Fragmentions for Better Highlighting and Direct References on the Web


Ages ago I added support on my website for fragmentions.

Wait… What is that?

Fragmention is a portmanteau word made up of fragment and mention (or even Webmention), but in more technical terms, it’s a simple way of creating a URL that not only targets a particular page on the internet, but allows you to target a specific sub-section of that page whether it’s a photo, paragraph, a few words, or even specific HTML elements like <div> or <span> on such a page. In short, it’s like a permalink to content within a web page instead of just the page itself.

A Fragmention Example

Picture of a hipster-esque looking Lego toy superimposed with the words: I'm not looking for a "hipster-web", but a new and demonstrably better web.
29/1.2014 – Larry the Barista by julochka is licensed under CC BY-NC
Feature image for the post “Co-claiming and Gathering Together – Developing Read Write Collect” by Aaron Davis. Photo also available on Flickr.

Back in December Aaron Davis had made a quote card for one of his posts that included a quote from one of my posts. While I don’t think he pinged (or webmentioned) it within his own post, I ran across it in his Twitter feed and he cross-posted it to his Flickr account where he credited where the underlying photo and quote came from along with their relevant URLs.

Fragmentions could have not only let him link to the source page of the quote, it would have let him directly target the section or the paragraph where the quote originated or–even more directly–the actual line of the quote.

Here’s the fragmention URL that would have allowed him to do that:

Go ahead and click on it (or the photo) to see the fragmention in action.

What’s happening?

Let’s compare the two URLs:

They both obviously point to the same specific page, and their beginnings are identical. The second one has a # followed by the words “I’m not looking” with some code for blank spaces and an apostrophe. Clicking on the fragmention URL will take you to the root page which then triggers a snippet of JavaScript on my site that causes the closest container with the text following the hash to be highlighted in a bright yellow color. The browser also automatically scrolls down to the location of the highlight.

Note: rather than the numbers and percent symbols, one could also frequently use the “+” to stand in for white spaces like so: This makes the URL a bit more human readable. You’ll also notice I took out the code for the apostrophe by omitting the word “I’m” and adding another word or two, but I still get the same highlight result.

This can be a very useful thing, particularly on pages with huge amounts of text. I use it quite often in my own posts to direct people to particular sub-parts of my website to better highlight the pieces I think they’ll find useful.

It can be even more useful for academics and researchers who want to highlight or even bookmark specific passages of text online. Those with experience on the platform will also notice how useful highlighting can be, but having a specific permalink structure for it goes a step further.

I will note however, that it’s been rare, if ever, that anyone besides myself has used this functionality on my site. Why? We’ll look at that in just a moment.

Extending fragmentions for easier usability.

Recently as a result of multiple conversations with Aaron Davis (on and between our websites via webmention with syndication to Twitter), I’ve been thinking more about notes, highlights, and annotations on the web. He wrote a post which discusses “Page Bookmarks” which are an interesting way of manually adding anchors on web pages to allow for targeting specific portions of web pages. This can make it easy for the user to click on links on a page to let them scroll up and down specific pages.  Sadly, these are very painful to create and use both for a site owner and even more so for the outside public which has absolutely no control over them whatsoever.

His post reminded me immediately of fragmentions. It also reminded me that there was a second bit of user interface related to fragmentions that I’d always meant to also add to my site, but somehow never got around to connecting: a “fragmentioner” to make it more obvious that you could use fragmentions on my site.

In short, how could a user know that my website even supports fragmentions? How could I make it easier for them to create a fragmention from my site to share out with others? Fortunately for me, our IndieWeb friend Kartik Prabhu had already wired up the details for his own personal website and released the code and some pointers for others who were interested in setting it up themselves. It’s freely available on Github and includes some reasonable details for installation.

So with a small bit of tweaking and one or two refinements, I got the code up and running and voilà! I now have a natural UI for highlighting things.


