Tuesday, November 24, 2009...2:12 pm

Google Sidewiki – an experiment

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Anyone using the very much under-the-radar Sidewiki toolbar gizmo from Google to add browser-located comments to web sites will now be able to see an entry for Freelance Unbound on the left of the screen next to the home page.

I’ve only just come across Sidewiki myself – I caught a reference to it in an internet marketing newsletter I monitor. The author flagged it up as a major potential problem for brand protection:

The site owner has no editorial control – anyone can say anything they like about your page, your company, your product, or you. Your competitors can trash you. Sidewiki has the potential to be one of the most damaging and destructive things online.

That may be a bit extreme. Let’s face it – anyone on the internet can start up a blog slagging you and your site off. The only real difference is that, with Sidewiki, their posts will be linked to your pages in the same browser.

But he was also concerned that any attempt by a site owner to block Sidewiki from working might prompt Google to delist their site from search results. I’ve no idea if that’s true, but it would be a worry – I’m not alone in thinking Google (motto: “Don’t be evil”) is actually becoming the hated 600-pound gorilla of the web that Microsoft used to be in PC software. (Remember those days? I miss them somehow.)

So of course I had to download the toolbar to see how it worked. That’s journalism in action for you.

If anyone else is reading this using Firefox, or maybe IE6, feel free to download it too and put up a comment. It would be interesting to see how it works.

However – I too understand that brand protection malarkey. Bear in mind that any comments need to meet Google’s terms of use. Specifically:

  • Keep Sidewiki spam and malware free
  • Speak your mind without being hateful or threatening to others
  • Keep it legal
  • Respect copyright laws
  • Don’t post or link to sexually explicit material
  • Don’t pretend to be someone else (though I think using your internet identity should be fine)
  • Don’t share personal or confidential information

Is all of that enough to prevent wanton web reputational carnage?

Well – probably. Although I suspect it will be a bit of a palaver to get Google to take action against any Sidewiki user with a grudge who disses your site (unless they post dodgy sexually explicit content, I suspect).

But the truth is that the internet opens up content to everyone – not only to read, but to comment about and respond to. The only difference is that you can’t turn them off, or delete them at will. I just hope it’s got Akismet installed…

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