Advertised on Twitter by Stephen Fry, Pushnote is a chrome (and firefox, and IE) extension along the same vein as the Google Sidewiki, providing users with another layer of information when browsing the web. In this case, it’s a sort of meta-forum, with the ‘notes’ (of about 2x the length Twitter allows you) being attached to specific websites. The notes are attached to other social media (twitter, facebook) and can derive their pictures from there; this leverages the existing social connections, in a way, by ensuring that if one of your connections has made notes on a website you’ll be able to recognize that it was they who made them.
The extension works in just the same way as all of them do; there’s a button that hangs out beside the omnibox and which lights up if something relevant happens–green, if there’s content attached to your current page, and red if there’s new content elsewhere that you may want to pay attention to. Upon activating the button on a website where there is content, a box opens up where the comments–again, about twice the length of a twitter, maximum–can be read. Interestingly enough, some attempt at organization has been made in that replies to comments are (by default) hidden beneath the parent comment, and accessed through a link beneath the parent comment.
The extension appears to use a Digg paradigm of user-driven moderation; comments can be voted up or down, and comments which are offensive can be reported via a ‘report abuse’ button. The content of the comments is limited to plain text; html tags (such as links) are stripped out, presumably to close the obvious spam hole that would otherwise exist. Additionally, the option is given to CC the posts you make to twitter or to facebook, should you wish.
Besides the current page’s attached notes, the commentbox allows a look at the top-rated comments on the web (mostly enquiring of other users brought to a page by Stephen Fry) and a list (with appropriate links) to the sites with the most comments attached; currently, twitter is leading the pack.
The concept of another layer to reality is not novel; AR apps for smartphones, at any rate, have been around for some time, and google maps also allows different layers of information to be presented. As mentioned above, google sidewiki is another project with a similar concept, that of attaching metainformation to webpages accessible to those with the correct interface. What appears to make this app different is the social nature of it–it appears purposely designed to emulate the experience of “bumping into people at places,” like fortuitously meeting a friend at a coffeeshop.
(Idle thought: there may well be enhanced geotagging apps that do a similar function to this, but geographically, by now…)
Pushnote is a fun extension, but does raise a few issues–the potential exists, for instance, for putting all manner of reputationally-impacting comments on the layer attached to various websites, e.g., tagging a business website with unflattering information about how they scammed you or some such. Given that these apps that access enhanced information layers are bound to become more popular in the future, it would perhaps be wise for a business to keep track of these enhanced content accessors and the potential impact on the business’ reputation.
Things I like: interesting concept, fascinating new level of social interaction opened, Stephen Fry is involved
Things I dislike: no way to access content without the plugin–a big minus for the companies who may be commented on without being aware of it
Things I would change: spawning the interface across the bottom of the screen with a movie audience cutout with two robot heads and a geek showing ;-P