Thursday, September 24, 2009

Side Winder

One of the tech columnists at rival Yahoo is expressing skepticism about the new Google SideWiki feature, which allows users to comment on any webpage, even if the site owner has blocked or has disallowed comments.

Of course, it also isn't the first web annotation system, as the writer observes:

I remember vividly a similar plan from a company (the name of which is now lost to the web) that let users leave Post-It style notes on any web page they visited, a sort of digital graffiti that let them tag pages, telling the proprietor and others exactly what they thought of the content.

It wasn't a hit. At the time -- circa 2000 -- the software faced an immense backlash from observers who felt that the software was devaluing the appearance of the web (at best) and infringed on other people's copyrights (at worst). Some felt it was the equivalent of picketing in front of a retail store.

For those who value the civility engendered by moderated comments, this sanction of what could be treated as a kind of web graffiti certainly still raises concerns. As a veteran of "stickie" services like Diigo, I will grant that I prefer the aesthetic of the sidebar's framing mechanism to cluttered adhesions on the content itself, but I'm not sure that DesignMeme is right to celebrate just yet.

Note, however, that RISD's dean John Maeda has used SideWiki and is featured in the promo video above.

TechCrunch provides more history of the idea here.

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