Google – taking over your browser one side at a time!

Website annotation has been around for sometime now with services such as shadows, TrailFire, and Dingo but haven’t really taken off…Enter Google with their edition of website annotation titled SideWiki!

So what is it all about?  Sidewiki allows any Google user to place comments on an entire page or even selected sections of a web page. These comments are listed in a retractable toolbar down the side of your browser. They have also included the option to embed images and videos into the comment however in my brief search I haven’t seen it done yet.

So how do they control things like spammers and flamers? The have used a ranking system where users can vote up or down on comments. Comments with more votes up directly affect that users ‘ranking’. Users with high ranking or reputation will be placed towards the top of the sidewiki hierarchy and low rating users will be stomped down to the bottom where no one will read them. In my opinion this sounds like an effective measure. Chris Doble talked about this concept in his recent post disscussing Kevin Rose’s suggestions for taking your site from one to one million users. Kevin suggested that giving users an “ego” to work on gives them an incentive to post good material and to get involved positively. Sidewiki has done that well because not only does one ‘flame’ take down that comments rating, it affects that users overall positioning on all other pages. This is a huge incentive to help other users and collaborate. Very Web 2.0 like.

So I took the liberty of giving SideWiki a go and had some pretty pleasing results. It’s not everywhere yet but found it in heavy use at TechCrunch and also at sites such as reddit. It seems to be currently used as a reviewing type system where users are saying, I use this website for this, it is good for this etc. I can see this being very useful if it is taken on by the wider public as a very, very helpful tool in research. Having short summaries and recommendations before you read an entire journal would be very beneficial to students and researchers in particular.

Overall it seems like a good thing, but like all web 2.0 tools you need people to come on board to get the ball rolling. The only strongly disappointing feature of Google SideWiki is…. it is bundled with Google toolbar (yes, the screen hogging, colourful pictures and auto-filling nightmare). Hence the reason why I am about to uninstall the add on and end my google SideWiki experience for now. Fingers are crossed that they will release a standalone add-on in the near future!


Google SideWiki being used with reddit


4 responses to this post.

  1. Hey Jamie,
    Thanks for sharing this information with me. I’ve read a bit about the SideWiki in the newspaper a few weeks back but haven’t really explored it any further. Seems like it could be a good idea. I wonder who and how many people will start using it though. Maybe only tech-savvy people will use it…

    Have you found it to be useful at all when browsing the internet? I suppose the longer it is around the more useful it will become. As the user base increases the network effect will kick in and users will be able to harness the collective intelligence of the masses when browsing web pages.

    Ben McCallum


    • Posted by jamie turner on October 13, 2009 at 5:15 pm

      Thanks Ben, you hit the nail on the head. its all about waiting for the network effect. Google have a lot of services but not many of them are promoted publicised. It seems like people only find about about these things if they search for them or are keeping up to date with new tech news.

      On the pages I viewed it seemed to be working very well but it wasn’t in wide use yet.


      • Posted by benmccallum on October 15, 2009 at 8:46 pm

        I guess you could also argue that Google don’t need to market their products. The hype is generated by tech gurus and the blogosphere by blog posts such as this.

  2. Posted by nadishasigera on October 15, 2009 at 1:20 am

    Hey Jamie;

    Very useful points raised here in your post. Actually this is the first time i heard about sidewikis. Probably may be because it is new to the trend. As you have mentioned it is not that easy to attract people to use something like that with the competition of other tools that are being used at the moment.
    But I hope it will be able to do add some value for the web 2.0 trend in the near future.



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