ThirdVoice: for or against?

Third voice is software that is added to your browser (a plug-in) that allows users to leave sticky-note type messages on web pages. It can be found at .

There’s a backlash against this software, web page publishers feel they are losing some control over the content of their pages.

The ThirdVoice supporters point out that the web page is not altered; the notes are kept on a ThirdVoice server. And since the original web page is not altered in any way, there is not really a content change. I agree with view.
I personally think it’s pretty neat. Any text on any web page can be turned into a discussion thread. With improvements, it could make Usenet and all other message boards (like this one) obsolete.

The URL for the people against Third Voice is: .

I’m against it. It’s invasive, and the percentages of actual content related “sticky notes” is incredibly low. Advertising for other people’s sites is something I do NOT want to see on my sites.

He who joyfully marches in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice - Albert Einstein

Instant reaction: cool!

Thoughtful reaction post study: how awful! ban it!

We do precision guesswork

I thought third voice was fantastic; I not only had to remove it, though, I had to reinstall Windows because it screwed up my kernel. The software’s not perfect yet.

While it effectively allows graffiti on one’s web page, for good or bad, I think the benefit is worth it (spoken as someone with a web page two years old). It allows real interactivity with any web page, for anyone. As a web author, I’m willing to take ads and asshole comments along with real comments and feedback. While I had Third Voice installed, I argued over stories on Wired and Salon. Besides, you can’t see the comments without Third Voice, in which case you know that the comments are from third parties. Ultimately, innapropriate comments are dismissable.


let me ask you then, as I was unclear on this after visiting both sites Revtim cited. If I have a website and someone sticks a thirdvoice stickynote on it, somebody else comes along who does not have thirdvoice will or will not see it?

A user must have ThirdVoice installed to see a ThirdVoice sticky note.

Here’s the technical explanation, as much as I can surmise:

You’ve got a browser that you use to surf the web. You’ve got the Third Voice plugin. You click on a link and go to a web page.

The web server responds to your browser’s request by sending a web page. The Third Voice plugin then sends a request to the Third Voice server, asking for any sticky notes associated with the web page you requested.

The Third Voice server responds by sending along the sticky notes. Under the direction of the plugin, the browser draws the page for your eyes with the sticky notes attached. The plugin then allows you to open and view them, and post your own.

You post your own Third Voice message, which is sent to the third voice servers and stored in their database, associated with the web page you’re viewing. The next Third Voice user to request the web page will receive your sticky not along with all the others.

If you don’t have the plugin, no request is made to the Third Voice servers, and nothing tells the browser to draw the page with notes attached.

That’s the Third Voice defense: nothing is actually altered on the web page. People with the plugin have a special piece of software that affects how the web page is presented in their own browser.

Of course, that’s little comfort if someone’s been leaving sticky notes on your page that read, but it’s a wild, wild web.

Imagine this.

Someone markets a TV that puts the shadows of a guy and two robots in the lower corner of your screen, and connects to a joke server via the internet. The shadows make vicious fun of whatever show or movie you are watching a la “Mystery Science Theater 3000”.

Is this significantly different from 3rd Voice? Do the makers of “Frasier” have the right to prevent people from using this TV because it makes jokes about Kelsey Grammar’s driving or tells people to change the channel and watch “Family Guy”?

In my mind, the makers of Frasier telling you what TV to buy is the same as web page publishers preventing you from using Third Voice.

As long as the webmaster has the ability to go to ThirdVoice and request that notes be removed, or that the page can be placed on an ignore list, I have no problem with it. The problem isn’t just with people attaching stickynotes that say…goto, but also with people using the notes for telling lies. How would you like it if people started posting notes on your pages, claiming that you support skinheads/worship the devil/eat children. Especially if your page is a business page. Can you see the problems a company like Proctor and Gamble would have with this? Mr. Amway buys a throwaway account, sticks a note claiming Fabreeze kills dogs onto their webpage. Not a good thing. The web is about freedom of information and flow of such, but it is also about being responsable with that freedom.

>>Being Chaotic Evil means never having to say your sorry…unless the other guy is bigger than you.<<

—The dragon observes

hrmph It appears that if you put something in www format, it automatically assumes you want a link there. Luckily, hatemongers is not a valid site, it was meant to be an example, and I would have been rather irked if that link were a valid one.

>>Being Chaotic Evil means never having to say your sorry…unless the other guy is bigger than you.<<

—The dragon observes

For your information, webmasters have been unable to get Third Voice to remove messages from their pages. Messages expire after a couple of weeks.

Third Voice messages are fairly obviously graffitic in nature. Personally, I’ll take the good graffiti with the bad. The invasion of my web space isn’t such a big deal to me when it’s obviously not my doing or my responsibility. I suspect Third Voice users take stickynotes with a grain of salt when the message is at all controversial or doubtful. Do you believe every poster and pamphlet you read?

