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 (Foxnews.com and Facebook) and monitored the reaction that they received. I’ve since added another site to the group I’m analyzing: Walmart.com.
Walmart.com: 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 Walmart.com 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%)
Facebook.com: 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 Facebook.com 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%)
Foxnews.com: 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.