Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Google Sidewiki

Google announced "Sidewiki" late last month. Basically it allows ANYONE to leave comments on ANY webpage that are viewable by EVERYBODY. (or at least everybody who has Sidewiki installed) You need to install the Google Toolbar to enable the features (we do not currently have it installed here in the lab). Once it's installed, you can visit any webpage and leave your own comments, as well as read those by others. To help reduce the effect of comment spam, users can vote on whether they find a given comment useful or not. Comments are not anonymous per se, as they are tied to an individual's Google account.

The good thing about this tool is that it puts so much power into the hands of users.

The bad thing about this tool is that it puts so much power into the hands of users. (A Google search will bring up plenty of angry comments from corporations who are upset that they have no control over the comments users leave about their site, and no way to opt out of the system.)

After installing the Google Toolbar and enabling Sidewiki, visit http://maps.google.com/ to see how a user left instructions on how to find coordinates for any given location. How great is that? One user sharing his knowledge and expertise directly with the people who are coming to the webpage where they most need that information.

Another interesting page to check out (again, after installing Sidewiki) is http://www.comcast.com/. The CEO was smart enough to jump in first and leave a welcome message to others using sidewiki. It's followed by a list of more negative comments (not surprisingly).

And another is at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19190315 where someone left their comments on a specific article.

One way I was thinking it might be useful to library users is that it could allow users to leave comments or reviews about individual library resources or even individual books. I think this would work for main webpages (http://repository.upenn.edu or http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/, for example) but not so well for books in Franklin, since the URL for a book record page changes each time you visit it (to the best of my knowledge).

More info at http://www.google.com/sidewiki/intl/en/learnmore.html

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