Monday, October 05, 2009

Waiting for Wave, Playing with Sidewiki

Google has launched Wave, a new social media tool that's supposed to be a game changer in private beta. While I'm waiting for my invite (pick me, please!), I decided to have a look at their slightly older release, Sidewiki. I must say, it's pretty cool. By adding a simple toolbar, which takes one click, you can add comments to any web site, which show up alongside the site. Further, you can post those same comments to Twitter, to your blog, to Facebook, and more. If a site has comments, you can see them by clicking the little text balloon and voila! find out what others are thinking. Some people have suggested that this usurps commenting on blogs or fractures that conversation, and that may be true, but for sites without comments, it offers a really easy way to make comments. I can imagine lots of educational uses, too. For example, students might be required to comment on a site for class and sidewiki provides easy tools for that comment to be shared, even via email. There are tools that already do this, like Diigo, but with many schools already usuing Google's apps, this offers better integration with that toolset.

Michael Clarke has argued at The Scholarly Kitchen, that sidewiki means institutions will no longer have control over their message. I think that's long been true, with blogs and Twitter and other media. But it is true that there's potential for someone to see what others think right from your site rather than through a Google search that lands them on a disgruntled employee's blog. Now the disgruntled employee's comments might appear side-by-side with your slick marketing campaign. Prof Hacker has a good write up and some interesting comments about how good or bad the tool is.

The whole concept is nothing super new, but whenever Google starts doing something, it often becomes mainstream. Whether it's sidewiki or Diigo or something else, I think the idea of being able to comment on websites and share those comments widely is here to stay.

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