Reusable widgets demonstrating the potential of open innovation

The Rave in Context is developing templates to easily write W3C widgets that encompass best-practices in usability and accessibility out-of-the-box. It is not feasible or useful for small projects like this one to try and develop a completely new community around the software. Instead, we looked for an existing project that would be a good home for the software and found that in Apache Wookie (Incubating). However, the project is also closely related to Apache Rave (also Incubating), because this project also supports the W3C widget standard and a few people involved with that project have shown an interest in what we’re doing.

Because of the close connection with these Apache projects and for the benefit of wider uptake of our project code, we thought it would be good to present about the Rave in Context project at ApacheCon 2011 in Vancouver. I was happy to be allocated a session in the ‘Fast Feather’ track, a track that focuses on latest developments and upcoming technologies.

The widgets that are being developed by the Rave in Context project will conform to the W3C widget standard. This allows for deployment in a W3C widget container such as Wookie. However, there are many other standards in the widgets and gadgets space. Another popular one is the OpenSocial gadget specification, which defines not only social concepts but also the packaging and specification of the gadgets themselves. Because of the big overlap between W3C widgets and OpenSocial gadgets, it has been relatively easy for the Rave project, that started of as an OpenSocial container, to also support W3C widgets. This makes the Rave in Context widget templates useful for that community as well.

During the presentation and some of the other talks and meetups at ApacheCon, it became clear that there is a lot of interest in the gadget/widget portal functionality that is being developed by the Rave project. Also the gadgets and widgets that are being developed may themselves be interesting to the wider community. We talked to a few people, for example, that have worked with portals based on the Java portlet specification, and are finding that this is not a specification that is suiting their needs anymore. They are looking to use a different technology for their front-end portals and the Rave portal is an option they’re considering. Also a project like Sakai OAE (f.k.a. Sakai 3) are working with gadgets and gadget repositories on their front-end. They are currently not working with a gadget standard, but moving to OpenSocial and using Rave as their front-end is something they are interested in.

The code of all the gadgets and widgets are currently scattered around the different projects, and this is not usually the best place for this kind of code. Hence, there is a clear need for a separate project to host the gadgets and widgets created, and this can also include the widgets created as part of the Rave in Context project. Although this is out of scope for the Rave in Context project, there are plans to set one up at the Apache Extras site, which is a code hosting site specifically for Apache-related projects. This will enable anyone to reuse widgets and/or gadgets generated in any of the projects, thereby delivering on the promise of open innovation in software.