When a user naturally selects a portion of my page with their mouse–the way they might if they were going to cut and paste the text, a simple interface pops up with instructions to click it for a link. Kartik’s JavaScript automatically converts the highlight into the proper format and changes the page’s URL to include the appropriate fragmention URL for that snippet of the page. A cut and paste allows the reader to put that highlighted piece’s URL anywhere she likes. It

text highlighted in a browser with a small chain icon and text which says "Click for link to text"
Highlighting text pulls up some simple user interface for creating a fragmention to the highlighted text.

The future

What else would be nice?

I can’t help but think that it would be fantastic if the WordPress Fragmention plugin added the UI piece for highlight and sharing text via an automatically generated link.

Perhaps in the future one could allow a highlight and click interaction not only get the link, but to get a copy of both the highlighted text and the link to the URL. I’ve seen this behavior on some very socially savvy news websites. This would certainly make a common practice of cutting and pasting content much easier to do while also cleverly including a reference link.

The tough part of this functionality is that it’s only available on websites that specifically enable it. While not too difficult, it would be far nicer to have native browser support for both fragmention creation and use.  This would mean that I don’t need to include the JavaScript on my website to do the scrolling or highlighting and I wouldn’t need any JavaScript on my site to enable the highlighting to provide the specific code for the custom URL. How nice would it be if this were an open web standard and supported by major browsers without the need for work at the website level?

Medium-like highlighting and comments suddenly become a little easier for websites to support. With some additional code, it’s only a hop, skip, and a jump to dovetail this fragmention functionality with the W3C Webmentions spec to allow inline marginalia on posts. One can create a fragmention targeting text on a website and write a reply to it. With some UI built out,  by sending a webmention to the site, it could pick up the comment and display it as a marginal note at that particular spot instead of as a traditional comment below the post where it might otherwise loose the context of being associated at the related point in the main text. In fact our friend Kartik Prabhu has done just this on his website. Here’s an example of it in his post announcing the feature.

Example of inline marginalia on Kartik Prabhu’s website “Parallel Transport”.

You’ll notice that small quotation bubbles appear at various points in the text indicating marginalia. By clicking on them, the bubble turns green and the page expands to show the comment at that location. One could easily imagine CSS that allows the marginalia to actually display in the margin of the page for wider screens.

How could you imagine using fragmentions? What would you do with them? Feel free to add your thoughts below or own your site and send me a webmention.

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👓 Introduce a new way to retain knowledge from Kindle books | Diigo

Introduce a new way to retain knowledge from Kindle books by Joel Liu (Diigo)
Diigo provides a 2 step method to help you make the best use of your kindle highlights. Step 1: Import your kindle highlights to your Diigo library. Step 2: Organize highlights from a book in your own knowledge structure.

Another interesting way to potentially cut out data from Amazon Kindle e-books in terms of annotations, marginalia, and notes.

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As part of Bryan Alexander’s online book club, I’ve recalled that allows users with linked Amazon accounts to make their Kindle highlights and notes publicly available. Though I expect that I’ll post most/all of them here on my site over time, I thought I’d still add a link to my highlights and annotations for Weapons for Math Destruction here and use this as a reminder to others in the group who might want to take advantage of this functionality as well.

Details on the functionality can be found at Share Your Kindle Notes and Highlights with Your Friends (Beta).

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🔖 dokieli (
dokieli is a clientside editor for decentralised article publishing, annotations and social interactions.

dokieli envisions research results, analysis and data all being produced interactively on the Web and seamlessly linked to and from articles. Through annotations and notifications, the academic process of peer-review can be open, transparent and decentralised for researchers.

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🎧 The Contrafabulists Episode 52: Annotations

The Contrafabulists Episode 52: Marginalia
In this episode, we talk about Audrey's decision to block annotations from her websites.

A great little episode that talks about annotations, but impinges on a lot of issues relating to ownership and running of a (personal) website. It discusses a lot of things that folks on the web often take for granted, but which should really be done with a lot more civility and care for others.

