I Can’t Tell You How Excited I Am To See Google Sidewiki’s Potential Actualized. Unfortunately, As Marketers Have Done With Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, (MySpace – Remember Her?) And Every Other Facet of “The Social Web,” Sidewiki provides yet another means for those who just don’t ‘get it’ to exploit the system and barrage us with broadcast, branded, messaging.

Until now, this usurpation of online communities and the manipulation of our fundamental human desire to generate content and share information has been limited to custom-tailored (if we’re lucky) invasions of specific platforms or desperate attempts at creating their own.

Convo 1

Convo 1

Sidewiki, has, without a doubt, an enormous potential – one to utterly destroy any limitations or barriers on the “information sharing” currently allowed by the internet. We’re looking at the possible information exchange of exponential proportions. Unfortunately, I have a sneaking suspicion that this will be the tool that unlocks the whole of the internet to the pervasive, abusive tactics of irresponsible marketers.You know the type – the ones who build facebook pages that collect dust and twitter accounts that auto-follow and auto-DM promotional messaging.

I sincerely hope that Google has developed, within it’s algorithm, protection from this parasitism but I fear that these individuals, for all their irresponsibility, have one talent, namely, circumventing those protocols. Take a look at this video – What stops me from using sidewiki to just hop from site to page to blog, highlighting portions of text and promising readers further explanation, only to lead them elsewhere – a deceptive practice that seems to be aligned today’s spammy zeitgeist.

What do you think? Are you more excited for the evolution of the social web potentially facilitated by Sidewiki? Are you confident that Google has taken the necessary precautions to keep spammers from hijacking this tool  and isn’t about to provide unlimited access to anyone who wants to litter your website digital post-it notes, maliciously intended, or otherwise?

If this is web 3.0 – I’m scared.

UPDATE: 9/24/09 – Check Out These Two Other Awesome Posts On The Topic:

Google Sidewiki: Danger (By Jeff Jarvis On Buzz Machine)

Google SideWiki Extorts Google Network Participation (By Gab Goldenberg on Search Engine Journal)

Fear of Google’s Sidewiki… (By Justin & Jesse on Extreme Discovery)

Convo 2

  1. @hokiebill says:

    I agree… somewhat.

    You are correct that there is potential for a Brand Invasion. But it is proportional to usage. While this SideWiki idea is still young (assuming it will grow up), I believe Google has placed some of the necessary precautions in there.

    1. The Sidebar does not come up unless you want it to (read; click the button). This keeps potential ads out of your face unless you make the effort to use sidewiki. This is a very fair feature.

    2. After you have clicked the button. Any and all posts have three links below them. The first two are a Yes or No response to “Was this information helpful?” I have not checked, but I feel it is safe to say an entry will be removed if it recieves a proper No-to-Yes ratio. The third option is for Reporting abuse, which works well in forums such as YouTube, Facebook, and countless others.

    Your truth is that so far we do not know of any Moderation that is taking place internally with Google. We also do not know how far they can take moderation. Is an add on whitehouse.gov that says “See what conservatives say” with a link to Fox News a Mod-able offense? It’s a gray area.

    We just have to wait to see what transpires; Whether this catches on; And, more importantly, what the big G has planned when the Ads take over.

    Great thoughts. I enjoyed reading.

    • Aerocles says:

      Right – And I Think These Features are the standard set of precautions – but like i said, there are some very creative spammers out there who will find ways to circumvent the system – whether by repeatedly voting their own links as “Helpful” or some other means. i think with a tool like sidewiki google owes it to us to develop a more comprehensive and protective protocol, relying on their own penchant for coding and algorithmic genius to keep would be abusers at bay.

  2. Beth Harte says:

    David, more than that…what if someone uses Sidewiki to post inaccurate information regarding a businesses’ website? Is it the website owners job to monitor for this? Then who’s job is it to correct it (or even remove the information, if possible)? If that happens…what “social rule” are they breaking?

    Does this type of randomness force organizations to install Sidewiki? As well, how messy will the content get when all is said and done? Will people be able to control themselves?

    From a blogging perspective, honestly, I don’t want someone adding links to my posts. I select certain links for a reason. If I miss something that someone thinks is important, share it in the comments for everyone to see.

    Hmmm, maybe I am being miserly, close-minded or just not ‘getting it’…but I see more issues than anything with Sidewiki.

