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Google Releases Sidewiki and Adds to the Growing Trend of Conversation

by Tom Johnson on Sep 29, 2009 •
categories: technical-writing web-design

Google recently released Sidewiki, a new feature in the Google toolbar that allows you to add comments in a pop-out sidebar that appears beside every page on the web. It's not a typical wiki -- you can't edit what other people write. You can only add another comment about the page.

After you install the Google Toolbar with Sidewiki, look for the Sidewiki button on your Google toolbar (see image below). When you click it, it expands a sidepane for the page you're viewing. Then just add and publish a comment.

Google's Sidewiki opens a pane on the right of a web page where you can add a comment
Google's Sidewiki opens a pane on the right of a web page where you can add a comment

Google's Sidewiki only works in Firefox or Internet Explorer (not yet in Chrome). You can read more about Google Sidewiki here.

Google Sidewiki furthers the idea of the web as a conversation. "Conversation" is also the word on many people's minds in the tech comm field right now. Gordon Mclean says if there was one word he wanted to focus on in his presentation at Technical Communication UK, it was "conversation." Gordon writes,

My presentation had a theme, a single word that I was focussing on, so throughout the first day, in all the sessions I attended, I was listening out for that word. ... The word I was looking for throughout the first day was “conversation”, and I was pleasantly surprised when I heard it crop up in the later sessions of the second day and I admit I was quite pleased when the closing speaker, RJ Jacquez from Adobe both mentioned my presentation and had a similar view to mine.

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David Farbey also noted the emerging theme of conversation at the Tech Comm UK conference:

“Conversation” emerged as a major theme of the conference. Various speakers touched on aspects of new media and social media as ways of breaking down conventional barriers between writers and readers. My own presentation was about the importance of talking to users, and was largely very similar to the presentation I gave in Vienna in June, but also included interim data from my 2009 User Documentation Survey which is ongoing.

Conversation is also the dominant theme of Anne Gentle's recent book, Conversation and Community: The Social Web for Documentation. And it's a theme in Ginny Redish's book, Letting Go of the Words.

In short, conversation is a trend that only continues to grow. How are you incorporating conversation into your documentation?

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About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer / API doc specialist based in the Seattle area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture, writing techniques, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out my API documentation if you're looking for more info about that. If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the field, be sure to subscribe to email updates. You can also learn more about me or contact me. Finally, note that the opinions I express on my blog are my own points of view, not that of my employer.