Annotations are an easy way to Show Your Work

Journalists are increasingly being asked to show their work. Politifact does it like this. This is great! The more citation of sources, the better. If I want to check those sources, though, I often wind up spending a lot of time searching with cited articles to find passages cited implicitly but not explicitly. If those passages are marked using annotations, the method I’ll describe here can streamline the reader’s experience. Continue reading “Annotations are an easy way to Show Your Work”

How to improve Wikipedia citations with Hypothesis direct links

Wikipedia aims to be verifiable. Every statement of fact should be supported by a reliable source that the reader can check. Citations in Wikipedia typically refer to online documents accessible at URLs. But with the advent of standard web annotation we can do better. We can add citations to Wikipedia that refer precisely to statements that support Wikipedia articles. Continue reading “How to improve Wikipedia citations with Hypothesis direct links”

Syndicating annotations

Steel Wagstaff asks:

Immediate issue: we’ve got books on our dev server w/ annotations & want to move them intact to our production instance. The broader use case: I publish an open Pressbook & users make public comments on it. Someone else wants to clone the book including comments. How?

There are currently three URL-independent identifiers that can be used to coalesce annotations across instances of a web document published at different URLs. The first was the PDF fingerprint, the second was the DOI, and a third, introduced recently as part of Hypothesis’ EPUB support, uses Dublin Core metadata like so:

<meta name=”dc.identifier” content=”xchapter_001″>
<meta name=”dc.relation.ispartof” content=”org.example.hypothesis.demo.epub-samples.moby-dick-basic”>

If you dig into our EPUB.js and Readium examples, you’ll find those declarations are common to both instances of chapter 1 of Moby Dick. Here’s an annotation anchored to the opening line, Call me Ishmael. When the Hypothesis client loads, in a page served from either of the example URLs, it queries for two identifiers. One is the URL specific to each instance. The other is a URN formed from the common metadata, and it looks like this:


When you annotate either copy, you associate its URL with this Uniform Resource Name (URN). You can search for annotations using either of the URLs, or the just URN like so:

Although it sprang to life to support ebooks, I think this mechanism will prove more broadly useful. Unlike PDF fingerprints and DOIs, which typically identify whole works, it can be used to name chapters and sections. At a conference last year we spoke with OER (open educational resource) publishers, including Pressbooks, about ways to coalesce annotations across their platforms. I’m not sure this approach is the final solution, but it’s usable now, and I hope pioneers like Steel Wagstaff will try it out and help us think through the implications.

Thoughts on Audrey Watters’ “Thoughts on Annotation”

Back in April, Audrey Watters’ decided to block annotation on her website. I understand why. When we project our identities online, our personal sites become extensions of our homes. To some online writers, annotation overlays can feel like graffiti. How can we respect their wishes while enabling conversations about their writing, particularly conversations that are intimately connected to the writing? At the New Media Consortium conference recently, I was finally able to meet Audrey in person, and we talked about how to balance these interests. Yesterday Audrey posted her thoughts about that conversation, and clarified a key point: Continue reading “Thoughts on Audrey Watters’ “Thoughts on Annotation””

Weaving the annotated web

In 1997, at the first Perl Conference, which became OSCON the following year, my friend Andrew Schulman and I both gave talks on how the web was becoming a platform not only for publishing, but also for networked software.

Here’s the slide I remember from Andrew’s talk:

The only thing on it was a UPS tracking URL. Andrew asked us to stare at it for a while and think about what it really meant. “This is amazing!” he kept saying, over and over. “Every UPS package now has its own home page on the world wide web!” Continue reading “Weaving the annotated web”

Annotating TV news

Join us May 3-6 in San Francisco at I Annotate 2017, the fifth annual conference for annotation technologies and practices with a keynote from Esther Dyson. This year’s themes are: increasing user engagement in publication, science, and research, empowering fact checking in journalism, and building digital literacy in education.

The Internet Archive’s TV News Archive is a remarkable resource that provides video clips of TV news shows since 2009, text-searchable by means of their closed captions. Annotation of that caption text enables anyone to zoom in on specific moments and language in the TV timeline, bookmark it, and start a conversation linked to text and video. It’s a great way to use TV news as a primary source in education, journalism, and research.

For example, here’s a claim that Politifact rated as four Pinnochios

Right now, Libya, as you know, has fantastic oil, some of the finest oil in the world. Who has the oil? ISIS has the oil. Do we blockade it, do we bomb it, do we do anything? No. ISIS is making a fortune now in Libya.

— Donald Trump, interview on NBC’s Today show, April 21, 2016

And here’s that quote in context at the TV News Archive. That link, which Politifact could have cited (but didn’t), takes you to the segment of the show that contains the quote. The encircled red checkbox on the timeline tells us that Politifact has evaluated a claim made there.

That’s awesome! But wait, there’s more. I can annotate that selection and hand you a Hypothesis direct link that not only takes you to the segment in context, but also highlights the quote and enables us to discuss it in the annotation layer.

But wait, there’s still more! Now suppose we are writing the story using the Hypothesis toolkit for fact checkers. First I’ll capture that quote — along with the rest of the evidence we’re gathering for the story — and assign it a (toolkit-controlled) Hypothesis tag that binds related annotations to the story.

Now, in my editing tool, I’ll grab that direct link from the embedded Hypothesis viewer, using the Copy to Clipboard button.

And I’ll connect it to a statement in the story as a Hypothesis direct link. The link (as above) takes you to the quote in context at the Internet Archive. But now the page also includes the quote into the story’s footnotes, and connects the linked statement (‘calling it a “Hillary Clinton deal”‘) to that footnote.

As a writer (or publisher) this is exactly how I want things to work. The story links directly to both the location in the video and to a highlighted quote within its caption stream. Importantly, it’s never copied and pasted. Rather, the text of the quote is included from a canonical source.

As a reader this is also exactly how I want things to work. I can follow that direct link to explore the context surrounding the quote. Or I can quickly assess the quote — along with all the other supporting evidence — directly within the story.

Hypothesis provides a core capability for fact checking. Hypothesis-powered writing and publishing tools can extend that capability, streamlining the process for writers who gather and organize evidence, publishers who present it, and readers who evaluate it. Here’s a screencast that shows such tools in action.

When researchers, analysts, or students can spend less time and effort wrangling source material, using power tools like these, they’ll be able to invest more in what really matters: the analysis.

Will this way of annotating the TV News Archive be superseded, now that there’s a well-defined model for annotation of video using standard time-based selectors? Not at all! Text-based and time-based annotation will happily coexist. When text is available, it’s an easy and natural affordance for annotators working with video content.

How shared vocabularies tie the annotated web together

I’m fired up about the work I want to share at Domains 2017 this summer. The tagline for the conference is Indie Tech and Other Curiosities, and I plan to be one of the curiosities!

I’ve long been a cheerleader for the Domain of One’s Own movement. In Reclaiming Innovation, Jim Groom wrote about the need to “understand technologies as ‘potentiality’ (to graft a concept by Anton Chekov from a literary to a technical context).” He continued:

This is the idea that within the use of every technical tool there is more than just the consciousness of that tool, there is also the possibility to spark something beyond those predefined uses. The only real way to galvanize that potentiality is to provide the conditions of possibility — that is, a toolkit for user innovation.

Continue reading “How shared vocabularies tie the annotated web together”

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