The ubiquitous Google never content to remain idle and like the Pac Man of yesteryear gobbling up everything in site is now setting its cross-hairs on YOU. This time out, they are introducing the Google Sidewicki which will be added to the Google Toolbar and will allow the entire Internet universe to leave comments about pages they surf on the Web.
While these comments can only be viewed by others who have Sidewiki installed, it serves as tool for collaboration and critiquing the content of others (or so it is being described).
The toolbar is available on either Internet Explorer or Firefox (strangely enough, its not supported on Google Chrome just yet. By attaching the toolbar, you are permitting Google to view all the pages you view. This is not new with Google since behavioral targeting has been modus-operandi from day one. If you do not like the idea of Google tracking your data, then this toolbar option and its enhanced feature is not for you.
If you are comfortable with this type of tracking, you will easily be able to detect when a Sidewiki has been added to a page.
According to Danny Sullivan's report on this topic, it appears that all comments are not created equal. "What comments are shown, and in what order... is Google's secret sauce."
Google's official explanation is as follows:
So just as Google gives any page on the Web a PageRank score from 1 to 10, and similar to how they rank keywords, comments on a Sidewiki will be ranked in a similar fashion, except now they will be based on your 'personal' ranking with Google. By using multiple signals based on the quality of the entry and what they know about the author pertaining to his or her language, reputation and history, you will now be 'personally' ranked by Google.
- Using multiple signals based on the quality of the entry, what we know about the author, and user-contributed signals such as voting and flagging, we work hard to ensure that only the highest quality, most relevant entries appear in the sidebar. Most of the engineering work for Sidewiki was dedicated to this ranking algorithm.
So in essence, Google is profiling its users, because your Google Profile determines whether or not your comments are worthy of placement. If you don't rank high enough, your comments could slip to the bottom of the heap or not appear at all.
Also, keep in mind that all the information you contribute becomes the property of Google and their ever-growing data mines that I'm sure they are keeping under lock and key for the days ahead when Web 3.0 and semantic technology is the next evolution of how we use the Web.
If this sounds like an "exclusive" network of insiders, I think at first blush it does appear that way. On the flip side, like the bragging rights that come with having legions of followers on Twitter, I guess the same thought process could apply here. Comments like "Wow, my comment on this Web site was ranked number one!" or "Google Sidewiki considers me an expert on this topic," are a few of the ways self-esteem can become a motivating factor.
I, on the other hand am kind of leaning towards WebProNews' Chris Crum's succinct analysis of the situation, "Anyone can participate, but it sounds like you have to be somebody to get in!"