While I have been seeing some really great and thoughtful conversations, particularly in the last 6 months or more, as a result of people posting on their own websites and using open standards like webmentions to carry on conversations, the rest of the internet still needs to take great strides to improve itself. A lot of these issues are ones of bias, and particularly of the white male sort, but I think that the ideas encapsulated in this short podcast will help to open people’s eyes. While it’s sad that Audrey had these experiences on Twitter, I’m glad that she and Kin took the time to discuss them here in hopes of improving the space in the future for others.​​

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Un-Annotated by Audrey Watters

Un-Annotated by Audrey Watters (Hack Education)
Why Audrey Watters has blocked annotations from News Genius and from her website.

I thought Audrey Watters’ post on why (and how) she prevents others from annotating her website was so important that I needed to highlight and annotate a few sections for myself for future use on my own site cum commonplace book. Her comments about ownership, control, and even harassment are all incredibly germane to the Indieweb movement as well.

I also wanted to use this post as an experiment of sorts to see how sound her script actually is with respect to people using both of the annotation services she mentions.

The text of her post appears below in full and unaltered (as it did on 2017-05-17 aside from my obvious annotations and highlights). It (and my commentary and highlights) is (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) as she originally licensed it.

I’ve spent some time thinking about this type of blocking in the past and written about a potential solution. Kevin Marks had created a script to help prevent this type of abuse as well; his solution and some additional variants are freely available. — {cja}

I have added a script to my websites today that will block annotations – namely those from Genius and those from I have been meaning to do this for a while now, so it’s mostly a project that comes as I procrastinate doing something else rather than one that comes in response to any recent event.

I took comments off my websites in 2013 because I was sick of having to wade through threats of sexualized violence in order to host conversations on my ideas.

My blog. My rules. No comments.

The article linked at the bottom of the paragraph is a must read in my opinion and sparked some of my original thoughts last year about this same phenomenon. I suspect that Ms. Watters has been wanting to do this since this article was posted and/or she read it subsequently. — {cja}

I’ve made this position fairly well known – if you have something to say in response, go ahead and write your own blog post on your own damn site. So I find the idea that someone would use a service like to annotate my work on my websites particularly frustrating. I don’t want comments – not in the margins and not at the foot of an article. Mostly, I don’t want to have to moderate them. I have neither the time nor the emotional bandwidth. And if I don’t want to moderate comments, that means I definitely do not want comments to appear here (or that appear to be here) that are outside my control or even my sight.

This isn’t simply about trolls and bigots threatening me (although yes, that is a huge part of it); it’s also about extracting value from my work and shifting it to another company which then gets to control (and even monetize) the conversation.

Does the script Audrey Watters is using really stop people from annotating her site directly?

Based on my quick test, one can still (carefully) use to highlight and annotate her site, but the script at least prevents from showing that annotation. When visiting her site with’ Chrome browser extension on, it does show that there is one annotation on the page. It then requires some hunting to find this comment.

And this particular post is proof of the fact that it can still be annotated, but without impinging on the sovereignty of the original author or her site. — {cja}

Blocking annotation tools does not stop you from annotating my work. I’m a fan of marginalia; I am. I write all over the books I’ve bought, for example. Blocking annotations in this case merely stops you from writing in the margins here on this website.


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Chris Aldrich is reading “How To Have Paragraph Commenting Just Like Medium”

How To Have Paragraph Commenting Just Like Medium by Chris Knowles (WPMU DEV Blog)
Paragraph commenting, or annotations is not exactly new. Readers have been scribbling in the margins of books, magazines and uni assignments for years. The online world has been slow to adopt this approach which is perhaps why Medium caused a stir and no shortage of admiring looks when it went the annotation route. Well, admire forlornly no more because I'm going to show you how to add paragraph commenting to your WordPress site. There are existing annotation solutions for WordPress but they are generally theme dependent, or in the case of CommentPress actually provide a theme.

