Hypothes.is, a web annotation tool, as an off-label zettelkasten?!

It wasn’t built specifically to be used as one, but is anyone actively using Hypothes.is as an off-label zettelkasten just by itself?

The platform has most of the basic functionalities one would want for a digital ZK:

  1. Simple note taking,
  2. Notes are editable and update-able,
  3. There’s a tag functionality for indexing notes,
  4. One can add links to other notes to cross link them if they liked,
  5. There’s a reasonably good search functionality,
  6. Data export is available if you want to move

The interesting piece is that if many are doing this in public, then folks can reply to others’ notes and even cross-link their public notes. (They’ve got the ability to have public and private notes, as well as groups for collaboration, which are functionalities most ZK don’t have as well.)

I was reminded of this potential off-label use case when someone replied to an older note with a quote/comment and it nudged me to add a note to link the two together. Who’s up for a public, social zettelkasten practice?

For those who need an example to look at, try my “digital ZK”: https://hypothes.is/users/chrisaldrich or their public timeline: https://hypothes.is/search.

I know some have mentioned Hypothes.is as an annotation tool for their note taking before. There are a few who use it as an online platform for notes and then they leverage the platform’s API or feeds to export their data to their tool of choice. (I’ve used Hypothes.idian for Obsidian to do just this.)


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Chris Aldrich

I'm a biomedical and electrical engineer with interests in information theory, complexity, evolution, genetics, signal processing, IndieWeb, theoretical mathematics, and big history. I'm also a talent manager-producer-publisher in the entertainment industry with expertise in representation, distribution, finance, production, content delivery, and new media.

7 thoughts on “Hypothes.is, a web annotation tool, as an off-label zettelkasten?!”

  1. @chrisaldrich I’ve looked at Hypothes.is several times now, and bounced right off it at the signup screen.I think personally, I can’t use any signup-based web-based tool for my personal zettelkasting. That just doesn’t work for me. I need local, robust, storage of data – preferably as raw text.Perhaps I’m strange, but that’s my taste.

  2. @chrisaldrich The big thing to me about personal notes is that they are personal.Particularly in today’s extremely weaponized online social environment, and especially if one is researching any worthwhile (and therefore highly contentious) knowledge — you just do NOT want to be dependent on a third-party service for storing your tools and thoughts.They might at any point decide that you are committing Social Wrongthink (for various reasons, Left or Right) and un-person you. Or worse.

  3. Thanks for nothing … I just spent an hour following my nose down what turned out to be an absorbing hypothes.is rabbit hole-cum-time sink. As always when I follow my nose, it led to one of a number of topics that have been exercising my mind of late. I’ll spare you the details. But the end result gave me plenty more food for thought.

    It’s always fascinating being able to read some else’s notes on topics of interest. But I can’t see myself putting all my ‘thinking out loud’ notes like that online. I usually fire stuff like that into my fleeting notes inbox for later processing—which most often results in their being deleted or incorporated into other existing notes. But an interesting idea, if enough people with similar interests were to take it up.

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