Been following the latest controversy about Google SideWiki? Here’s a good overview of what it is and what it means.
In a single sentence: At present, it’s centralized chat (the good and the bad) about a particular URL/page that currently ONLY appears in browsers with the free 1) Google Toolbar installed AND 2) the sidewiki frame open via this icon . unless it’s integrated into the webpage via the API google provides.
The Google Sidewiki breakdown
Here is a official shot from google with what it would look like in action, say we are visiting the hypey san francisco tourist page, we are getting potentially useful social commentary on the left.
To understand the fuss let’s asks some questions:
As a viewer of this site, do you feel you are looking at one consistent whole or two parts?
Are those comments relevant or not to the page?
Is the first comment by Susan about the best time of the year to visit purely opinion or by a qualified weather forecaster, or a native who’s lived there for years (note San Fran has many different microclimates so you should be prepared for anything)
Is the second comment by Melissa a Shill for the Golden Gate Bridge Tour or Golden Gate Toll Bridge Operators? Could I reply to Melissa being a member of the Citizens Promoting Walking Golden Gate? Would you as a reader of the page care to see that?
Now here’s the breakdown, the area in green is the browser, the Google toolbar and sidewiki are a part of the browser. Your page is in the orange area, the Comments in the red box are specifically about that particular URL in blue.
I find – especially with reference material, it’s much easier to understand by annotating books helps me understand, my personal library (and some of the public) are filled with side bar notes. Going to a used book store I find I’m not alone in Marking up books with highlighters and sidebars, and in some cases I’ve found these other sidebar notes either highly insightful (especially in physics where the problems in the book had the wrong answers), entertaining or an ugly nuisance.
The internet being largely a digital equivalent, the range of possibilities is the same. This social annotation of the web is not a new concept, multiple other sites have done, currently do the same or similar things. Most have failed, but then most don’t have the backbone of google.
How SideWiki Works
Just like in a book where the doodles are tied to the page they are on, so I could say “see the doodles on page 3” the Sidewiki currently maps social comments to the particular URL, and that URL can be passed around to fried.s
That last should show you how brittle this can be, and also has implications if you blog and you change your permalink structure.
3 Side Wiki Myths
1) you don’t have control of your content: HALF TRUE you don’t have 100% control of your content, as the site owner you have the first comment reserved just for you, and you (with others) the ability to vote or rate comments. There are also some ‘blockers‘ being built that exploit the URL
2) Comments are there forever: NOT TRUE, comments can be rated and deleted. Over time those with value will survive those without value will die off. Of course by then like a smear campaign the damage might already be done.
3) Spammy comments are easy to make: HALF TRUE, while anybody can comment those comments require a google email id, and that google id has a history and trust factor. Any comment can be deleted or ranked. Eventually this will get orwellian sophisticated, for now it’s about as easy as tweeting.
Eventually you’ll see comment ranking just like search engine ranking (a new field CEO? Comment Engine Optimization?). So Just like in web search/ SEO if a guru and a newbie both post the same comment the guru will eventually be ranked higher.
adding an active dialog about any page, making each page blog like, seems inevitable as the web is really about humans being human, and we like to talk! That said Google is still far from ideal.
For government sites this layer of transparency could be great.
In theory for inept spammy sites having no real value, this comment board will end up being giant warning signs to warn consumers (e.g. refund issues)…if they aren’t out shouted by other spammers trying to compete for the same search traffic which seems more likely. For companies with solid value, if you are subtle it can be a completely new channel to brand. Hijacking sabotage or shilling are also possible.
For severe offenders google is already blocking these people on multiple levels: first with the google slap, then banning them from PPC, then black listing in the from the search engine so you don’t show up, and blacklisting with the browser so you can’t even see the page without feeling like you are about to have you machine instantly hacked.
If machines start using it as an central open place to add metadata that could also be quite amazing. As good as google is, there is still a great degree shrouded in mystery about how some of it works.
the comments are tied to your google id. Which has all sorts of metrics used with it. Like a SEO of sorts, the longer it’s aged, the contexts it’s used, will result in higher rankings. Do you have your google driving license? What if you want to change or segment identities? Will this mean having to have dozens of google email ids? I’m guessing so.
Being a comment stream from the peanut gallery, just like youtube comments I have my doubts it will be in many cases more than a place for snarks. While that can be entertaining, I suspect that many will find it mostly non-relevant so will turn it off by default. If that’s the case it then it won’t matter.
