The SideWiki Debate


MediaPost has a good article looking at the issues around Google’s SideWiki. The reporter focuses on the activist approach Steve Foley, CEO of iCyte, has taken to point out the challenges and inconsistencies of the tool.

Basically, critics of SideWiki, or a service like Squiddoo’s Brand aggregation feature, claim that the add-on services are bifurcating the social dialogue by creating a meta-environment for comments and discussion. The tools don’t create perfect transparency, Foley argues; they create a lot of opportunity for misuse.

The debate is of critical interest to marketers. Tools that can aggregate and streamline a marketer’s involvement in the social dialogue are positive. After all, the conversations are going on, as companies are increasingly accepting. The logistical issue is how to keep track of, and engage in, conversations in multiple locations, across multiple platforms, using multiple tools.

The implication for consumers relates to the efficacy of the dialogue. Are consumers hungry for a standard platform that reaches across multiple sites and aggregates dialogue and discussion? Or, do consumers segment social dialogue on the web just as they do in real life: you have conversational transactions that are conducted with minimal personal information shared — like asking someone coming out of a movie what they thought — and you have deeper conversational threads that are deeply entwined in your identity, like a phone call with an old friend.

My gut tells me that the online consumer wants a highly controlled and defined experience for those personal conversations: that is a big part of the success of Facebook. For more superficial dialogue, the consumer can easily migrate from platform to platform for engagement.

Given that focus, Google Friend Connect is the more intriguing application. Until the interoperability of the tools improve, services like SideWiki are a necessary evil that marketers committed to working with the social web will have to learn.

Clips from the MediaPost article, along with the link, are below.

clipped from
Google Sidewiki

The toolbar, called Sidewiki, which launched in September, provides a venue for venting and posting derogatory comments on virtually any Web site that only those who install the toolbar can read. And although many realize that Google never intended that the toolbar be used for evil, some believe the Mountain View, Calif. company’s innovation could create a nightmare for marketers and Web site owners if they choose not to download and install the tool.

Foley’s post on Microsoft was just the beginning. Now he wants Google to change its policy and provide opt-in/opt-out features. It would allow owners to block anyone from posting comments on their Web site. So, he’s building a Web site set to launch at the end of the month. It will contain a petition asking the search engine to reorganize Sidewiki and make it an opt-in process.