Google Sidewiki Experiment Update: 10/21/09

A while ago I began an experiment using Google’s experimental new tool “Sidewiki“; I posted mildly-controversial but accurate comments on a couple of websites ( and Facebook) and monitored the reaction that they received.  I’ve since added another site to the group I’m analyzing:

Google Sidewiki on  I chose Walmart given that the company is highly controversial and there were some accusations that the company was actively censoring content (given how few the users of Sidewiki are this would not be a very difficult feat to accomplish; simply having confederates rate negative entries as unhelpful would push them off the front page).  As with the other two Sidewiki entries, my entry on was entirely based in fact and highlighted both the positive and negative about the company.  This objectivity is likely why it’s one of only two entries that appear on the first page of entries.  The other entry primarily discusses Walmart’s website as opposed to the organization, and it responds to accusations that the creator is a Walmart employee.

  • Total Entries on Site: 5
  • Positive / Negative / Neutral Ratio:   3 / 2  / 0
  • Ranking of my Entry: Useful? Yes (3) No (1)
  • Spam Entries: 0 (0%)   One of the problems with Sidewiki is that it allowed multiple Sidewiki entries for different pages of a single website (so for example, Facebook used to have two entries: one for users logged in and one for those logged out).  That may no longer be the case: entries for are gone.  If one attempts to view them, the message “Entries for this page are not available” appears.  They only reappear if one is logged in to both Facebook and Google.  My entry appears to still be the only one on the front page.  There continues to be a high number of non-English language Sidewiki users commenting on Facebook’s Sidewiki (14 total).

  • Total Entries on Site: 47
  • Positive / Negative / Neutral Ratio:  9 / 2 / 18
  • Ranking of my Entry: Useful? Yes (11) No (8)
  • Spam Entries:  (6.38%)  My entry is still the sole entry on the first page of Foxnews’ Sidewiki page.  Interestingly, it actually generated some blowback today.  I received an angry, rambling, CAPS-laden email from a real estate agent in California.  Particularly interesting about the email I received was that it came to my work email account (as opposed to my Gmail account).  In addition, a second entry replying negatively to my entry also appeared.

  • Total Entries on Site:  32
  • Positive / Negative / Neutral Ratio:  13 / 13 / 4
  • Ranking of my Entry: Useful? Yes (31) No (28)
  • Spam Entries: 1 (3.13%)

Conclusions:  Google appears to be actively responding to complaints about spam in Sidewiki – the ratios of spam to authentic content were way down and it appeared all of the spam I reported was removed.  The base of active users appears to still be very small so it’s difficult to make any meaningful predictions in the event that Google were to more actively promote Sidewiki.

2 thoughts on “Google Sidewiki Experiment Update: 10/21/09

  1. Donald says:

    I’m interested in your side wiki experiment. I totally agree with the conclusions you drew on your earlier post:

    I stumbled onto your blog by first reading your sidewiki post on, which I was visiting to see how sidewiki looked on high-traffic sites.

    I’m not sure that I agree that your post on was “factual” since you were stating as fact a conclusion from a poll, but that might be beside the point. Posting something a little controversial is a good way to find out if anyone is reading it.

    As the webmaster for several organizations, what I find most troubling about sidewiki is the poor format for conversational, back-and-forth posting. A highly negative post may rise to the top while the fitting response is several clicks deep.

    No matter what you think, I’m proof that sidewiki is one new way to promote your blog.


    1. derekdevries says:

      Thanks for sharing your insights. Regarding the experiment, if I get more time – I’d like to post the conclusions of those two studies on the viewership of other major news networks, as they all tended to perform not much better than Fox News. It is perhaps misleading to describe those reports as a poll; they were actually studies that quizzed participants on their knowledge of various facts related to current events (and then sorted them by media viewing habits).

      I did, however, update my entry with a poll because a new poll came out from the Pew Research Center asking people about the ideological balance of the major news networks.

      Indeed; Google is going to have to do something to adapt Sidewiki for conversations – perhaps integrating it with Google Wave will help…


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