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?


    Pretty sure she would have been using it based on the economics definition of the word, not the software development definition of the word. Software overloads a LOT of the real world lexicon to mean things quite different, often starting off as a vague metaphor for the particular problem space or component at hand.



        Seriously lifehacker? Words now can only have one meaning? This article is nonsense.

          Agree with Jason.

      + a million. Widget is a placeholder term. It's like 'thingie'.

      Next you'll be telling us you can't use the term 'aussie icon' because 'an icon is something on a desktop'

        bahahaha, nice one

    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.

    Showing how young you are Angus, if you have never come across the supply vs. demand example of widgets :)

    To me, a widget is a small and never-seen (only ever heard) device used to make cans of beer frothy.
    I don't think she meant one of them either.

      Kids these days are boozers, so perhaps she did?

    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?

      And now the themesong is stuck in my head. Thanks.

      You win!

        ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, I just spat out my water onto the monitor... fuck

        but LOL, nice one.!

      I went to school with a guy who reminded me of Widget the World Watcher.

    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.

      Do you get this upset about every little thing? Deadset.

    Someone Please Tell AK About Widgets :)

    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"

    These responses are hilarious. Man, did you get told. That's what you get when you try to educate others with a narrow geek worldview.

    This is the crap that is making me read Lifehacker less and less.

    Sorry to pile on, but the usage was correct and this article has no place here. If you want a job at News ltd so badly, send a resume.

    Confirmed. There was no thought process on this post. Moving on.

    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.

      I'm 22. I knew what she meant.
      I also know to do a bit of homework before I call someone out publicly.

    Slow news day Angus?

    Whatever happened to research.

    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.

    I agree with most of the comments. Must have been a slow new day indeed for this puff to make it on to the page.

    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.

    widg·et- noun
    a small mechanical device, as a knob or switch, especially one whose name is not known or cannot be recalled; gadgetl.

    My Thought: Use a dam dictionary.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now