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There have been a few different feature-requests for widgets on Android, and it's something we've been thinking about a lot recently. The next version of the Android app will include a small reputation tracker widget, more info about that below, but before we get started on the more difficult widgets I wanted to get some extra feedback.

We've tossed around the ideas of three different widgets:

  1. Single-site reputation tracking.
  2. Inbox and Achievements, similar to the GMail inbox widget.
  3. A small "Hot Network Questions" widget replicating the right side of this page right now, with one question at a time.

The first one of these is done. When you place a widget on your device it has you select a Stack Exchange community to track, then looks like this:

enter image description here

Currently this widget updates every 30 minutes, we're also considering making it real-time but it's a bit difficult to do that without destroying your battery. Would real-time updating make it more useful?

Regarding the other widgets: Would you actually use them? It seems like the questions regarding widgets have very low vote counts so it doesn't a lot of sense to dedicate time to them if people aren't excited about them. Preferably we'd only add one other widget in the near future, but we might add both other ones if people are interested in them.

  • 14
    The widget takes up 2x1 room on the screen to display one number. :( I like the app, but would not use this widget, or any other you've mentioned. – user259867 Jul 17 '14 at 18:50
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    Curious: any reason why you didn't consider something involving one's favorite tags? I'd not use it, but I could imagine that people would like to know about new questions, especially for low traffic tags. – Arjan Jul 17 '14 at 19:06
  • @Arjan We're considering the best way to add something like that in the actual app itself too, maybe after we figure out how to do it in the app properly we can add a "Recent Questions" widget too. The big issue there is for someplace like SO that involves a lot of new questions (and network traffic, and battery loss). – Kasra Rahjerdi Jul 17 '14 at 19:10
  • @Thisismuchhealthier. are you saying it'd be better if it was 1x1? I definitely agree, but I haven't seen anything that manages to gracefully stick anything other than an icon or image into a 1x1 widget. The text size for something mundane like "1,000" would have to be super small to fit. – Kasra Rahjerdi Jul 17 '14 at 19:12
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    I use 1x1 WeatherBug widget and love it. – user259867 Jul 17 '14 at 19:13
  • @Thisismuchhealthier. The max character count for that is probably something like "100F", but I'll take a look to see if we can allow the widget to become 1x1 and remove the change text to the most condensed version possible (e.g. "1.1k") – Kasra Rahjerdi Jul 17 '14 at 19:14
  • @KasraRahjerdi why not a resizable widget? – Daniel A. White Jul 17 '14 at 20:05
  • @DanielA.White All of our widget ideas will be resizable, they'll just have a minimum size. The current one has a 2x1 minimum size, but it might change to 1x1. – Kasra Rahjerdi Jul 17 '14 at 20:11
  • Dammit, how to install those widgets?! Don't get it... – nicael Jul 17 '14 at 22:24
  • @nicael the widget is not in a released version yet. – Kasra Rahjerdi Jul 17 '14 at 22:26
  • So plz release them and then ask for feedback. – nicael Jul 17 '14 at 22:31
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    @nicael You're missing the entire point of this question. Do we want widgets or should the developers spend their time on other stuff? If we want widgets, what ones do we want? – ɥʇǝS Jul 18 '14 at 1:54
  • Maybe GCM could be a solution for real-time updating without draining the battery (or draining it less). – Léo Lam Jul 18 '14 at 10:01
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    I'm not sure if it's a Samsung feature or a general Android feature (or if the two implementations are different), but it will be nice to see the "number of unread notifications" shown on the Stack Exchange icon (wherever the icon is). – ADTC Sep 13 '14 at 18:06

11 Answers 11

55

Widgets are fancy and all, but these ones seem kind of... pointless, to be frank. I don't really care about knowing my precise rep score each and every moment of my day. Furthermore, the number is essentially meaningless. Unless I'm expected to memorize my rep every 30 minutes, I have no idea what happened to make it go up or down.

What would be a better idea is having a widget that shows things that actually matter, and that shows things that give you meaningful information at a glance. Hmm. Doesn't that sound remarkably similar to the purpose of the top bar on all SE sites?

Obviously very quick and dirty mockups, but you get the idea.

