Getting Started with Google Sidewiki

The announcement about Google Sidewiki surprised me last Thursday when I found out about it via a Twitter link to Jeremiah Owyang’s blog post.  In simple terms, Sidewiki lets anyone to contribute useful information next to any webpage.  Sidewiki appears as a collapsible browser sidebar where you can read and post comments.

Being an early adopter, I decided to testdrive Sidewiki last week.

First, you need to install and activate the plug-in for your either your Firefox or Internet Explorer browser.  Unfortunately, Sidewiki is not supported in Google Chrome which is my preferred browser.  And you need to have a Google email account and profile in order to leave a comment.  This prohibits anonymous users from leaving comments and ‘forces’ anyone who wants to use Sidewiki to get a Gmail email account.

Then, you can visit any website and click on the Sidewiki toolbar and enter your comment.  Comments you make are shown at the top of the stream, and you can vote for whether comments are useful or not.

Adding a Comment to Sidewiki

Adding a Comment to Sidewiki

When you hover over a person’s name in Sidewiki, you can see how many Sidewiki entries have been authored by that person along with an option to view the person’s full profile.

Hovering Over Person's Name in Sidewiki

Hovering Over Person's Name in Sidewiki

And when you go to the Google profile, you can see all of the Sidewiki comments that have been made by that user along with other user information.

Sidewiki Comments on my Google Profile

Sidewiki Comments on my Google Profile

Advice for individual users – If you are into social media or marketing,  you definitely need to experiment with Sidewiki because you cannot ignore any offering from Google.  This is also a good time to make sure that your Google profile is up-to-date and complete.

Advice for companies – Sidewiki is yet another social media channel that needs to be listened to and monitored by savvy companies.  At a minimum, companies need to be aware that their websites could now be a) enhanced by happy and helpful users and customers or b) hijacked by unhappy customers.  Right now, there is no way for companies to control the message other than by clicking on the Report Abuse link at the bottom of each comment.

Jeremiah offered 3 great tips for companies in his blog post:

  1. Accept that you no longer ‘own’ your corporate website
  2. Develop a strategy or process to monitor and respond to conversations on Sidewiki
  3. Embrace social content now and don’t be reactive to negative content

Advice for Google – While the first shot out of the box on Sidewiki is pretty good, you have to come up with a way to give us a way to search and sort comments in Sidewiki.  Otherwise comments past the first page or two are going to get lost or become irrelevant.  I know you are trying to show the most relevant comments first, but there is no transparency around how your real-time engine works.  For example, I cannot even find the comment I made on the Twitter homepage last Thursday as there are now pages of comments.  On the other hand, the comments I made on the iRise corporate website are the only comments so they definitely stand out.

Reactions in the Blogosphere – There has also been both positive and negative reactions for the Sidewiki service.

Here are a few of the recent blog posts about Sidewiki:

Sidewiki: What Google Should Do by Jeff Jarvis

Google Sidewiki: Danger by Silicon Valley Insider

Google Steps Where Others Have Stumbled by Techcrunch

Google Sidewiki Extorts Google Network Participation by Search Engine Journal

Google Sidewiki – Benefits, Dangers and Concerns by SEO.com

Definitely pay attention in this space as there are others who have recently released similar services or have plans to do so including DotSpots.

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