Saturday, November 28, 2009

Google is doing evil with SideWiki

The company that vowed to "Do no evil" has really crapped the bucket with SideWiki. For those who aren't aware, SideWiki is a completely open wiki-type commenting system that appears on the side of your website.

Users who install the Google toolbar can leave comments on any website - any comments - without any kind of control or moderation by the website owner, blogger, etc.

If you are the leading provider of services in an area, paying Adwords lots of money (or even if you aren't and don't) then one of your competitors, disgruntled employees or just an idiotic teenager with a warped sense of humor can write comments on your frontpage.

Yep. The page you spent money for (or time and effort) can now be hijacked by anyone:
  • link to their own page.
  • say negative or slanderous things.
  • demean your product.
They always had the option of using twitter or myspace or any one of a thousand review sites, but never before could they actually do it right on your website.

There is no way to erase them.  There is no way to block them without using complex workarounds.  You can't even post your own opinions in the SideWiki on your page without first proving that you are really the owner of the page.

Time to turn up the heat.
Google SideWiki Forums


  1. This article is not compelling at all.

    First paragraph - The tool sounds awesome.

    Second - users who install the Google toolbar... wait a minute. Users need to install something and actively look for comments? Why would a website owner object to this? Why would a user want you to censor what they say? This also sounds like a win.

    Third paragraph - Yep, this tool stripped the blinders right off of social media. All this time you thought your swimming area was shallower. The new transparency is how people will engage the web. All this time you've only been toying around. You can keep in the kiddie area, just don't drag down the rest of us. And don't think Sidewiki is the first nor last tool to do this. This is just the beginning of the lifting of the veil, friend.

    Fourth paragraph - You can easily protect your so called sidewiki by creating a page owner comment. It's not even curmudgeony, it's lazy and incorrect- are you really complaining that you can claim special billing in sidewiki after verifying ownership of the site? That's backwards.

    To emulate sidewiki, I merely need to open two browsers next to each other. One with a comments site like twitter, facebook, digg, reddit, etc, and the other browser a site I'm writing about. Sidewiki is just a tool that combines both in the same browser. 6 months from now, the whole prospect of luddites clutching their pitchforks and torches about this will be ridiculous.

    Ultimately- engage your users, listen to them, try not to censor them, don't be shady in your businesses, and you likely have nothing to fear from sidewiki. If users are more compelled to engage with one another on your site and not in a third party application - you're doing your job. For all the boogeyman illegal stuff you say, you simply report it as abuse.

    Good day.

  2. I moderate the comments because it is necessary. If I don't want anonymous comment, I can disallow it or I can delete it later if I don't care to see it anymore. I don't want immature fools able to comment directly on my webpage.

    If you want to comment on Twitter then you can, but those comments are not on my site right where I am trying to say my thing.

    That's what I have an objection to.

    With SideWiki, you can write on my blog and I can't do anything about it.

  3. By the way, "ripped the blinders off social media"? "you thought your swimming area was shallower." "The new transparency is how people will engage the web."

    Did you really write that? Do you have any idea what it means?

    As for the idea of "Protecting" my sidewiki -- you claim I can report abuse, spam, or illegal acts. That is true. What I can't do is eliminate well-meaning but wrong comments or mean and intentionally misleading but not quite over the line ones.

    Think Jenny McCarthy here -- what she says is incredibly hurtful yet nothing she says falls afoul of Google's definitions of abuse.

    Think Church of Scientology.

    Think education - everything I do and say is subject to misinterpretation by superiors, close scrutiny by over-anxious parents and the sword of confidentiality. That's why I use an alias and don't ever get specific about where I teach.

    The first SideWiki that posts anything specific won't have broken any Google rules but will require that I remove the blog.

  4. From the Google terms:

    "We’ll review your report and take action if appropriate. Just because you disagree with certain material or find it to be inappropriate doesn't mean we'll remove it."

    Suddenly, I don't have control over my pages.