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    Hey those are pretty neat, actually. And also absurdly easy since they're just reusing views / information we already have. – David Fullerton Jul 18 '14 at 0:43
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    I want that – Mathieu Guindon Jul 18 '14 at 2:02
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    I would love both the inbox-view widget as well as the rep-change widget Doorknob added to the right-hand picture. I think that most users care more about the change in rep rather than the actual number. – apnorton Jul 18 '14 at 2:03
  • The mock-up for our inbox one is almost exactly what you posted :) I'm trying to get a link to it but it seems the link our designer gave me is expired. – Kasra Rahjerdi Jul 18 '14 at 2:03
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    So... I didn't think I wanted this, but looking at your screenshot I realized that this would do something for my phone that I now have on my desktop: it would allow me to go through my inbox from bottom to top without losing my place every time I followed a link. Frankly, I find it ridiculous that I can't already do this easily, but no matter - if all that needs to be done is to return to my desktop and click the next link, I'll be happy. As long as clicking things in the widget doesn't mark the entire inbox as "read" in the app/desktop! – Shog9 Jul 18 '14 at 2:32
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    "I don't really care about knowing my precise rep score each and every moment of my day." Bingo. This is probably the most useless information Stack Exchange could possibly choose to display. – Cody Gray Jul 18 '14 at 3:44
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    I would like to go with the Inbox app as it will keep me updated. Also if it checks for every 10-15 min then it will be good for me. – Ankur140290 Jul 18 '14 at 8:09
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    I love the one from the left side. Covers every important aspects of SE. – axierjhtjz Jul 18 '14 at 10:00
  • Quick suggestion: for the one on the left, how about a third tab for new questions in your favourite tags? And how about a 1x1 widget that shows numbers of new questions for one or more specific tags? People could then never miss a question on niche topics they want to share their expertise on. As it is, this covers everything except finding relevant questions to answer (i.e. our primary purpose) – user56reinstatemonica8 Jul 18 '14 at 10:59
  • Has this ever been implemented or is this planned to be implemented? It seems like the only widgets available are the "Hot Questions" and "Reputation" widget. – Baz Sep 27 '16 at 13:08
20

I'm already getting push notifications for many of the inbox messages and I don't need an up to the minute, or 30 minute, reputation counter. I can easily open the app if I'm interested in my current reputation numbers or recent inbox messages similar to how I use the desktop site.

With that being said, I see some value in a widget with the hot network questions. They are passively interesting. I've spent some time on other SE sites because of the hot questions sidebar. But as you mention, battery life and data plans limits can be issues. I'm personally struggling with battery life today. So if you do implement widgets, please add controls with how often it pulls data.

But, as it stands today, I wouldn't use any of the widgets. To be frank, I'd like to see a few other feature requests implemented before widgets.

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    Controls for refresh rate will definitely be involved. The hot network questions one actually wouldn't even use any data after the initial placement of it, since I was thinking it'd load something like 50 or 100 questions, cache them locally, and cycle through them. – Kasra Rahjerdi Jul 17 '14 at 19:08
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    Re: Prioritization, our current big picture tasks for the immediate future are widgets and a dedicated tablet interface. I don't think there are that many other big-picture things that we're brushing aside to work on these instead, but if I'm forgetting some please let me know :) – Kasra Rahjerdi Jul 17 '14 at 19:09
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    @KasraRahjerdi Oooo tablet interface. That will make many happy. The other stuff is like image uploading, some help for Markdown (iOS has it's own dedicated keyboard helper) and showing favorite tags. – Steven V Jul 17 '14 at 19:22
  • @KasraRahjerdi There still isn't a practical way to follow one's favorite questions. App user can mark questions as favorite, but this does nothing as far as the app is concerned. – user259867 Jul 17 '14 at 19:26
13

I just don't spend much time staring at my home screen, and I have it filled up with app launcher icons and a calendar anyway so there's nowhere I'd want to put any of these.

But I'd love a hot questions Daydream screensaver. Something to replace Google Currents, which I desperately miss. For those who don't remember it, the Currents Daydream looked like this:

It scrolled, very slowly, through these staggered tiles representing articles or whatever, and you could pause it by tapping on one of them to read more of the excerpt - at which point there was a link to the full article. It was a nice, relaxing way to wake up in the morning, or occasionally placate insomnia. Suggested features:

  • off-white text on black / dark grey background. Whatever you do, don't do the Flipbook thing and light up my slumbering phone like Christmas - it's a screensaver, not a nightlight!

  • Title + excerpt Just enough to get me hooked...

  • Auto-load new content periodically the phone's probably charging anyway.

  • Allow manual scrolling so I can flip back and forth through the tiles to catch something I'm interested in.

  • Site customization ok, this might be too much to ask for, but...

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    I kind of want to do this just because I haven't ever made a Daydream before. – Kasra Rahjerdi Jul 18 '14 at 0:40
8

I currently use a similar widget from StackAnywhere that displays your avatar (not necessary), site icon, totoal reputation (update interval configurable, minimum interval is 15 minutes), badge totals by type, and reputation changes for the day (e.g. +15 in green, or -2 in red).

enter image description here

Needless to say I like it as it sums what I want to know as far as achievements go instantly. The avatar could be removed as it isn't really useful but the rest can easily fit in a 2x1 widget and would be great to see at a glance.

Having a widget for inbox and achievements would be great, but I cannot decide if they should be in the same widget or not. If a good UI can include both that would be great as it would mean one less widget to hog battery and CPU cycles.

