Google recently launched Google Sidewiki, which allows web searchers to contribute “helpful” information next to any webpage.
Google Sidewiki appears as a browser sidebar, where you can read and write entries along the side of the page…kind of like “comments” or reviews” (or like circa 1999 Thirdvoice “sticky notes” (google it…)).
In their own blog entry on the product, Google says “As you browse the web, it’s easy to forget how many people visit the same pages and look for the same information. Whether you’re researching advice on heart disease prevention or looking for museums to visit in New York City, many others have done the same and could have added their knowledge along the way…now you can”
So basically it allows you to leave and read “comments” and “reviews” other folks have made for a given website in their index; whether they are in the same context or not of your own interest or research…
In a perfect world it seems users of sidewiki would contribute a wealth of valuable information attached to every website, and users would monitor the content like some version of Wikipedia.
Unfortunately as we’ve all seen if we’ve spent the time reading comments on youtube, amazon, itunes or any web bulletin board / discussion group – we don’t live in a perfect world.
I have to suspect it will be a tough gig to keep Sidewiki from being plagued with erroneous comments, slander, sneaky advertising, spam, scams, trolls, flame wars, bad grammar, typos, bigotry and hatred.
I’m sure Google will attempt to combat this with its moderators and algorithms, but nothing is perfect.
It seems the actual owner of the webpage has no control over the Sidewiki – so how will Google handle their own advertisers frustrations over not only seeing comments that degrade them but realizing that they likely paid Google for the traffic that ultimately degraded them?
I’m sure Sidewiki has its uses…in the same way reviews on hotels.com, amazon, itunes and ebay do…but I personally see more “noise” and “risk” than benefit…I wonder how long until webpage programmers figure out how to “optout” of sidewiki in the first place…
I think the big challenge is the context of the comments; just because I’m on a website about New York City – doesn’t mean I want comments of where to stay or where to eat…maybe my search is much more specific or granular than that; the comments will be hard to sift through…so I know I’ll end up just shutting it off.
What about b2b marketers – do you see an opportunity looming here?