Malleable Musings

October 26, 2009

More on Sidewiki

Filed under: Sidewiki, Yahoo Pipes — Brendan @ 12:31 am

Having written about searching Sidewiki a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been  reading a bit more about it and I’ve also been been playing about with the API.

Google announced some changes to Sidewiki in mid-November, I’ve therefore marked up deletions to this post of things that have changed.

I’m approaching Sidewiki from the perspective of someone who is involved with a brand and wants to ensure I understand Sidewiki’s potential as another conversation channel before/in case it is adopted in a wide-scale way.

In order to help me do this  I created a couple of Yahoo Pipes that use the Sidewiki API – one takes a URL and checks the API for Sidewiki entries (in a similar way to Claude Vedovini’s  Sidewikirss) and then another which takes a list of URL’s in a CSV file.  I then thought about another pipe using an RSS feed (e.g. to easily pick up all comments across a blog) however by that stage I discovered the limitations of the API.  I saw someone selling commercial software that could be useful but they recognised the limitations – they were the people that put me on to the idea that the API only surfaces comments that have been liked.  From my reading around the subject I  think that the API is actually much more severe than this – basing what it shows on an alogorithm.  As far as I can tell this means that the only way of checking your site for comments is by visiting every page (and every variation of each URI – something that is impossible to do – see parameter-ised URI below) with a version of Firefox or IE with the Google ToolBar installed and Sidewiki operating!

My frustrations with the API combined with some of the very negative posts I had read and I started wondering whether in releasing Sidewiki Google had broken their “Do no evil” mantra. This is  something that would sadden me as I’ve always been a bit of a Google fanboy.

I’m not naive enough to think that a brand is in control of how it is perceived, nor that there is anyway that you can follow every conversation involving your brand.  So I thoughtsome more and decided, that excepting that potentially rogue content can be positioned next to your own within the browser, Sidewiki comments are no different from those found on Facebook (a truly walled garden in which conversations can easily be missed).  Then I came across this excellent Neville Hobson post and I felt that much of my thunder had been stolen.  However Neville’s post raises some interesting issues for me:

  1. The idea of Sidewiki as a commenting platform.  I don’t think this is something that brand/website owners should encourage mainly because comment monitoring is so difficult.  For example Neville invites people to leave a Sidewiki comment on  People might see this and assume that Neville has got the monitoring in place for or for and other URLs.  However such monitoring may only be visible from your website logs – and then only if you know what you are looking for, e.g I’ve commented on this:.’snotthesamepagewithoutthisparamete.
  2. Google have provided a mechanism for page owners to provide a top placed comment in the side wiki.  However you need to do this on every page on your site.  What’s more there is no such option on public sites in which your brands might be investing, e.g. think how much time and energy you might push into your Facebook Fan pages or You Tube Channels etc. (e.g. this video from UNSW has a Sidewiki entry).

I know that there are Sidewiki Policies which supposedly provides some protection against vandalism (I don’t like using that word – as I see them as comments that need to be responded to). However for me the bigger issue is that Sidewiki isn’t searchable (it looks like Google isn’t indexing sidewiki entries and may be removing entries that have already been indexed) and then there are the issues with the API highlighted above.

In it’s current state like others I’m left confused about Sidewiki. At the moment I think movement in this direction is inevitable but can only see it being gamed and as someone who is involved with a brand it scares the hell out of me. I guess that we all just need to keep watching.


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