Moderating is tricky. Basically you as the owner of the site have the first word and like everyone else a vote.
Since this is an option on a toolbar that has to be installed it’s unclear what penetration this will have. I for one don’t have the toolbar installed, but it’s that it hasn’t been tried as it’s bundled with many other applications. I currenlty model it like youtube comments, they are on almost every video and the majority I find so junky I don’t read them. ..and try to hide them as they are more annoying than the ads. However given the huge amount of comments on most video this is probably the exception. On others I have found the very valuable. There’s no automated way to separate those two. Long term I imagine that google is looking to create a side bar disccusion similar to digg or slashdot which has similar problems.
Like any community dialog it’s subject to manipulation. Majority vote win. So it depends on the community surrounding the page,and the moderation. High traffic pages are likely to get a continual stream of spammers. While I haven’t tested I’m sure the moderators take hours to days, compare that to a weblog where comments can be deleted in minutes.
That conversation might be stale, relative to the site since it’s based on comments. Imagine a startup where the product rapidly changes, if people comment on rev1.0 but everything has been fixed in rev2.0 how long will it take for the comments to reflect that. In that case it might be easier to start from scratch than to say “under new management”
That can be a hole in your ship if your value is based on selling things that are available elsewhere for free (e.g. PLR crap), basically you must have a unique selling position.
Since it’s (currently) a browser plugin frame, it won’t ever match your site. If you opt to have the comments integrated.
Yet another place to police what’s being said about you for both the good and the bad.
It’s not really what I consider a wiki, and most pages/sites don’t have the user base to keep things neutrally written and objective.
Since you don’t own it, you can’t control it 100% but you can as the site owner, post the first comment, and with tools integrate the comments into you site. You should definately police your site by using one of the many tools being developed or the RSS feed it provides.
The comments are tied to a particular url, and thus won’t work on SSL, and dynamically driven websites that have verbose dynamic urls, so if necessary (e..g sales carts) use that or other blockers to keep people being able to comment on it, but understand that the homepage of your site will not be able to be blocked so if you have a bad reputation it will follow you around. You can of course change the url scheme of your site and this will break the comments, but it may also break your seo too.
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PREFACE: The following should not be construed as legal advice, and I strongly encourage you to get your own legal council to review these new FTC regulations’s impact in your business.
Imagine tooling around the home office, then getting a polite knock on the door and being handed 7 pounds of paperwork by an apologetic clerk, that basically say:
YOU ARE SCREWED.
That’s what it’s really like according to Frank Kern in his very candid story on the matter., Get this…despite doing nothing particularly wrong! It doesn’t matter…the FTC is not prone to backing down.
The FTC’s tossing some major changes down the pipe for internet marketers, especially those blogging and using testimonials. You should prepare to be transparent about basically everything you are doing. Like how good your products are for *average users* when you use testimonials, and when you are getting paid for promotion. If you don’t, the FTC is not kind, there is rarely polite warnings, and they can seize your business (or ALL your businesses) with all it’s assets (and they don’t give it back). It’s happened to Frank Kern and to Perry Belcher, and it can happen to you if you don’t play by their rules.
Read these links from major news and major gurus with high priced legal council, also read the comments many are insightful. Seriously get a qualified legal advisor. Also understand that if you are providing real value these can be a serious win for you!
Straight from the FTC’s mouth
Here’s the official documentation from the FTC you should understand (these links thanks to ZenGlen)
My take, is …the FTC’s rules are somewhat amorphous as to what average use is, especially if you understand test taking and statistics.
An average reader never reads more than 10% of a book, your failure as an author?
Is a case study of yourself or a client considered a testimonial or something else.?
With split testing is that a fact or an opinion?
Good questions to ask your legal council skilled in FTC. I’ll be asking mine shortly.
I’m Coming Clean…
As a part of that, I’m Following ProfitMoffat’s excellent lead, about the nature of this blog.
Assume if you ever buy anything off this or my other websites, or anything I ever talk about, I get paid! Directly ( Sometimes 50% or more! ) and/or indirectly (as in getting leads, traffic, more happiness etc). Occasionally I review products and services without compensation because they are necessary to be in business (so had to have them, think you would benefit from using them), and I genuinely like using them, or genuinely dislike using them, but assume the former.
