable pixel) column of MyHome (see What's new? above). Same idea but using the more compact block version of a bloglist would be suitable for the narrow (330px) column.

  • Note that if you try this today then even the more compact block design is simply too wide for the sidebar_1 (206px) width.

myLZ vs MyHome

That was just one rather obvious example but if you consider each of the following elements typically found at a Main_Page

  • About
  • Contents
  • Welcome
  • What's New
  • Latest activity
  • Featured Video
  • Featured Article
  • Contribute to this wiki

and realize that each one could be written as custom WikiPage widget ... then it does not take much imagination to realize that a wiki's Main_Page could be constructed using widget-based tiles. Some of those tiles being custom widgets and of course there are 21 standard widgets.

That's a pretty handy set of building blocks from which a user can construct a 100% custom Main_Page / myLZ / landing zone.

Add to the above list these sections of today's MyHome:

  • Watchlist (already is a standard widget)
  • Hot Spots
  • Activity feed
  • My Contributions (already is a standard widget)
  • Community Corner

and these from your default User page and the Profile page

  • My favorite pages
  • My sandbox
  • About me
  • Friends
  • Awards
  • Gifts

It should take little imagination to see that each registered user could be free to customize their personal LZ to display whatever information in any arbitrary order in whichever column!

At least that is how I'd like my LZ (landing zone) to be constructed. What do you think?

For me the exciting part is watching to see what the next person dreams up as a custom widget and then reusing, copying and extending on those already creative ideas. In this way it is the community of contributors who design the new look rather than having some "think tank" of Wikia staff peddle their latest product my way.

  • I do still want Wikia staff to churn out new product but I'd rather those product be "building blocks" as opposed to finished and inflexible pages such as MyHome.
    • Case in point is the new Wiki-Sticky feature. Acknowledging that it is still work in progress and may yet evolve to become usable as the "source page" for a custom WikiPage widget, in it's present form it is a tool that is purpose built for MyHome. The associated Special:WikiStickies page might have been written in such a way that it could be used as the source page for a Wikipage widget but perhaps because of the "blinkered" view that widgets must be 206 pixel wide objects this was not done. As a result one potentially popular "building block" is not realized as a by-product of that innovative development project.
  • I suppose that at heart I love the open source model and an evolution process that more closely resembles "natural selection". Statistics about how many users opt-in to using various building blocks must surely mean a whole lot more than statistics about how many users use the same feature in an environment where they might not know how to opt-out.