Matt\’s Cuppa

My take on tea, technology, and our environment

Matt’s Cuppa Interviews Widsets

Posted by telecommatt on April 14, 2007

WidSets is one of a handful of applications that has changed the way I work. In simplest terms, WidSets is a mobile platform for widgets. You choose from hundreds of widgets, mostly newsfeeds from various sites, and these are placed on your mobile desktop. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, you can roll up your sleeves and make your own. The killer features, though, are what you can do after you’ve found an article you’d like to keep. And this is where WidSets sets itself apart from other mobile feed readers. From within the application it takes about five seconds to email an article to someone, and less time to bookmark it. Once an item is bookmarked, you can access the full article on the web from your inbox on the WidSets website. As a blogger, this is a huge time saver. I can now find content while I’m on the go, go right to that page once I’m at my PC, hit my WordPress “Press It” button, and have a finished article in less time than it used to take just to find good content. In my opinion, this is a picture-perfect example of what being connected is all about.

WidSets Logo

# How did WidSets begin? Is there a story behind the idea? Were there major challenges to overcome? What are you most proud of to date?

Around summer 2005 we were five guys using Web 2.0 services. We had our pictures on Flickr, we searched the blogosphere. We saw that the services were just great, and people were so dedicated to what they are doing that we thought, ‘Hey, that would be a good target group to have on the mobile.’ There weren’t that many mobile data services anywhere in the world, and it really had to be something that people want. Then we just started thinking about how to make that as easy as possible.

The easiest way – in our opinion – involved an Internet-oriented approach that starts from the PC rather than from the mobile phone. The idea is that you define everything on the web because you have the tools and then you can just enjoy everything on your phone, because it gets pushed to you, automatically. Since that we have added most of that functionality on the web to the mobile, too, and we are aiming at having them even more integrated.

The other part was the UI, which is something everybody seems to mention when they talk about WidSets. We liked the idea of widgets being used in various services, were you could define your own UI, and have some fun with it, too. At that (and even today) most mobile UI’s were quite dull, and we definitely wanted to develop something different.

With that – and a few other things in hand – we presented the idea and related information to our management, and by the end of 2005 we received funding for creating a pilot. We managed to hire some great guys and they soon developed the client, the aggregation and optimization servers, the web site, and integrated all that together. And in June 2006 we opened up http://www.widsets.com for everybody. To be honest, that was not only Beta, it was really pre-Beta. But we wanted to do it the Web 2.0-way, and we were working as a startup, anyway. Since that we have introduced a new, major release of WidSets about every second month, and if you take a look at our blog (http://blog.widsets.com/widsets/new_features/index.html) you can see that we have come quite far from that first release. Now a widget can be anything, really.

The main challenges to overcome was of course that our approach was so different that anything else that had been done at Nokia, so people didn’t really understand what on earth we were doing. You know, a mobile internet service that works on all handset brands, working in a startup mode (and Beta) and internet speed, being quite open about many things (see the blog), etc. But fortunately we have some great and open-minded people in management, who have been supporting us. Even if we present WidSets as “Pimp Your Mobile”…

The other challenge has been that people outside Nokia except us to be a 1000+ people organization with all the resources in the world. The truth is that we are still a small startup-kind of a team. We also hear that since we are funded by Nokia, we can’t really be open and startup-like, Oh, well…

What I’m, most proud of is the comments we get from users/bloggers out there, which I gather in the Press & Buzz section of our web site (http://blog.widsets.com/press/). Out of the many great comments I remember people creating videos out of their first WidSets experience and putting that on YouTube, analyzing a new release with some many screen shots and so much information that our FAQ’s and other sources definitely come second, thanking us for our attitude in helping people in the Forum (which actually means Thank You Antti), etc.

Another thing I’m really proud of is that we actually managed to get it going with the original team, and have it launched into the public. And when I think about all the requirements coming in from our users, from the team, from our management, etc, I’m truly proud of our R&D guys developing this great service. And we should not forgot the other members of the team, who have all been involved in making this happen.

When it comes to the technical side, I’m very proud of our approach of providing normal (what are other users, abnormal? 🙂 users the tools for mobilizing internet services, and that they have created more than 90% of the widgets in the Library, now consisting of more than 1200 widgets. That definitely is user-generated content!

# Are there any social, environmental, or political issues that align closely with the WidSets culture? WidSets plans on changing the world?

Well, this starts to get into the Star Trek and Babylon space, but I would personally like that WidSets would be remembered as the open approach that was adopted by the mobile users as the place to go to for great services and communities on the mobile. I would also hope that WidSets would be adopted by phone manufacturers and operators as a de facto standard. To be honest, we are just in the beginning of a very interesting journey, so there’s still a few things that we will have to do in order to get there. But so far, so good.

Regarding changing the world, I guess I’m supposed to say something very philosophical and earth-shaking here, but the truth is that we are very down-to earth guys (and girls) in the team. We proceed one (small) step at the time, and see how it goes from that.

And the rest is history.

I mentioned this already, but this is one application that changed the way I use my mobile phone. Because of that I was just hyped when I got in touch with HeGe and Kaisa. They were really excited to share the WidSets story with me. And this really is a growing, evolving project that just keeps getting better. In fact, just before I was ready to publish the article, I received an email from HeGe telling me that there was one small edit that I should make. The number of widgets available jumped from 1100 to 1200 just in the time it took to put the interview together! Thanks so much Hege, Kaisa, and the rest of the WidSets team!

4 Responses to “Matt’s Cuppa Interviews Widsets”

  1. Alfred said

    No existe ninguno en español ???

  2. Alfred said

    No existe ninguno en español ??

  3. Alfred,

    I’m sorry, I speak very little Spanish and can spell even less. I’m not sure if there is a Spanish version of the application, or if there is any Spanish content. You could check out the Widsets . Perhaps you will find better answers there.

    Cheers,

    Matt

  4. Darn! Typing too fast! That link above is to the Widsets forum.

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