Google Sidewiki – web annotations let you comment on anything

214 sidewiki1.jpgAn interesting new project from Google – sidewikis – allow you to comment on anything, anywhere.

By downloading a Mozilla or IE extension you can click on the icon and whatever page you’re on, a comment box or sidewiki will open up and let you leave a little remark. See the picture above…You can comment on the page generally, or highlight a particular section of text and comment on that specifically. Give your comment a title as well as body text.

To make it work:

You need either Mozilla or Internet Explorer and a google account, either a gmail address or a google profile. (easy to set up).
1. Download the sidewiki extension from either mozzilla or Internet explorer
2. Install the google toolbar including the sidewiki button
3. Go to any public webpage and click the sidewiki icon on the toolbar
4. The sidewiki pops up and asks you to sign in to your google account or register for one
5. Now signed in, you can leave a comment.

You know those sites where they won’t let you comment…? Now you can. Anywhere. Part of me loves this, part of me shrinks in terror at the thought of the random graffiti that could accrue. Yes we’ve all been on youtube – we know what people say… You don’t have to be signed up to sidewikis to see other people comments, you can follow direct links.

This could change PR and in fact, journalism quite significantly if any given text can be layered over with these web annotations. It could be extremely useful – along the lines of the Wikipedia model – with corrections and extra information layered on top of any given article.

Or it could mean pages get horribly defaced because it would take away the ability of sites to moderate or refuse comments on their sites.
214 sidewiki 2.jpg

What Google’s doing to make it safe:

1. Encouraging real names – by linking your sidewiki comments to google profile I assume google wants to cut down the anonymous trolls and make people more personally accountable for what they write. Your sidewiki comments turn up on your Google profile.
2. Suggesting you do the right thing – for example suggesting you write “Helpful Information” in the insert text box (see pic below). Just in case you were about to insert some unhelpful information
3. Encouraging you to post your comments to your Twitter feed and your blog – your friends will know what you say
4. Google has a long policy on what is acceptable and unacceptable
With the threat of legal action if rules are flaunted.
5. Comments are rated and less useful or unacceptable comments can be moved down the visibility stakes.

It’s a fascinating idea… but like many new developments on the internet opens up a lot of potential problems with the opportunities it offers.

Meanwhile Read Write Web covers the controversial claim that Google copied the idea from a small start-up called Reframe.

Anna Leach


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