Malleable Musings

November 15, 2009

Sidewiki fixes

Filed under: Sidewiki, Yahoo Pipes — Brendan @ 11:07 pm

Sidewiki announced some changes to the API a couple of days ago.

The most important one being the parameter:
includeLessUseful=true

This gets around the idea that someone at Google determines what should be included in a feed and what isn’t.

Another fix is that the API can now picks up an entries across a domain. I built a quick Yahoo pipe that demonstrates this although I also see that sidewikirss has already been updated.

What I’m still waiting for Google to provide is some form of search across all Sidewiki entries regardless of which domain they are on.

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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 http://www.nevillehobson.com/.  People might see this and assume that Neville has got the monitoring in place for http://www.nevillehobson.com/2009/10/25/opportunity-knocks-with-google-sidewiki/ or for http://www.nevillehobson.com/2009/10/25/opportunity-knocks-with-google-sidewiki/#comments 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:. https://malleablemusings.wordpress.com/2009/10/10/searching-sidewiki/?putsomethingherejusttoshowthatit’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.

October 10, 2009

Searching Sidewiki

Filed under: Sidewiki — Brendan @ 11:51 pm

I got around to hearing about, reading up on and having a quick look at Google Sidewiki last week. I actually quite like the idea of Sidewiki but as I’ve taken to using Chrome as my usual browser I’m unlikely to be using it that much. (Bizarrely the Google Toolbar with Sidewiki currently only works with Firefox and IE).

To illustrate what Sidewiki does lets consider Seth Godin. He’s recently just launched a service called Squidoo. As an aside this is well worth a look as to what a listening post can look like for a brand, link is for MailChimp. This is Seth’s post about launching the service. Strangely he normally doesn’t allow comments on his posts so what’s happened is that comments like this are appearing in Sidewiki.

I’ve seen some tools out there that claim to block Sidewiki although I haven’t investigated these properly yet.

Sidwiki may cause brands issues because it’s another place where conversation can happen, so it’s another place that needs to be monitored.

I mentioned on Friendfeed last week that we’ll need to see if and how Sidewiki takes off.  However this looks like it’s going to be difficult to monitor.

There is a Google Sidewiki API however I can’t see that it’s going to provide the one thing that brand owners with large websites are going to need which is notification of comments that could be written on a large number of pages across their website, e.g. look at this university press release and the comment that was made on the Sidewiki.

I therefore wondered how far I could get with searching for Sidewiki comments on Google.  The comments are of the form:

http://www.google.com/sidewiki/entry/userid/id/entrykey

but a quick search of site:http://www.google.com/sidewiki/entry/ on Google only reveals 2,190 results, which I think must be too small a number.  What’s more none of these seem to have been made in the past week.

Therefore it makes me wonder how accurate or useful more complex searches are e.g. search of “ac.uk” site:http://www.google.com/sidewiki/entry/

I think I need to think about this and explore it some more as I haven’t been able to produce a search that produces the 10+ comments shown on Seth Godin’s blog post (linked above).   Maybe what’s needed is to engage with the API.

Sidewiki is a secret hidden world but there are bound to be ramifications in all sorts of areas, SEO springs immediately to mind.  Sidewiki is definitely a technology I’ll be watching.