    Beth Harte
    Community Manager, MarketingProfs

    • Aerocles says:

      Exactly – That’s kind of what i meant when i wrote “maliciously intended, or otherwise?” at the end of my post. People & Companies whose websites are central to their lives or businesses will HAVE to install sidewiki, if only to monitor conversations and correct for misinformation – much like they do now on blogs, forums, and on twitter. I don’t think you’re being close minded. I’m an Anti-Luddite – I love information & new technology that enables me to exchange content and knowledge with people around the world, but this system seems so open that it will do more harm than good, unless moderation or opt-in features are built in somehow.

  3. Agreed – there needs to be a lot more disclosure about who, if anyone, monitors the contributions. It is an exciting development, but as with most things in the Social Web: with great new possibilities come great new responsibilities (which we all know are not always embraced by ALL users). Good post. Thanks.

  4. You are so right on target with your thoughts here. When I saw the introduction of this I instantly figured it’s a good idea that can go terribly wrong. Marketers are marketers. But, then again, many marketers are nothing more than spammers. I guess time will tell if Google decides to let the good idea get high-jacked. Or, if they will protect the user.

    • Aerocles says:

      Time is definitely important here. i Have a feeling that we’ll see google rolling out more proactive spam filtration features as they witness the use and abuse of their tool (much like twitter SHOULD be doing).

  5. I don’t think you’re going to like my answer, and I think I feel this way possibly because I am still so new.

    I’m just not sure how to react to SideWiki. My initial impression was, “DUDE! Cool!” because how great would it be to be able to comment on just about any Web site? I hate when I have to register to leave a comment or can’t comment at all. This provides a great forum through which anyone can comment on any Web page and have a conversation with others reading the same content. Isn’t that such a great concept? I’d love to know who else is reading the same blogs or who else is checking the same stats on ESPN.

    On the other hand, I guess I can understand that this will also leave the door open for yet another medium for spammers. But if what @Hokiebill said is true, those messages that are spam can be flagged and removed as easily as they can anywhere else.

    Beth, I was struck by your questions about monitoring this feature. I think it should be handled in the same way that Wikipedia is. It’s probably not smart to vote yes or no on a Sidewiki, but I think it would OK to comment and put in your two cents so long as you disclose who you are. I think it should be monitored as much as Wikipedia might be.

    I do agree, however, that adding comments in the end will just become messy. How many idiots are going to post something useless on the Google homepage? But then again, who will ever read them?

    I’m still torn, but I think both the possibilities and downfalls are endless here.

    Rebecca Denison

    • Aerocles says:

      First of all – I love everyone’s answers – even if they are out to disagree with me and prove me wrong. I blog, not just to share my thoughts, but to learn from all the feedback everyone gives me. that’s why the comments are so important. I don’t learn by teaching, I learn by discussing!

      Secondly, I had the same initiation response as you did. And I still am quite excited to witness it’s widespread adoption and consequent effect on how we use the internet. I just hope – as Todd Defren recently Pointed out (http://www.pr-squared.com/index.php/2009/09/social-media-police-on-patrol) People, Social Media Power Users, Specifically, Have a vested interest in self policing Social Platforms and Tools and will no doubt inundate Google with requests for spam protection catering to the exact nature of the exploitation of their site. It will be an evolving tool and process…I Hope

    • Beth Harte says:

      Rebecca, struck in a good or bad way? 🙂 As a marketer (and NOT the spammy kind) my reaction is less about the spam but folks intending well, but…getting it wrong or just putting too much out there. And perhaps it’s a control issue (I admit it!).

      Most websites are NOT wikis and most marketers don’t have a clue what a wiki is. They look at Wikipedia as a source of information without realizing that it’s information provided by people and not necessarily the source.

      Here’s where my head is (given my high-tech background). Say I have a website and I have technical specifications for my product/service on it (and yes, specific marketing information). What if someone comes along and uses Sidewiki to link to something that is actually not technically correct in the fashion that my product or service is installed, used, operates interdependently, etc. and by doing so they misinform people on the technical specifications that could potentially cause damage or harm.

      Or, what if they start linking from my product/service pages to those of my competition? What happens then?

      As a marketer will I find myself, organization or band in the hot seat for removing all of these Sidewiki links?

      I get the concept, but from a business perspective I see a lot of issues and not many benefits from a management perspective (time, staff, reputation, etc.).

      Where do you think I am getting it wrong?

