The social media world was abuzz with the launch of Google Sidewiki: a new part of the Google Toolbar that lets people leave a comment on any website for others to see.
As a social media consultant, I fully understand the concept of the conversation happening about us, our brands, our organizations whether we choose to listen to it or not. The "or not" part is the important part to me. It's my call whether I choose to listen, engage, or host a conversation. If you want to have a conversation about me, go ahead. Have it on Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed, you blog, your podcast, World of Warcraft. That's your call.
If you look at websites as the virtual front door of organization and personal brands, then they decide whether the door is locked, open, whether the receptionist is friendly or whether there's a security guard turfing out undesirables. Do what you want and live with the ramifications. Again...their call.
Sidewiki is like a bunch of people walking through that virtual front door and helping themselves to a boardroom to have a noisy chat about all the things they love and hate about the organization. More power to that organization if they want to let that happen. Good form ye defenders of transparency.
But let's say you don't want Sidewiki on your site. Perhaps you're a pharmaceutical company, heavily regulated and obliged to report any complaints of adverse effects of a drug someone may be taking (everything from "I got a headache after taking your medicine" to "I've noticed my brain fluid leaking out my ear since I've been on your drug. Is that normal?") If the organization hasn't asked for conversation on their site and doesn't want conversation on their site, or they're not ready for conversation on their site, shouldn't it be their right to keep conversation off their site?
Noted Google fan, Jeff Jarvis sees "unGoogley danger" in all of this and I'm right there with him. Of course, there's a workaround. Web developers can install a script to keep the Google Sidewiki off their sites. Will Google honour that request for privacy the way Seth Godin did with his Brands in Public project?