I decided to check out Google’s newest toy today. If you haven’t heard of Sidewiki yet, you will. Google says it will enable us all to “help and learn from others as you browse the web.”
Their example of it in action is rather optimistic. They show a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) page where “Doctors add detailed expert insights on heart disease prevention.” I’ll believe it when I see it.
On the sidewiki comments of that same page, however, someone brings up an interesting idea: a global “user rank” meter below each commenter’s name so we can see how well each user’s overall comments fair across sites.
That sounds like a community. Something John Battelle made a point to say Google is not good at: “But as much as I love the idea of SideWiki, I’m skeptical of it for one simple reason: Google isn’t in the community business, and SideWiki, if it’s going to work, needs to either A/be driven by communities or B/Needs to be embraced as a standard by publishers, who are the proxy for communities.”
Like an unmoderated community, many suspect it will simply be filled with snarky comments, trolls and a term I rather like “web graffiti.” Jeff Jarvis worried it would take comments off his blog itself and into the sidelines robbing his site of its value. And, The IT Chronicle notes how it is open to abuse by spammers, in the same way Google’s Searchwiki has been.
Still, many marketing/branding/PR/reputation management gurus are going to say it is a big deal. Some are even using Sidewiki to say it:
I think I’m going to take a wait-and-see approach. Certainly it is something to keep an eye on, but if it fills up with nothing but spammy comments and trolls, it won’t be useful and our customers won’t bother to look. And, without an active community, I suspect it will be nothing more than a less fun version of Weblins. Remember them?
Weblins launched in early 2007 and enabled you to create an avatar of yourself that appeared that on any web page you viewed. You could also see and interact with the avatars of any other Weblin users who happened to be on that page at the same time.
Many saw promise in the “co-presence” it allowed and the way it could be another step toward a 3D internet; but I rarely saw others on the pages I was surfing when I used it, and when I did there was no real conversation happening. In the end, it just became annoying to have it blocking my view of the bottom of the page and I uninstalled. Recently, they’ve retooled Weblins as Club Cooee – another 3D chat like IMVU or, dare I say, Google Lively?