Someone Please Tell The PM About Widgets

Someone Please Tell The PM About Widgets

In a speech today about education reform, Prime Minister Julia Gillard made the following comment: “Funding should recognise that children are individuals, not standardised widgets.” I don’t want to belittle or side-track the debate over how schools get financed, but that comment displays a slight ignorance of how the word ‘widget’ is mostly used these days.

Picture by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

As any Android user can tell you, it’s the ability to choose the widgets you need and customise them that makes them so useful. Widgets are definitely not one-size-fits-all and unshifting. I totally agree that our education system shouldn’t aim that way.

What I think the PM wanted to say was that education shouldn’t be like the iTunes App Store: subject to arbitrary boundaries set by a single unaccountable body. Your thoughts?


  • From the Macquarie Dictionary:
    // (say ‘wijuht)
    noun 1. Colloquial (humorous) a mechanical device or gadget, the name of which is not known or is temporarily forgotten.

  • So there’s not purple aliens that can transform into other animals that are here to help save our planets environment? No Widget World Watchers for us?

  • Any excuse to mention iTunes/Apple/iDevices, eh Angus?

    Geek jargon is still not common parlance, and in common parlance “widget” has the economics supply-and-demand meaning.

    Not to mention that widgets may come in all shapes and sizes – but the same widget is meant to do the same thing on whatever phone it’s placed. You wouldn’t expect a weather widget to suddenly change into a photo slideshow widget – which fits in quite well with what Gillard was saying. Our education system should not be finding boxes to pour a malleable kid into so she/he fits that mould; it should be about giving kids tools and materials to define and build whatever box they like, which may or may not be modeled after existing boxes and could be superior to all prior boxes.

  • Sorry Angus. I don’t think you can criticise the PM over the use of the word “widget”. Certainly no more than if she had used the words window, drag, cloud, service, client, control, field, column, desktop, wallpaper, tray, parent, child, table, queue, stack, portal, icon, canvas, dock, port or any of the other countless English words that we have appropriated as metaphors in the software industry.

  • I’m very disgusted that you’re twisting this small comment into an excuse to attack the ALP/Julia Gillard. Sure you don`t want to “side swipe” the debate but you’re happy to have a go at the PM (either because of your political leanings or just because you’re struggling to come up with an article for lifehacker). I’m happy for you to express a political opinion here when it intersects with IT but you’re stretching it with this topic.

  • Thanks Angus – I enjoyed your rant.

    Everyone else, learn how to read: “comment displays a slight ignorance of how the word ‘widget’ is mostly used these days”

  • Being 27 i would of questioned why she used the word “widget”. Since i have never heard the economic term, i only know the tech term and I’d be I’m not the only under 30 person to only know “widget” as a tech term.

    • I’m like you. I was unfamiliar with the economic meaning of widget and questioned it. This lead me to look up the word and I easily found that the PM used it correctly, just in a way I didn’t know about. Angus should have done the same instead of assuming he knows better than Gillard, and writing a public article ridiculing her.

  • Angus – where does this fit in ? – in terms of Life hacker – as an avid reader – this is way off track. Cant even understand your thought process as being acceptable journalism. Next you will lay a curse on someone suggesting “tiles and windows ” have no place in a bathroom… Get an education, Angus 🙂

  • The beauty of the english language is that its flexible. It uses much from other languages/cultures. It constantly evolves and is adaptable by the user. Just make shit up, the muddle headed wombat did and he is the font of all wisdom, it kind of works better if some humor is involved and if people leave politics out. The beauty of the human race is its diversity, so some will laugh, some will critisize, some will snap, some will be anal, some will be frustated, some will be bored quickely and some will always try to influence the discussion with their particular brand of politics. (some will have poor syntax, spelling and punctuation :p). Refreshingly both blue and red will fry together one day when the asteroid hits uif we get that far witthout killing, cooking, flooding, poisoning, starving or asphyxiating ourselves out of existence and yes the article and some of the posts were a bit trivial or just shit, but in the words of one of our greatest cultural warriors (and part time reverse-donator) I LUV YOUSE ALL.

  • Someone Please Tell Angus About Widgets

    “Widget” is an appropriate similie in the PM’s comment. She’s comparing education systems to production systems; not IT systems or consumer electronics.

    You obviously weren’t previously aware of the standard meaning of the word; only the post iPhone usage of it.

    Sometimes I fear the scale of the brain/knowledge suck that consumer technology is revealing itself to be.

  • This ranks up there with the ‘Which Direction Should I Wipe?’ article. As an exercise in making yourself look stupid, you’ve done extremely well Angus. Congrats.

