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Sidewiki Controversy Continued - Monitoring And Blocking

Google Sidewiki API

After my post Is Google Sidewiki Evil? I simply ignored the subject altogether and had disabled this function in my Google toolbar.

Yesterday, I noticed two very good posts with additional insights, good user comments, and I also added my mustard (as Germans would say) to the conversation and to the Google Help Forum as well.

But first things first.
Not many people are talking about this:

Google Sidewiki API

At least there is a documented API. All details about the Google Sidewiki API (↑) on Google's site. Here is what a developer can do with it.
  • Get a list of Sidewiki entries written for a specific web page.

    That means a website can crawl Sidewiki periodically, import the entries into a local database, trigger alerts, etc.

  • Get a list of Sidewiki entries written by a specific author.

  • Embed a custom gadget on your web page to display Sidewiki entries written about the page.

Well, there is already a Wordpress plugin for Google Sidewiki (↑) — WP-oySidewiki: Wordpress plugin for Google Sidewiki comments (↑), which lets you obtain and publish Google Sidewiki comments in your Worpress blog.

Just add this code in your Wordpress template:
<?php echo getSidewikiComments(get_permalink()); ?>

Are there some brave ones who check it out.
Let us know what you think of it?

I am sure some developers will offer free and paid scripts soon to make life with Sidewiki easier for businesses. For example: Write some monitoring scripts, put them in a cron-job and get notified on new entries immediately.

One can also subscribe to the RSS feed of each page's Sidewiki entries. This part of it sucks, “… each page …”.

For example the URL for the feed of this blog's homepage entries:

For this blog post :

The Sidewiki API Seems To Be Broken

At the time I am writing this post I cannot retrieve existing entries successfully for my blog. Newsgroup posts within the developer community also report “… inconsistent feed,” “… not all entries returned, ” etc.

More advanced coders may want to deal with the query interface. That's actually the proper way to go.

Nevertheless the existence of this API itself does not make Sidewiki legitimate the way it has been implemented and launched.

An opt-in/opt-out mechanism is still highly desirable, but at least it lets one monitor one's virtual real estate systematically. Now how hard would it be for Google to integrate that monitoring in the webmaster tool? Not very hard. I hope they do it.

Now, let me update some facts from my last post.


  • A webmaster can add a comment which always appears at the top, and can leave regular comments in the flow of a conversation as well; Any comment can be edited and deleted by its author anytime.

  • A website can be claimed from within more than one different Google account. That means for example.

    • The IT personell can handle the technical and SEO related issues with Google Webmaster Tool.
    • The PR people can handle the Sidewiki comments as page owners under a different Google account.

    But I want to point out that the IT people and the PR people will share exactly the same provolidges within the Google webmaster tool. (That basically means either one can screw the site if they don't know what they are doing.)

  • The API allows to build a monitoring tool which keeps an eye on all pages of your site and reports new Sidewiki comments.

That said, it looks a bit better now. But Google does not exercise permission marketing here.

Blocking Solutions

Even though Sidewiki seems to appear on the website itself to the average Internet user it does not happen there. There are no ways to block Sidewiki without blocking a user who has the toolbar installed.

URL manipulation in the browser with Javascript can be very easily circumvented from being effectively by Google. Even without upgrading the toolbar. They could do it within half an hour or even quicker if they wanted to.

The software various scripts which are currently being sold come with a disclaimer from the authors: “Works now, but who knows for how long …”

Therefore, I do not recommend or even mention any of those ad hoc fixes here. They only degrade the user experience.

Comments In The Community

My Personal Main Arguments Against Google Sidewiki: (link to this statement)
“Google takes (big) money from advertisers and at the same time allows publicity for vandalism in a way the average Internet user will perceive as ‘on site’.

That is a serious conflict of interest. Furthermore Google opens the doors for additional advertising revenue in the future in the growing market of PPV (pay-per-view) advertising potentially at the expense of its own Adwords advertisers.”

More comments in the community:

John W. Furst

(**) Google and Google Sidewiki are trademarks of Google, Inc.


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Markus Stelzer on :


I have looked at the dokumentation for the API. It is very difficult for me to understand. I can do some HTML and CSS. Can you help with it?

Brian R on :


I surely understand why many webmasters don't like SideWiki and fear that competitors will use it to add comments to your site that will be as helpful as the comments that graffiti artists add to bathroom walls.

You should monitor the SideWiki comments on your own site(s) closely and act promptly on negative comments. There are now tools available that can monitor SideWiki comments for you, and alert you when new comments are posted.

John W. Furst on :


I see you are offering software for that purpose.

Is it any good?

I think I made my point clear enough already.

Jorge Oyhenard on :


Good summary of Goolgle Sidewiki.

Thanks for the mention of my plugin for WordPress !

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