      Beth Harte
      Community Manager, MarketingProfs

      • Aerocles says:

        I think the key here is to give the website owner/operator final say on what appears in sidewiki – after the users submit their comments, links, addendum, thoughts or whatever, after other users rate it as helpful or not – the Website Moderator has to have the final say – if it’s going to be a part of their page…

      • I guess I really don’t fully understand why it would be much more of a problem than someone Tweeting a link that is misinformation. Although, because it is attached the Web site itself, anyone visiting the Web site is more likely to see it than the average consumer on Twitter.

        I’m not thinking about it from a management perspective, and that where I’m not understanding your argument. Also, I’m a (probably naively) strong believer in the marketplace of ideas, and I believe that the presence of false information would help consumers to ferret out the truth more easily. I like (prefer?) to believe that most consumers are smart enough to know the difference between facts and misinformation.

        I see removing any links on a Sidewiki as comparable to deleting a comment on a blog post or article, so I think that anyone removing links would deservedly end up in the hot seat. I can definitely see that it will cause more problems for managers, but I think it will create an easier tool through which consumers can share information relevant to specific Web pages.


  6. Dabitch says:

    Can sites opt out of the sidewiki?

    • Aerocles says:

      I have NO IDEA. I hope so, though I wouldn’t opt out initially, I may want to choose to, or at least opt out for a while, until the kinks are worked out. I hope Google Developers are reading this – somewhere in their massive kingdom of search engine shenanigans, I’d assume this blog will pop up somewhere…

  7. Ken says:

    Is this not just a grown up brother to Google Comments? I never had a problem with those comments, mainly because no one used them!

    Sidewiki could be used as a consolidated customer service/response tool. Instead of having to use sites like getsatisfaction, I can anticipate users may leave questions and comments directly on the website wiki. The social media guru will have to run that part of the operation as well.


    • Aerocles says:

      Totally – Customer Service will be one of the positive functions of SideWiki – Any blogger that reviews my product and includes inaccurate information can be corrected in an easy way – and one that would be much more visible to readers than having brand reps post comments with the same corrections.

  8. There is certainly ample room for abuse, especially since Google have a lamentable understanding (or lack there) of social media.

    I had an idea for a web application a while ago, that worked along similar lines, but had much more about it, in terms of features, including the ability to vote down comments / associations / links etc.

    We only have to look to StumbleUpon as useful example of what such a system might look like, since StumbleUpon is, in many ways, very similar to Google’s Sidewiki.

    We can only hope that Google take a leaf out of StumbleUpon’s book and implement some social hooks and barbs, that allow people to vote up and down comments, to at least mitigate the inevitable abuse that will occur.

    • Aerocles says:

      Agreed – Google is good at algorithmic filtration. They need to learn from Stumbleupon & Digg & other bookmarking sites as well as give control over to the website moderator – all in addition to their standard spam protection features

  9. Zane Aveton says:

    We can’t all be smarter than Google and be the only ones thinking of the possible negatives of sidewikie, can we? I am going to choose to believe they have put mindful precautions in place to prevent the potential ads, spam, links disguisedin “info”, la la la…

    Perhaps I am in danger of being a Web 3.0 Pollyanna…

    Now thinking of slogans…”Web 3.0..You Gotta Believe.”

    The reality is the smammers and marketeers (when you ad an extra “e” it makes it “dirty” lol) will ALWAYS take advantage of any direct access to our eyeballs.

    Until I read what Google has in mind for regulation, it kinda seems like sidewiki is a new free advetising column.

    Zane Aveton

    • Aerocles says:

      oooh MarketEErs – I love it! And yes, this is all just speculation for now – We need to see what google has in mind for regulation before any of this conversation can be validated…good point Zane!

  10. Jesse Poe says:

    Sidewiki is one of the best things to happen to the internet.

    Sidewwiki is the internet.

    There is no way around it. It is no different than if I create a great subway poster add and somebody wants to drawl a mustache on my (insert celeb/model/etc.)

    The cool thing is that they can draw a mustache and yet my add is still seen in it’s original.

    The internet is not a closed environment, even if you choose your links and monitor you comments.

    Look at our blog yesterday talking about Microsoft. They tried to block everyone’s comments because they made some poor advertising choices (again).

    They got negative feedback and they blocked it.

    What happened? The 7 min video they made about hosting a “windows party” was taken, cut down into a 2 mins (right amount of time for such a video) and with the simple addition of “bleep” sounds over the dialogue. It is made to seem as if they are talking about hosting an orgy.

    Now with the mixed age group and every sex race present, that microsoft so blatantly chose, this new context is even funnier than the originally BAD video they MS had made.