This has some great advice and code for potentially adding marginalia.

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Notes, Highlights, and Marginalia: From E-books to Online

Notes on an outlined workflow for sharing notes, highlights, and annotations from ebooks online.

For several years now, I’ve been meaning to do something more interesting with the notes, highlights, and marginalia from the various books I read. In particular, I’ve specifically been meaning to do it for the non-fiction I read for research, and even more so for e-books, which tend to have slightly more extract-able notes given their electronic nature. This fits in to the way in which I use this site as a commonplace book as well as the IndieWeb philosophy to own all of one’s own data.[1]

Over the past month or so, I’ve been experimenting with some fiction to see what works and what doesn’t in terms of a workflow for status updates around reading books, writing book reviews, and then extracting and depositing notes, highlights, and marginalia online. I’ve now got a relatively quick and painless workflow for exporting the book related data from my Amazon Kindle and importing it into the site with some modest markup and CSS for display. I’m sure the workflow will continue to evolve (and further automate) somewhat over the coming months, but I’m reasonably happy with where things stand.

The fact that the Amazon Kindle allows for relatively easy highlighting and annotation in e-books is excellent, but having the ability to sync to a laptop and do a one click export of all of that data, is incredibly helpful. Adding some simple CSS to the pre-formatted output gives me a reasonable base upon which to build for future writing/thinking about the material. In experimenting, I’m also coming to realize that simply owning the data isn’t enough, but now I’m driven to help make that data more directly useful to me and potentially to others.

As part of my experimenting, I’ve just uploaded some notes, highlights, and annotations for David Christian’s excellent text Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History[2] which I read back in 2011/12. While I’ve read several of the references which I marked up in that text, I’ll have to continue evolving a workflow for doing all the related follow up (and further thinking and writing) on the reading I’ve done in the past.

I’m still reminded me of Rick Kurtzman’s sage advice to me when I was a young pisher at CAA in 1999: “If you read a script and don’t tell anyone about it, you shouldn’t have wasted the time having read it in the first place.” His point was that if you don’t try to pass along the knowledge you found by reading, you may as well give up. Even if the thing was terrible, at least say that as a minimum. In a digitally connected era, we no longer need to rely on nearly illegible scrawl in the margins to pollinate the world at a snail’s pace.[4] Take those notes, marginalia, highlights, and meta data and release it into the world. The fact that this dovetails perfectly with Cesar Hidalgo’s thesis in Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies,[3] furthers my belief in having a better process for what I’m attempting here.

Hopefully in the coming months, I’ll be able to add similar data to several other books I’ve read and reviewed here on the site.

If anyone has any thoughts, tips, tricks for creating/automating this type of workflow/presentation, I’d love to hear them in the comments!


“Own your data,” IndieWeb. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 24-Oct-2016]
D. Christian and W. McNeill H., Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History, 2nd ed. University of California Press, 2011.
C. Hidalgo, Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies, 1st ed. Basic Books, 2015.
O. Gingerich, The Book Nobody Read: Chasing the Revolutions of Nicolaus Copernicus. Bloomsbury Publishing USA, 2004.
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A New Reading Post-type for Bookmarking and Reading Workflow

Thoughts on post types/kinds relating to reading within the Indieweb construct

This morning while breezing through my Woodwind feed reader, I ran across a post by Rick Mendes with the hashtags #readlater and #readinglist which put me down a temporary rabbit hole of thought about reading-related post types on the internet.

I’m obviously a huge fan of reading and have accounts on GoodReads, Amazon, Pocket, Instapaper, Readability, and literally dozens of other services that support or assist the reading endeavor. (My affliction got so bad I started my own publishing company last year.)

READ LATER is an indication on (or relating to) a website that one wants to save the URL to come back and read the content at a future time.

