I've decided to take off many, if not most, of the widgets on the left and right rails of this blog...
I'd like to know if there are any of them that provide real and frequent value to you all.
That last line is the key one. From the comments on Fred's post, many of his readers find widgets to be a distraction at best. As for me, there are several sites with high quality content that nonetheless I avoid (or read through an RSS Feed Reader) because of the annoyances caused by the Web 2.0 widget of the day. (I'm sure that their advertisers are thrilled to hear things like that.)
My personal pet peeve? Snap Shots from Snap.com. Snap Shots are the annoying little pop-up boxes that give a preview image of a web page when you accidentally mouse over a url, thus blocking the next few lines of the text that you want to read and completely interfering with the flow of web browsing. Supposedly, one can opt-out and disable Snap Shots, but every time I do, they seem to come back and haunt me again a few days later. As a result, Snap.com is one of the few domains that I have blocked at my router.
However, I am mildly amused that a search for "hate snap.com" yields around 18,400 hits. I am quite impressed that even on the 10th page of results, the hits are relevant!
So folks, step away from the kewl widgets, and focus on generating good content instead.
Update: I have to give Snap.com some grudging respect for having the courage to take this approach to defending their product. Certainly an interesting exercise in brand development...