    Result: one of these videos is being passed around the internet, guess which one?

    Point: you can’t block content or response.

    Feelings: make good content, know that you can’t just post whatever, that you can’t be a part of the great debate, without being A PART of the great debate. Sidewiki will make things better, and it will keep you on your toes, to always watch what you say and how you say it, which is the way it should be. Good honest, beautiful helpful content will not be defaced and if it is, people will see who did it, and they will know.

    Now as to the Microsoft thing, how should they solve that?

    Good question, I think I am going to blog about that now!

    Best of luck to everyone on this site, make good content and don’t worry about Sidewiki, you’ll see it will fastly show who you are and what you do, and if you are making good stuff (which I assume you all are) sidewiki will become a great friend to you, I am sure of it!


    jesse poe


    • Aerocles says:

      Great Points Jesse – I Don’t really have anything to add. But I agree that Sidewiki COULD be one of the best things to happen to the internet, facilitating its evolution from web 2.0 to 3.0 (I hate those terms but they seemed apropos here).

      You can’t block content or response – but you can manage it – Wikipedia is a great tool & they should be using it as a foundation, which I’m SURE they have.

      I don’t think we’re all smarter than the google people and that they haven’t considered these issues. But as Marketers, Pr Pros, Social Media Monkeys (me), Advertisers & Most importantly – CONSUMERS & READERS – we have a different POV on sidewiki and our concerns will be weighted accordingly…

      • Jesse Poe says:

        I think, they will weed out the blatantly bad guys, Google is pretty on it.

        Cool thing is that by default the bad guys will show them selves to be bad next to the good guy’s GOOD content.

        Looking forward to your next Blog!

        Keep up the good work!

      • Jesse Poe says:

        P.S. Don’t forget, all your sidewiki’s show up under your google profile.

        If their profile is only negative, self-promoting, brand destroying, advertisements…. everyone will see.

        It’s all about the long tail.

        Google never forgets….

  11. At first, my gut reaction says this is terrible. I think Beth and Rebecca brought up lots of good reasons why Sidewiki could hurt webpages and annoy users.

    I think Ken has a good point – users may not necessarily use them, especially if the wikis are jammed with spam and obvious marketing ploys. We’ve all gotten good at scanning over paid ads/spam in many websites/search engines/inboxes, and most folks would do so until it proved too time-consuming for its own good.

    Another thought – Wikipedia has done an incredibly admirable job keeping out spammers and keeping content relevant, and (mostly) correct. It IS possible to have a publicly-editable wiki that isn’t overrun by trash — the real question is if Google would be willing to take the steps necessary.


  12. Danny says:

    Sidewiki is extremely interesting, and all of these replies have been fascinating.

    I think I’m on the same page as @rebeccadenison here. I really see this as possibly evolving into a Wikipedia like tool. If we truly believe in the power of the internet, we need to trust other users to keep spammers in check. Wikipedia has become one of the most useful and reliable resources on the Internet, all based on user generated content and careful editing.

    Sidewiki differs from Wikipedia in the inclusion of real-time into the mix. It seems that one of the goals of Sidewiki is to take real time conversation and place it everywhere on the web. Wikipedia’s aim was always verified content.

    Sidewiki will become irrelevant if the conversation is dominated by spammers and marketers– but it might become an amazing addition to the social web if patrolled correctly. I think we have to give Google, and other internet users the benefit of the doubt. If content is edited by passionate and knowledgeable people, Sidewiki could really revolutionize the internet.

    The Ocean Agency

  13. […] The Dangers of Google Sidewiki: Complete Brand Invasion by David Teicher — Google launched a new tool called Sidewiki.  It’s part of the […]

  14. I guess I sorta fell under the same category as Rebecca at first. I tend to overestimate the amount of good-natured people out there on the Internet and although I still WANT to think that this tool will be embraced and used for its intended purpose, but as you said, the truth is that there are people who will, without a doubt, abuse the it.

    Really interesting conversation going on here and I’ll definitely be keeping a closer eye on sidewiki now! Good stuff!

  15. I have not read every reply, but I can tell you from personal experience, being a victim of Sidewiki, that this app is as evil as it gets and needs to be tossed into the deepest, darkest vaults in all of London, to paraphrase Sherlock Holmes in “The Pearl Of Death.”

    Here is what I have written on the subject at my blog and also how you can give your input to Google on this matter.


    If you have a presence on the Internet, you NEED to take this seriously.


    Steven Wagenheim
    Home Business Owner

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