Posts Tagged ‘Google Sidewiki’

Online Reputation Management for Crowd-Sourcing Platforms: Cleaning up After the “Bewildered Herd”

September 3, 2010 2 comments

As the Web 2.0 model has shifted to content being generated by users (often referred to as “crowdsourcing”) as opposed to administrators, it’s presented a somewhat novel problem of proofing the contributions of the masses.

The “Bewildered Herd” is a term attributed to Walter Lippmann who is one of the early scholars of journalism and public relations.  Lippmann’s contention was that the public was essentially too inept to govern itself and needed to have smart people make up its mind for it in order for society to function.  To wit:

“The public must be put in its place, so that it may exercise its own powers, but no less and perhaps even more, so that each of us may live free of the trampling and the roar of a bewildered herd.”
(Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion, 1922)

Crowdsourcing (originated by Jeff Howe of Wired) is explained by Clay Shirky below:

On the whole, user-generated contributions are amazingly effective and have accomplished a powerful amount of the work in building the Internet.  There are, though, occasionally problems.  Here are some of the sites I try to watch regularly for inaccuracies and misinformation:

Which crowdsourcing sites do you monitor for inaccuracies?

More PR Trouble for BP: Great Case Study in the Filters of the Web

June 1, 2010 Leave a comment

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I wrote a while earlier about the impact of the new era of transparency on BP’s continuing public relations crisis.  Since then, a couple of other new phenomenon caught my attention:

  • Google Sidewiki: This somewhat-forgotten tool created by Google to accompany webpages and help contextualize them with user contributions has a bit of content that isn’t exactly kind to BP.
  • The Black Oil Firefox Plugin:  Designed by design agency Jess3, this add-on to Firefox makes the pages viewed by your browser look like a redacted document from the CIA as it blacks out references to British Petroleum (the blacked out portions eventually animate and drip ala crude).

These two items may seem like frivolous distractions, but they’re not.  They’re exquisite reminders of how little control we exercise over the web, particularly as the content that populates it and the tools that browse it become more and more sophisticated and oriented toward individual control.

You can spend all the time you want tweaking your website until it’s just the way you want, but what you create may not at all be what ends up being delivered to the end user.

Google Sidewiki Experiment Results: 12/18/09

December 18, 2009 2 comments

It’s been a few months, so I thought I’d check in on the experiment I’m conducting with Google Sidewiki; (for the uninitiated, I posted mildly-controversial but accurate comments on a few websites to monitor the reaction.

Google Sidewiki on  There’s been comparatively less activity on, though my post is still one of the only two that appear on the first page of listings.  Anecdotally the content is primarily reviews of the usability of the website, with a bit of discussion of Wal-mart’s politics.  Of note are two new “spam” messages – though it’s questionable that they’re really “spam” in the dictionary sense (one literally calls itself ‘spam’ but doesn’t seek to promote a product or website).

  • Total Entries on Site: 11
  • Positive / Negative / Neutral Ratio:   2 / 4  / 4
  • Ranking of my Entry: Useful? Yes (10) No (6)
  • Spam Entries: 2 (18%)   The duplicate entries for Facebook have returned; on many sites there are duplicate entries in Sidewiki depending on whether or not one is logged in to that site or not.  Facebook is also the highly-trafficked Sidewiki entry in the experiment.  Anecdotally, the content in Facebook’s sidewiki is primarily people commenting in a way that would indicate they don’t really understand how Sidewiki works (many appear to be commenting on stories from their newsfeed), along with discussion of Facebook’s privacy policy.  There continues to be a high number of non-English language Sidewiki users commenting on Facebook’s Sidewiki, demonstrating the global reach of the platform. (Logged In):  My entry is one of only three (the other two are relatively new; only posted in December, 2009) that appear on the front page (I updated it this week with content about the newest privacy issue that cropped up with Facebook publishing profile information to search engines).  Nearly 18 percent (15) of the entries were non-English language.

  • Total Entries on Site: 85
  • Positive / Negative / Neutral Ratio:  23 / 10 / 30
  • Ranking of my Entry: Useful? Yes (535) No (208)
  • Spam Entries:  7 (8%) (Logged Out):  My entry is one of only two that appear on the front page (I updated it this week with content about the newest privacy issue that cropped up with Facebook publishing profile information to search engines).

  • Total Entries on Site: 166
  • Positive / Negative / Neutral Ratio:  60 / 31 / 49
  • Ranking of my Entry: Useful? Yes (132) No (18)
  • Spam Entries:  13 (8%)  My entry is now one of only two entries on the front page of the sidewiki for  As more people have posted, it’s interesting to see how much variation there is in the comments that are positive or negative about Fox News; some people are hashing out the media bias debate (among those, some argue Fox News has no bias and others argue it is good precisely because it has a conservative bias), some are focusing only on web design and performance, and at least two commenters cited their affinity for Fox News was solely based on its attractive female newsreaders.  My entry inspired three new angry responses (from “Steve G,” “Mike St. James,” and “Michael Lederman.”), and given how many people have begun to rate it as “not useful” – I don’t know how much longer it will retain a spot on the front page.

  • Total Entries on Site:  51
  • Positive / Negative / Neutral Ratio:  18 / 19 / 13
  • Ranking of my Entry: Useful? Yes (45) No (75)
  • Spam Entries: 1 (2%)

Conclusions:  The major concern that is emerging is how large volumes of SideWiki comments will be organized.  On Facebook (where the most traffic of the sites in my experiment is taking place) it’s become clear that the oldest entries have a considerable advantage the new ones; with 15 pages of “not as useful” entries – users are not browsing and ranking them beyond the first few pages.  If a new entry doesn’t quickly prove itself valuable, it’s relegated to the back room.

Suggestion for Google:  It would help to have a ready display on the top page of Sidewiki entries that shows all of the stats about the Sidewiki entries (a counter showing how many there are, how many have been rated helpful/unhelpful, etc.)