For those of you who aren’t familiar with web overlay, traditional annotation tools have been around for a while. These tools are browser plug-ins that let you stick virtual Post-It-esque “notes” on websites. One of the first and most notorious of these web overlay services was the now defunct “Third Voice,” which many likened to “web graffiti”. One of the problems with Third Voice was that it lacked privacy features, which critics argued, exposed everyone with Third Voice’s plug-in to potentially lewd and libelous commentary. In 2001, reporting on the backlash to this criticism, Wired reported:
Third Voice couldn’t generate enough advertising revenue to raise consumers’ awareness of its free service, and it couldn’t generate enough consumer awareness to raise the advertising revenue it needed to stay in business.
Web overlay/annotation tools have come a long way since the missteps of Third Voice. Since then, the web has seen significant technological advances – especially in the areas of privacy management, web search/organizing content, and social networking. Stickis incorporates several advanced features in these areas into a product that not only free but highly functional, innovative, and easy to use.
One thing that makes Stickis different than its competitors is the way that the service is structured. Stickis is organized around “channels,” which are groups of Stickis notes published by a particular user. Anyone can set up a channel – a private individual, a blogger, an organization, a website, or a company. (Yelp and OpenTable San Francisco are two of the first companies to have Stickis channels.) Users can subscribe to new channels or unsubscribe from their existing channels at any time. Similarly, “channel” owners control the privacy of their content and are able to ensure which of their Stickis notes are shared with which of their subscribers.
Here’s how Stickis works today:
- Register at Stickis.com.
- Pick a nickname/ username
- Enter your email address
- Select the channels you’d like to subscribe to
- If you’d like to publish a channel, pick a name (mine is Socialmedia.vox.com)
- Set-up your privacy settings
- You choose whether you want to make your Stickis channel public or private. If you decide to make your channel public, you have control over which of your subscribers can see specific posts. You can organize your subscribers into groups- limiting which of your Stickis are seen by which of your subscribers. This is done by creating what Stickis calls “antisocial tags” http://www.stickis.com/settings/tags/
- Pick a nickname/ username
- Upon signing up, a small plug-in is downloaded to your computer and installed when you re-start your browser. This plug-in does NOT contain spy ware and can be turned on or off anytime with the touch of a button, which appears in your browser’s toolbar.
- When Stickis is “on”, anytime you go to new web page, a small, unobtrusive icon appears in the bottom right hand corner of your browser window. This button displays the number of Stickis notes that your subscribed “channels” have written about that web page.
- Unlike other annotation programs, Stickis notes are easily ignored if you don’t want to see them.
- If you want to open the Stickis notes on a page, simply click on the button in the lower right side of your browser, and a “tray” containing a summary of each Stickis note appears (listed in reverse chronological order).
- To get a closer look at a specific Stickis note, click on its summary in the “tray” and voila- the entire Stickis note appears as an overlay over the page you’re on.
- If you want to add to a Stickis note or reply to someone else’s Stickis note, just press the compose button on the “tray” or in your browser’s toolbar, and start writing.
- You can drag or drop URLs, Pictures, Icons, etc. into your Stickis notes.You can add ‘tags’ to each of your Stickis notes, facilitating easy searching. Similarly, you can add ‘antisocial tags’ to specific posts to ensure that only certain people see those posts.
- You can also customize the look and feel of your Stickis notes so that they reflect your personal style.
- You can set up alerts that notify you when:
- Your favorite channel posts a new Stickis note.
- Someone writes a Stickis note on a topic that interests you (e.g. notification when specific ‘tags’ are used).
- To see step-by-step instructions of how to work with Stickis, click here.
It’s easy to imagine the different ways Stickis could be marketed…
- Individuals: Share your most / least favorite sites with your friends, family, the public, etc.
- Fans: Talk with fellow fans about all of the latest on-line gossip. Meet friends who are going to up-coming shows.
- Bloggers: Enhance your reader’s experience by cross-referencing websites that you’ve commented on.
- Blog readers: See what your favorite bloggers are saying about the sites you’ve visited.
- Marketers/ PR people (for products, bands, actors, etc.): Stickis is a great way to engage with the users who want to hear from you. Create your own channel and share exclusive information with your prospective and existing customers. Host contests, on-line scavenger hunts, and more.
- Teachers: Create different channels for each of the classes that you teach. Share relevant websites / on-line content with your students and encourage them to engage in discussions with each other about what they see on-line.
- Politicians: Reach out to your constituents and tell them what you think about what’s happening on-line. Engage your staff in a confidential discussion about how to address leaks, negative comments/ allegations that appear on the web.
Stickis has the potential to become a leading social networking tool. To succeed in this capacity, it must continue to evolve. Activeweave’s CEO, Marc Meyer, agrees:
Today we’re very much emphasizing the annotation features and the ability to discover stuff. In the near future, we’ll be improving people’s ability to connect more closely to their communities.
To read another review on Stickis, check out TechCrunch.