And when I make that money, I spend it: Typically on a steady supply of guinness + hot water for showers and black tea, and fun stuff, often with a geek bent, like eventually a space trip on Virgin Galactic. Of course I also use the money in conventional ways, rent, to pay bills, with a significant bill each month building better tools for myself and yall.
I hope that’s all cool with ya’ll, if not please discontinue reading my blog or using the links on this site.
Also while getting out in the open, while I may look like one in the videos, I am not a lawyer or doctor, license carrying engineer, psychologist, or carrying any sort of credentials. The writings on this website are my personal opinions and while they work for me, may horribly fail for you. By following the advice on this blog you accept the related risk. Consider yourself warned.
If you ever have a problem with the content or myself, please contact me (by twitter or commenting on this blog), I always aim to treat people fair and square.
What this means for you
This is GOOD news. Just like how the Wild West isn’t so wild anymore and you have no fear of being scalped by indians, the internet is starting to get settled. It does feel like a loss of freedom and opportunity as the rules and regulations on the net will be just like the real world (business licenses etc), there are still massive opportunities not possible anywhere else.
Just like being able to walk aobut without fear of being robbed or murdered are a good thing these rules are towards a better world if you are a consumer or a merchant. Since we are all consumers, As a consumer you will certainly benefit from more honesty and transparency in marketing.
As a merchant, if you survived the google slap, you know providing solid value you will soon have less competition and should have nothing to fear from the FTC…that is if you know the rules and follow them. If you aren’t providing solid value then you wouldn’t last that long anyway …one way or another, eventually you will have an honest competitor who will at the end of the day take better care of the community. The choice is yours, so rock on!
How do you take something that well tested and make it better? Watch this short 1 minute video for a preview:
[flash http://www.troynotes.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/troynotes_ultimate_belcher_button.swf w=550 h=300]
4 ways the Ultimate Belcher Button (U.B.B.) is Better than the original
1)Figure out what you shouldn’t take out . Start by listening to Perry’s great video on why each element in the Perry Belcher Button is important and how they synergistically work together, don’t change what’s proven to work, unless you have time and money to do split test 10-100K combinations. Unlike the others out there I didn’t remove anything that impacts conversions.
2) Make it Interactive: Images are so static..and dead, half the time I can’t tell if it’s clickable or not. It’s nice to be reassured I’m actually over something via clear continous feedback visually and auditorially. I come from a background of making video games and I demand that buttons be button like, having rollover and press visual states. As this warriors forum post will attest, I’m not alone in knowing these subtle things can increase conversion. so this has nifty liquid rollover effects in the button not possible in CSS and hyperlink also has rollover and hit states. You can see those in action in the video or by hovering over the opt-in form at the upper right which has a similar button.
Added a rollover green border from the Conversion Doctors tip, possibly because green is associated with go, but also that green and red are opposites so is a good way of reducing page blindness.
3) Put it on a diet: Perry’s Jpeg is bit big at 28KB, Plain version is 11KB static 16KB (reconfigurable price). While it’s possible to create something close in css/html, or a stripped down version here they are all missing important features that add to the bottom line, if you’re going to use might as well get the whole thing. By careful use of Flash not only is it half that size (20KB) it has many more features.
4) Make it scale: jpeg’s and gifs don’t scale well. Sales buttons need to be able to fit anywhere. Flash vector graphics and text in the Ultimate Belcher Button can scale cleanly up and down, from tiny to giant:
(not shown in the video) Updated the credit cards to used a cleaned up graphic from http://www.credit-card-logos.com/ which also shaved off some size and reduced the jpg dithering in the original, flash does an okay job smoothing images so these look fine until you make it way bigger…can’t imagine why you’d want to do that.
How do you get the Ultimate Belcher Button?
Well right now you can’t, It’s been built for the the new intellinar service, which I can’t say much about right now as it’s still in stealth mode, but obviously if we’ve gone to this detail to get conversions up on a single button you can imagine how what we are doing to the rest of the service for your sales.
Oh the new opt-in uses the same style button.
P.S. If I get 30 comments on this post, I’ll make it available to everyone for free.
P.P.S. I tried to let Perry have it, but he has left the IM to focus on his businesses, if so this button is dedicated to the big shiny money getting occasionally rude man who helped me get my start…this button is allot like him 🙂
Exposing the seedy underbelly of the internet marketing world + Studying hard, and taking notes so you don’t have to.