  • I was hoping my last post would be strange, irrelevant and kill off this pointless ongoing discussion about what all agree is a pretty shit article. Oh well two out of three is not bad. Yes, yes Angus is a dick. Using a topic such as education just to have a go at Apple shows this, the fact that he screwed it up shows that he probably doesnt fact check or get others to review his work. The article as a whole is pretty shallow and pointless. Even if it was a “slow news day” he could of discussed how the advance of technology is making traditional education infrastructure and methods obsolete, or how we are using schools as vast babysitting factories in our relentless drive of consumerism and property ownership, or, the constant erosion of education and moral standards in our entitled youth might not be solvable without radical restructure of education and possibly only by evolution of society as a whole (generally through generational changes). He then could of invited us to express our “thoughts”. However if his intentions were to provoke proud users of the english language, Mac and I-bots

  • (I hate my shit phone) if his intentions were to annoy this demographic he did a great job. There are so many other things that we could pick. How about the comment he didnt want to sidetrack or belittle the debate oneducation and then did exactly that. In the process he belittled himself and in the opinions of some the standards of the site itself. Does Angus actually read our comments? or care? What were his intentions? Did he have any? Did he just have to trot out some crap to meet a deadline? Does he believe it was witty and insightful and that we are all a bunch of trolls or easily irritated Apple fans? Why havent we heard from the great man himself? Angus where are you? (cue tears) OR should we really give a flying f**k and just move on when we read dribble on the net. Anyway lets pile on but i think Angus has left the building.

    Hows that for a rant! 🙂

  • My sarcasm was not only directed at Angus but also at us that read and post. We could of elevated the discussion and taken it where it could of gone, where Angus should of taken it in the beginning, but we didn’t. When I said he did a great job I was only referencing his ability to annoy people. I would hope most just moved on.

    I am glad Angus got pooned and some did it very well but in part it was also a tortuous, excruciatingly boring process with some bitchy, inane politicking . Vic Ortega got it right about no thought process on this post. Paroxysm was also on track, that suggestion would make it easier and save time when crap like this is published.

    If Angus is a political hack, I don’t think he will actually care that much, nor will it stop him commenting on politics. If he has actually read any of these posts hopefully he will do a better job. If so, he will also know a lot more about the term widjet but that probably wont make the world a better place.

    If he is just a politically naive IT guy that has a problem in being a bit narrow focused and doesn’t fact check/peer review, I don’t think we will have enlightened him much about the broader picture . The most that was achieved was that he may use a dictionary before addressing the lexicon used by others. Unfortunately the big issues of education, disparity, youth disconnect have all been largely ignored.

    Speak up Angus, you started all this shit!! You asked for our thoughts. What do you think about the issue, our comments, your comments viewed in hindsight and if you would rewrite this (or just bin it).

    Somehow I don’t think there will be a response.

    • My 2cents: These and similar ‘articles’ look like fillers for (as you say) slow news days. In this case he got caught out on his narrow world view. I’m sure plenty of readers have their opinions on the matters that you raised regarding the PMs speech, but that would be for a forum where these issues were discussed in a properly researched article designed to stimulate such discussion.

      Indeed the author (in my view) quite rightly got panned for for writing such an article. It’s not the readers’ role to educate the authors (that’s what they get paid for).

  • Agreed gadget, but if he has read the responses I think he sure has been “educated” by his readers. Part of what I was aiming at is to think outside the box. We don’t have to conform in this medium. Whether the originator or the responder we can write what we like and its instantaneous. Traditional writer/reader format is blown away. We dont have to wait to see if a letter is published by the editor in the next edition.

    If we write crap, we get pooned. If we make good points and use some humor we spread the joy. I agree there are better forums for it but read all the comments, people were tuning out and rightly so. Why not educate and entertain each other in a multi-nodal way, wherever, whenever, because lets face it-relying on Angus to lead us in this isnt probably the next productive step in evolution.

    But Angus can light the match that ignites and unites us, but he has a role, just a minor one and kind of burnt himself!

    As for getting paid, thats not that really important and if he doesnt get better he will probably need a new job anyway. We probably all have done some shit work at some stage and still taken the money.

    The original discussion was almost about the PM, education, funding etc apart from Angus’s widget stupidity. One of my points is that technology isnt just changing the junior footy’s goalpost’s, its getting rid of the oval, burning the rulebook, royal flushing the umpire and freaking out the parents. Done with innovation and flair this can lead to evolution in societies all around the world. It’s already happening from our “revolution in education” to actual revolutions against dictatorships. This forum doesnt have to be immune to some innovative thought and educating dialouge aside from the various ways to handle ones’ widget.

    God, I can talk some crap. You can see why I was a world champion bullshitter just before I won the war. I think I will go back to lurking and surfing porn-which is what the internet was really designed for. Damn you Angus, your ineptitude made me use my brain. now I will have to catch it, restrain it and numb it all over again.

    • I’m not normally a grammar nazi (yea yea yea, they all say that etc.), but your posts are riddled with so many basic errors that I gave up trying to understand the point you were trying to make by the second sentence. Please learn to use commas, apostrophes and the words ‘of’ and ‘have’ in the correct way. Cheers.

  • Cheers Andy, but I did point out that I was pretty shit at grammar, spelling and punctuation in an earlier post. If you are able to ascertain all my errors, I would say you have the intellectual ability to understand at least some of the few relevant points I made. Some others were also totally irrelevant, flippant, facetious or downright lunacy but the desired effect of killing the post was achieved.

    As for the accuracy, I kinda of didn’t give a shit and belted it out on a crap mobile with a poor screen in the middle of the night. Sorry to say chief, but with the advent of text speak, emoticons and failing standards of literacy you might want to brush up on pigeon, Spanglish etc. I appreciate the grammar nazi and the rearguard action he doth fight, but it’s a losing battle. Our language and every part of its construction will morph , the time scale for this is the only variable. Inflexible=Latin=stagnation=death.

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