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Feigning normality since 1973

Adding a peanut gallery

Filed in: Internet.

AKA jumping on the topic du jour.

Google's latest release is "Sidewiki", essentially a new feature on their toolbar which allows you to open up a sidebar and add a note about the page you're currently viewing. Other users can then rate your comment, and all the comments on a particular page are ordered by how useful other users found them. So essentially it's a commenting system with ratings. I'm not sure why they chose to have "wiki" in the name; Wiki implies modifiable content, but so far as I can tell you can't modify notes anyone else has added.

What does this give us? Well, in practical terms, it means every page on the Internet has a Google-controlled comment forum which the site owner has little control over, but which is displayed alongside their content. These can be displayed in any browser, even if it doesn't have Google toolbar installed - observe this Sidewiki comment on Wikipedia's main page. Now, Wikipedia's main page already has a talk page to comment on, which is modifiable by anyone, so the Sidewiki is providing a second redundant comment forum albeit, as the comment points out, one not under the control of anyone at Wikipedia. As a side note, this also means that blogs with the comments disabled now have comments again.

This post, too, has a section at the bottom for visitors to leave their comments, but it also has a Sidewiki. When someone posts a comment here, I get an email alerting me, so I know to come and reply to it. If someone posts a comment to the Sidewiki, I don't. Perhaps this is something Google ought to look at as an enhancement to their Webmaster Tools service? By verifying my site on sitemaps, I ought to be able to access a page showing all of the Sidewiki comments.

I'll be interested to see how long it takes before the first libel case results from something someone said on Sidewiki. I went to check the Scientology site to see if anything had been added there yet, but their site crashes IE on my computer, and I can't get Sidewiki to install on Firefox, so...

Posted September 25, 2009 7:02 PM


Hmmm... this sounds interesting. Although even blogs I read which have disabled comments but which still have RSS feeds (I'm thinking of one in particular, here) can effectively have comments left on them on their live journal RSS feed. Of course they disappear after a couple of weeks, but it means you can get into a discussion about something if there's enough other people reading the RSS feed to make an interesting discussion possible.

Posted by: Daveosaurus | September 25, 2009 7:45 PM

You don't wanna hassle the Scientologists. They'll sue your nuts off.

Posted by: Jeff Stone | September 25, 2009 9:00 PM

Hmm... can't install on Firefox? And most work sites won't let you install things on IE... so most people who use it won't be worth listening to... ;)

Posted by: Thad Ritchards | September 26, 2009 7:12 AM

Oh, I installed it on Firefox successfully on another PC. It's just that when I try to do it on this one, Google insists on giving me the installer for IE instead of the one for Firefox. Odd!

Posted by: Alden | September 26, 2009 9:44 AM

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