I started a page on the IndieWeb wiki to define read later where I began writing some philosophical thoughts. I decided it would be better to post them on my own site instead and simply link back to them. As a member of the Indieweb my general goal over time is to preferentially quit using these web silos (many of which are listed on the referenced page) and, instead, post my reading related work and progress here on my own site. Naturally, the question becomes, how does one do this in a simple and usable manner with pretty and reasonable UX/UI for both myself and others?

Current Use

Currently I primarily use a Pocket bookmarklet to save things (mostly newspaper articles, magazine pieces, blog posts) for reading later and/or the like/favorite functionality in Twitter in combination with an IFTTT recipe to save the URL in the tweet to my Pocket account. I then regularly visit Pocket to speed read though articles. While Pocket allows downloading of (some) of one’s data in this regard, I’m exploring options to bring in the ownership of this workflow into my own site.

For more academic leaning content (read journal articles), I tend to rely on an alternate Mendeley-based workflow which also starts with an easy-to-use bookmarklet.

I’ve also experimented with bookmarking a journal article and using to import my highlights from that article, though that workflow has a way to go to meet my personal needs in a robust way while still allowing me to own all of my own data. The benefit is that fixing it can help more than just myself while still fitting into a larger personal workflow.


A Broader Reading (Parent) Post-type

Philosophically a read later post-type could be considered similar to a (possibly) unshared or private bookmark with potential possible additional meta-data like: progress, date read, notes, and annotations to be added after the fact, which then technically makes it a read post type.

A potential workflow viewed over time might be: read later >> bookmark >> notes/annotations/marginalia >> read >> review. This kind of continuum of workflow might be able to support a slightly more complex overall UI for a more simplified reading post-type in which these others are all sub-types. One could then make a single UI for a reading post type with fields and details for all of the sub-cases. Being updatable, the single post could carry all the details of one’s progress.

Indieweb encourages simplicity (DRY) and having the fewest post-types possible, which I generally agree with, but perhaps there’s a better way of thinking of these several types. Concatenating them into one reading type with various data fields (and the ability of them to be public/private) could allow all of the subcategories to be included or not on one larger and more comprehensive post-type.

  1. Not including one subsection (or making it private), would simply prevent it from showing, thus one could have a traditional bookmark post by leaving off the read later, read, and review sub-types and/or data.
  2. As another example, I could include the data for read later, bookmark, and read, but leave off data about what I highlighted and/or sub-sections of notes I prefer to remain private.

A Primary Post with Webmention Updates

Alternately, one could create a primary post (potentially a bookmark) for the thing one is reading, and then use further additional posts with webmentions on each (to the original) thereby adding details to the original post about the ongoing progress. In some sense, this isn’t too far from the functionality provided by GoodReads with individual updates on progress with brief notes and their page that lists the overall view of progress. Each individual post could be made public/private to allow different viewerships, though private webmentions may be a hairier issue. I know some are also experimenting with pushing updates to posts via micropub and other methods, which could be appealing as well.

This may be cumbersome over time, but could potentially be made to look something like the GoodReads UI below, which seems very intuitive. (Note that it’s missing any review text as I’m currently writing it, and it’s not public yet.)

Overview of reading progress
Overview of reading progress

Other Thoughts

Ideally, better distinguishing between something that has been bookmarked and read/unread with dates for both the bookmarking and reading, as well as potentially adding notes and highlights relating to the article is desired. Something potentially akin to Devon Zuegel‘s “Notes” tab (built on a custom script for Evernote and Tumblr) seems somewhat promising in a cross between a simple reading list (or linkblog) and a commonplace book for academic work, but doesn’t necessarily leave room for longer book reviews.

I’ll also need to consider the publishing workflow, in some sense as it relates to the reverse chronological posting of updates on typical blogs. Perhaps a hybrid approach of the two methods mentioned would work best?

