Services & Software

Beta watch: SideReel opens new video wiki

A new TV info site lets users modify the data about shows and movies.

SideReel is a new video fan site. I talked to the site's co-founder, Bart Myers, at the SF Beta mixer last night, and he convinced me to check it out. What I found is, at its heart, a wiki. There are a few major video categories (Television, Movies, and "Video" for everything else) as well as a catchall category for nonvideo entries, such as actors. Pages for the video assets, like TV shows, have special fields. For example, each show has a "Watch it now" box, where you should be able to find links to a show's Web broadcasts, iTunes downloads, and BitTorrent files. SideReel isn't in the business of creating the content, so anything goes on these pages, wiki-style. Users are ultimately left in control of the content.

A show page on SideReel. CNET Networks

The SideReel wiki uses "smart fields" to put data in the specialized boxes. Users can code text and links as destined for the Watch it now box, for the cast section, or for other breakout boxes. SideReel takes the user-generated information and uses it as a launching point for automated searches that feed data back into the pages. For example, if a user starts a page on a new TV show or a movie, SideReel will scan the Web and update show info, cast and crew notes, and so on, in order to keep the page up to date. I can't vouch for the quality or the accuracy of the data this routine returns, but it's a clever idea to take user-generated information and let the machine correct it.

The SideReel editing interface needs work. CNET Networks

The team plans to create an API for SideReel so other sites and devices will be able use it. In other words, Myers and his team are trying to build an open IMDB competitor whose data eventually show up on connected devices like set-top boxes.

Keeping in mind that SideReel is in early beta; there are a few things missing right now. There's no chat or structured discussion around a show, although each page gets an open forum for discussing edits. And the wiki editor itself is all text, which is old-school. Especially considering the number of custom fields on every page, the site desperately needs a more approachable editor, like the ones PBWiki or Wetpaint have.

SideReel reminds me in concept of the specialized comic-book wiki ComicVine (preview), except it's not nearly as pretty. And ultimately it will probably compete with Wikia, the Wikipedia offshoot company that hosts hundreds of specialized wikis.