An Outline for Using Hypothesis for Owning your Annotations and Highlights

I was taken with Ian O’Byrne’s righteous excitement in his video the other day over the realization that he could potentially own his online annotations using Hypothesis, that I thought I’d take a moment to outline a few methods I’ve used.

There are certainly variations of ways for attempting to own one’s own annotations using Hypothesis and syndicating them to one’s website (via a PESOS workflow), but I thought I’d outline the quickest version I’m aware of that requires little to no programming or code, but also allows some relatively pretty results. While some of the portions below are WordPress specific, there’s certainly no reason they couldn’t be implemented for other systems.

Saving individual annotations one at a time

Here’s an easy method for taking each individual annotation you create on Hypothesis and quickly porting it to your site:

Create an IFTTT.com recipe to port your Hypothesis RSS feed into WordPress posts. Generally chose an “If RSS, then WordPress” setup and use the following data to build the recipe:

  • Input feed: https://hypothes.is/stream.atom?user=username (change username to your user name)
  • Optional title: 📑 {{EntryTitle}}
  • Body: {{EntryContent}} from {{EntryUrl}} <br />{{EntryPublished}}
  • Categories: Highlight (use whatever categories you prefer, but be aware they’ll apply to all your future posts from this feed)
  • Tags: hypothes.is
  • Post status (optional): I set mine to “Draft” so I have the option to keep it privately or to publish it publicly at a later date.

Modify any of the above fields as necessary for your needs. IFTTT.com usually polls your feed every 10-15 minutes. You can usually pretty quickly take this data and turn it into your post kind of preference–suggestions include read, bookmark, like, favorite, or even reply. Add additional categories, tags, or other metadata as necessary for easier searching at a later time.

Here’s an example of one on my website that uses this method. I’ve obviously created a custom highlight post kind of my own for more specific presentation as well as microformats markup.

A highlight from Hypothesis posted on my own website using some customized code to create a “Highlight post” using the Post Kinds Plugin.

Aggregating lots of annotations on a single page

If you do a lot of annotations on Hypothesis and prefer to create a bookmark or read post that aggregates all of your annotations on a given post, the quickest way I’ve seen on WordPress to export your data is to use the Hypothesis Aggregator plugin [GitHub].

  • Create a tag “key” for a particular article by creating an acronym from the article title followed by the date and then the author’s initials. This will allow you to quickly conglomerate all the annotations for a particular article or web page. As an example for this article I’d use: OUHOAH062218CA. In addition to any other necessary tags, I’ll tag each of my annotations on the particular article with this somewhat random, yet specific key for which there are unlikely to be any other similar tags in my account.
  • Create a bookmark, read, reply or other post kind to which you’ll attach your annotations. I often use a bookmarklet for speed here.
  • Use the Hypothesis Aggregator’s short code for your tag and username to pull your annotations for the particular tag. It will look like this:
    [hypothesis user = 'username' tags = 'tagname']

    If you’re clever, you could include this shortcode in the body of your IFTTT recipe (if you’re using drafts) and simply change the tag name to the appropriate one to save half a step or need to remember the shortcode format each time.

If you’re worried that Hypothes.is may eventually shut down, the plugin quits working (leaving you with ugly short codes in your post) or all of the above, you can add the following steps as a quick work-around.

  • Input the shortcode as above, click on the “Preview” button in WordPress’s Publish meta box which will open a new window and let you view your post.
  • Copy the preview of the annotations you’d like to keep in your post and paste them over your shortcode in the Visual editor tab on your draft post. (This will maintain the simple HTML formatting tags, which you can also edit or supplement if you like.)
  • I also strip out the additional unnecessary data from Hypothesis Aggregator about the article it’s from as well as the line about who created the annotation which isn’t necessary as my post will implicitly have that data. Depending on how you make your post (i.e. not using the Post Kinds Plugin), you may want to keep it.

As Greg McVerry kindly points out, Jon Udell has created a simple web-tool for inputting a few bits of data about a set of annotations to export them variously in HTML, CSV, or JSON format. If you’re not a developer and don’t want to fuss with Hypothesis’ API, this is also a reasonably solid method of quickly exporting subsections of your annotations and cutting and pasting them onto your website. It does export a lot more data that one might want for their site and could require some additional clean up, particularly in HTML format.

Perhaps with some elbow grease and coding skill, sometime in the future, we’ll have a simple way to implement a POSSE workflow that will allow you to post your annotations to your own website and syndicate them to services like Hypothesis. In the erstwhile, hopefully this will help close a little of the data gap for those using their websites as their commonplace books or digital notebooks.

Syndicated copies to:

27 responses on “An Outline for Using Hypothesis for Owning your Annotations and Highlights”

Bookmarks

  • Glenn Dixon

Reposts

  • Sean Champ
  • William Ian O'Byrne
  • Heather Staines
  • Alan Zimmerman
  • Nicolas Morin ️
  • Hypothesis
  • ltaub
  • Remi Kalir
  • Verena Roberts
  • K. White

Mentions

  • Chris Aldrich
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