Google’s newest product – The Sidewiki, has arrived.
Your site now has comments activated on every page, all the time, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
You can’t moderate it.
You can’t ban people.
You can’t delete false claims left by others.
Google’s official announcement came on Wednesday. They do have some of their own guidelines for usage, which may or may not jive with yours.
Have you written a story about the high school principal? Now every student at that school can comment on it, and you’ve lost control.
So what now?
If you were not familiar with the term “Reputation Management” before, you will need to become familiar with it.
You (as the site owner) get one special treat. You get to always post a comment at the very top of the Sidewiki.
How does Google know if you’re the site owner? Because you have a Google profile and use Google Webmaster Tools, and have verified your site through the GWT. What’s that you say, you don’t use Google, you have a strategic alliance with Yahoo? Too bad, you MUST verify through Google.
Do you have a crummy Google profile, you better fix it up, because it’s your new face to everyone else using Sidewiki.
Want to see what lies in your future? Install Sidewiki/Google Toolbar and visit Seth Godin’s latest idea, that has been met with some resistance.
Seth’s blog never allowed comments, but now, there’s nothing he can do, and you can Facebook or Tweet people directly to your specific comment, using built in functionality.
To write an annotation, you have to first sign in with your Google account and then click the “Write an entry” link at the bottom of the sidebar. Each annotation consists of a block of text and an optional title. When the user finishes filling out the form, they click the “Publish” button to post the annotation. It’s also possible to associate an annotation with an individual snippet of text selected on the page. Google says that annotations that are tied to text will appear on all pages that share the original content.
Did you see that last line? Re-read it and fully digest it’s meaning.
So how are the comments displayed? Here’s what Google says:
We worked hard from the beginning to figure out which [entries] should appear on top and how to best order them. So instead of displaying the most recent entries first, we rank Sidewiki entries using an algorithm that promotes the most useful, high-quality entries. It takes into account feedback from you and other users, previous entries made by the same author and many other signals we developed.
As long as this service is tied to the Google Toolbar (and for now, only the experimental Google Toolbar) it’s impact may be small. When Google rolls it out to it’s normal toolbar, it will grow some more. When Google rolls it out to it’s Chrome browser, it will grow again. By that point, you really need to have a strategy in place.
If I ran a newspaper site, I would enlist a handful of people to jump through all the hoops and get up and running on Google Sidewiki. I would then encourage them to use it. Become trusted power users, especially on my site. That way, when disaster hits, I know they could come in and claim the top of the Sidewiki comments.
This is also another opportunity to connect with the community and reach out to the daily readers and ask for feedback, and perhaps even help.