I personally wouldn't use the hot network questions widget as when I am "on the go" I limit myself to the sites I am active in.

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    Plus, this is handy if you forget who you are and what you look like. Winning. Except... now I'm confused: are you John? or Dan? If you're John... am I Dan? – Marc Gravell Jul 18 '14 at 7:22
6

I might be interested in the hot network questions widget, because it is a passive interaction that improves on the interaction of opening the app. I wouldn't be interested in the rep widget, simply because I don't need an active update on my rep, it is simply not interesting for a passive, real-time update. Inbox and Achievements are something that I would prefer to have as a notification, so that I can take action based on it (particularly Inbox). I don't use the Gmail widget for that reason.

I would prefer updates to favorite question handling, tablet interface, and a better mobile editing interface, as mentioned in another comment.

  • Yes, this. A hot network questions widget would be pretty cool, but I don't see a use in any of the other proposed widgets. – ɥʇǝS Jul 17 '14 at 20:12
5

When I get on SO, my main concern is the questions and my inbox, not my reputation, badges, or achievements. If I want to see updates for rep/badges/achievements, I can view them directly in the app, and those updates don't usually require any further action on my part. Questions and my inbox do require further action, so that is the information I want to see pushed to the front.

Since the app already has push notifications for the inbox, I think it'd be pretty unnecessary to have a widget for it, I'd just be seeing the same information in two different places.

However, new questions are an optional action, I can either choose to view the question or ignore it. Because of this, I would argue that new questions are the most appropriate content to show in a widget. I would just want the ability to specify which SE network and which tags to use when populating the list, and ideally have the ability to resize it from 4x1 to 4xN to show up to N posts.

My biggest annoyance with the app currently is that it takes several clicks to view the new questions for tags I care about. A widget to display recent questions for those tags would immediately get some of my screen real estate.

Others might want to see "Hot Questions", or "Active", or some other category, so that could be an option for customization, too.


To sum up:

  • Recent/hot/active questions widget
  • 4x1 up to 4xN for N questions
  • Choose network and tags to pull from
  • Update every X minutes
  • Provide mechanism to refresh on demand (if it fits)
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    Definitely this. I don't care so much about my inbox, that's what the notifications are for. I'd love some kind of customisable new questions widget, ideally with tabs that you can switch between. i.e. I could have an Active questions C# tab, a newest Feature-Requests tab, an Android App Feed tab and a Hot Questions tab. The android pro twitter widget displays something similar to this sort of thing fairly well. lh3.ggpht.com/… – George Duckett Jul 18 '14 at 6:29
2

Noticed it went live in a update. Nice Work!

Found a little bug(It has now been fixed):

Since the Hot Questions widget only showed one question, I decide to line up more than one on a page (excuse my webcam picture, is stuck in b&w mode)

enter image description here

This works, each one shows a different question; However, pressing each of the refresh buttons only refreshes the lastly placed widget not the individual widget. (On a Nexus 5 Android 4.4.4 in-case this is not reproducible on other phones)

Options:

  • Limit to one placement of that widget.

  • Expandable widget to encompass multiple questions.

  • Fix refresh on multiple widgets.

  • Nice catch! I'll fix it so they refresh the correct widget. – Kasra Rahjerdi Aug 14 '14 at 0:57
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    This is fixed in the next update. – Kasra Rahjerdi Aug 15 '14 at 17:59
1

I'm all for it. One of my favorite apps got buggy and I think it died when the old API did. It notified me on a regular basis if my reputation changed.

1

I've asked for a "set of sites" customization for "hot questions" widget, or forking that widget into another that supports a custom set of sites.

Another widget idea, like hot questions but for specific set of sites

Do you think that it is a good idea? With the "hot questions" widget, most of the time I'm just hitting refresh to see the next question because I don't have any interest or knowledge about the topic/site the current question is from.

0

I have developed something like the widget below, which actually also shows the number of bronze, silver and gold badges the member has, apart from the reputation.

enter image description here

  • What are the warning signs for? – ADTC Sep 2 '14 at 17:25
  • That's part of the xml file. Couldn't remove them. Won't be visible in the actual widget. – Michele La Ferla Sep 2 '14 at 17:26
  • Eh, why would it be? That sounds very strange... wait, is this screenshot from the layout editor in your IDE? Then that is a Lint warning, coz you're probably using hard-coded strings and image resource. Am I right? Try opening the widget in an emulator or actual device. – ADTC Sep 2 '14 at 17:30
  • Yes they are actual hard coded lint warnings in my ide – Michele La Ferla Sep 2 '14 at 17:31
0

Selective news feed is the first priority! I don't want to see biblical questions on my feed! Lol I accidentally told someone wrong thread.

Also having a paginated scrolling feed would be cool.

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