The internet is already rife with crackpots and liars. Why should a lie on a 3rdvoice note be more harmful than one on usenet or this message board? If I post to alt.household.cleaners or whatever that Fabreeze kills dogs, is that somehow not as bad?

Thirdvoice actually has mechanisms that usenet doesn’t for users voting notes as spam/trash. There a lot of room for improvement in this system, though. I would have separate categories for “trash” and “spam”, and a lot of people use the negative label when they simply disagree with a valid non-trash non-spam note.
The only possible danger/deception I see is that people might think the note is somehow as “official” as the info on the page, or at least coming from the same source. I think it is obvious enough that the notes are from the general public, and not from the page publisher. Someone with enough technical knowledge to install the 3rd voice software should be able to easily distinguish the note from the rest of the content.

I hope ThirdVoice never allows webmasters to remove notes associated with their pages.

One of the best things about ThirdVoice is that it can be used to keep web pages honest. Sure, any crackpot can put a lie in a ThirdVoice note, but it doesn’t take a much more skilled crackpot to put a lie on a web page.

Suppose, for example, someone is selling some ineffective or dangerous herbal supplement on a web page. Wouldn’t it be great to leave a note with a link to a CNN health story showing that the stuff does nothing or causes harm? I don’t want the page owner to be able to remove that note. He would, of course, be able to respond to it like any other user with a reply note.

If someone is selling a valid product, and someone leaves a note with a lie that the stuff is bad, then they also have the same right to respond. Usually lies are harder to back up in an argument, so truth should be more convincing more often.

Likely, in both the bad and good product examples, sales will be lost. But I think the advantage outweighs the disadvantage.

Ban it? PLEASE, this is the Internet, not AOL.

If webmasters have a problem with this technology, they should install the software and respond to messages worthy of response. Or just ignore it.

I would bet that, like USENET, the signal to noise ratio will quickly make this software a non-issue.

Speaking of signal-to-noise, anybody ever use Gooey? It’s like ThirdVoice, but it links a chat room instead of notes to a page.

I’ve used it a couple days now. Every site with Gooey users that I’ve been to but one had zero people chatting. The one with chatting people had two people swearing randomly at each other. It makes ThirdVoice look like the New York Times.

ThirdVoice is repugnant to me, but I would not be so against it if webmasters could “opt out” and not participate. Apparently, this is not the case. What this company needs is a few well placed lawsuits against it. Make sure it’s expensive to stay in business.

Am I being unfair? The value of the sticky notes as a tool for comment and discourse is only valid if everyone participates. You do have to install the software to view the notes, so that’s no problem. But a webmaster has no choice in whether he wants to participate or not. If ThirdVoice had an “opt out” list that was strictly maintained, I would see no problem.
Russell Flowers

I don’t see how a lawsuit could have any chance of winning (nor should it).

  1. The note is not actually stored on the web page owners’ servers
  2. It does not affect the HTML of the web page.

It it not really on the page, it is a note ASSOCIATED with the page.

Legally, I don’t think it is any different from me saying “Hey, that page at really sucks” on a message board on usenet.

RFLowers, have you actually used it? It is obvious that the notes are not written by the publisher of the page.

Why do you find it repugnant? Do you think that people will mistake notes to be from the author of the page, or do you feel that the web page owner not only has control over the web page, but all references to it as well?

To Revtim:
I’m not sure of the legal precedents that would apply here. There are many analogies that come to mind, some of them accurate and some of them not. For example, if I have a restaurant and a guide book gives the establishment a bad review, I don’t have a recourse to the law. However, if someone stands outside my restaurant badmouthing the service & food inside, I think I can call the police. Then again, only the people who choose to see this person outside my place will see him.
Thirdvoice doesn’t fit into real world anolgies very well. It does create the perception of vandalism (spray painting over my artwork). Of course, only willing participants will see the vandalism.
I say repugnant because I can imagine some sick usages (involving molestors and children’s sites, and maybe some other tasteless things.)
I think there will be legal trouble for Thirdvoice because juries, lawyers and judges won’t grasp the fine distinctions of what is on whose server. In this case, I’m glad. The technicalities are not what’s at issue here. I am not 100% sure of my position, though, so feel free to convince me otherwise.


you are absolutely right that juries, lawyers and judges won’t grasp the fine distinctions of what is on whose server. But what I cannot see is how they could possibly ban it. What would the legislature sound like?

The uniqueness of the situation works on both directions. The law can’t ban ThirdVoice by name, someone would just make a new product that does basically the same thing, but called something different.

Even if there was a law that accurately decribed it, then some hacker could just make a ThirdVoice type program and distribute it free.

Read about my description of the sarcastic TV in a previous reply. Do you feel that is an accurate analogy? Should that TV be banned as well?