Potentially having an interface that bolts together the interface of GoodReads (picture above) and Amazon’s notes/highlights together would be excellent. I recently noticed (and updated an old post) that they’re already beta testing such a beast.

Kindle Notes and Highlights are now shoing up as a beta feature in GoodReads
Kindle Notes and Highlights are now shoing up as a beta feature in GoodReads


I’ll keep thinking about the architecture for what I’d ultimately like to have, but I’m always open to hearing what other (heavy) readers have to say about the subject and the usability of such a UI.

Please feel free to comment below, or write something on your own site (which includes the URL of this post) and submit your URL in the field provided below to create a webmention in which your post will appear as a comment.

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A new plugin helps to improve annotations on the internet

Last night I saw two great little articles about, a web-based annotation engine, written by a proponent of the IndieWeb: as a public research notebook Aggregator ― a WordPress plugin

As a researcher, I fully appreciate the pro-commonplace book conceptualization of the first post, and the second takes things amazingly further with a plugin that allows one to easily display one’s annotations on one’s own WordPress-based site in a dead-simple fashion.

This functionality is a great first step, though honestly, in keeping with IndieWeb principles of owning one’s own data, I think it would be easier/better if both accepted and sent webmentions. This would potentially allow me to physically own the data on my own site while still participating in the larger annotation community as well as give me notifications when someone either comments or augments on one of my annotations or even annotates one of my own pages (bits of which I’ve written about before.)

Either way, kudos to Kris Shaffer for moving the ball forward!


My Notebook

The plugin mentioned in the second article allows me to keep a running online “notebook” of all of my annotations on my own site.

My IndieWeb annotations

I can also easily embed my recent annotations about the IndieWeb below:

[ hypothesis user = 'chrisaldrich' tags = 'indieweb']

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Webmention + Books = BookMention

Part of my plans to (remotely) devote the weekend to the IndieWeb Summit in Portland were hijacked by the passing of Muhammad Ali. Wait… What?! How does that happen?

igsyU1XmA year ago, I opened started a publishing company and we came out with our first book Amerikan Krazy in late February.  The author has a small backcatalogue that’s out of print, so in conjunction with his book launch, we’ve been slowly releasing ebook versions of his old titles. Coincidentally one of them was a fantastic little book about Ali entitled Muhammad Ali Retrospective, so I dropped everything I was doing to get it finished up and out as a quick way of honoring his passing.

But while I was working on some of the minutiae, I’ve been thinking in the back of my mind about the ideas of marginalia, commonplace books, and Amazon’s siloed community of highlights and notes. Is there a decentralized web-based way of creating a construct similar to webmention that will allow all readers worldwide to highlight, mark up and comment across electronic versions of texts so that they can share them in an open manner while still owning all of their own data? And possibly a way to aggregate them at the top for big data studies in the vein of corpus linguistics?

I think there is…

However it’ll take some effort, but effort that could have a worthwhile impact.

I have a few potential architectures in mind, but also want to keep online versions of books in the loop as well as potentially efforts like or even the academic portions of which do web-based annotation.

If anyone in the IndieWeb, books, or online marginalia worlds has thought about this as well, I’d love to chat.

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How can we be sure old books were ever read? – University of Glasgow Library

How can we be sure old books were ever read? by Robert MacLean (University of Glasgow Library)
Owning a book isn’t the same as reading it; we need only look at our own bloated bookshelves for confirmation.

This is a great little overview for people reading the books of others. There are also lots of great links to other resources.

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Inquire in the Margine

"If the Page satisfie not, inquire in the Margine" - John Selden
John Selden (1584-1654), English jurist and a scholar
in Illustrations (1612), a commentary on Poly-Olbion, a poem by Michael Drayton
in the margin next to ‘A table to the chiefest passages, in the Illustrations, which, worthiest of observation, are not directed unto by the course of the volume.’


Photo courtesy of Sjoerd Levelt
Photo courtesy of Sjoerd Levelt