Going by the common definition, a wiki is a collaborative website which lets its users easily create and edit entries. Taking off from that, Google Sidewiki is a means to contribute helpful information to any webpage.
The Sidewiki’s intent is to pool together the mass of readers who visit a webpage and use their collective knowhow to enhance the content already present with their own website reviews. Don’t muddle it with Searchwiki, that one was for search results. This one is for annotating webpages.
Google Sidewiki installs as a browser sidebar. As you visit a webpage, you can read commentaries and inputs from others who have passed through before you. This information can broaden the original information contained in the webpage by way of additional reference links, tips, inside information or simply a critical website review. The stream of comments is intended to further conversation around a topic.
Google’s page on Sidewiki draws out several examples of potential uses and benefits. So, let’s check if it’s worth the swipe.
The browser tool for Internet Explorer and Firefox installs as a sideswipe sidebar. It’s a default part of Google Toolbar. So all of us who avoid the Google Toolbar, or any toolbar as such, tough luck.
It’s also a part of the toolbar’s enhanced features which involves sending user browsing info back to Google.
Once installed, you can click the Sidewiki icon or click a little blue tab to open the sidebar to view comments.
Reading, annotating and sharing
As this is a new service, most of your frequented sites won’t have many entries. In that case, you can log in with your Google ID and publish your own. Put in your two bits for the whole page or select a specific section to remark on.
Sharing some info could be a direct benefit. It’s quite simple – click the Share link at the bottom of an entry and pass it on using email, Twitter or post it on Facebook. You can also click the chain icon to copy the link and paste it anywhere like instant messengers. Blogger post integration is also there for those who have one.
Sidewiki entries are coupled with Google Profiles (i.e. those who us them). You can read the other entries by the author and his complete bio on Google Profiles.
Sidewiki website reviews can be edited and deleted any time. You can also disable Sidewiki by clicking on the wrench icon for the toolbar settings and going to the Tools tab. Uncheck the box for Sidewiki.
Sidewiki’s intent as explained by Google is not to have a free-for-all commenting platform. A ranking program is inbuilt to weed out the useless info from the ones that are relevant. The exact tech behind the show is quite beyond me but it does take heed of user feedback (voting), commenting track record of the author and relative quality. Ranking is something Google is good at, so hopefully Sidewiki will show the worthy ones.
Is the footnote clear yet?
It’s still early days so the jury is still not out. Looking at the comments floating around on the web, opinion seems to be divided. Yes, universal sharing of knowledge seems to be a great idea. Questions though remain how strong will the ranking system be? Will it filter out comments which express opposite views? How will webmasters take to this “˜intrusion’? In-site comments can be controlled and blocked, but Sidewiki is open to all. Early indications say that not all comments will make the grade. Algorithms will ensure that the most relevant will appear first. Also, Google’s intent seems to be of adding value rather than start a town square hullabaloo.
Sidewiki’s success is not assured because it’s a Google baby. Annotation tools and web highlighters like Diigo, DotSpots, Trailfire and Fleck are among a few. It will be the value of raw words that might determine Sidewiki’s quality.
What are your early thoughts on sideswiping Sidewiki? Comment or annotate away.
More articles about: