A Small 10,000+ Annotations Party

I recently hit the 10,000+ annotations mark on the fantastic Hypothes.is platform, and in celebration, the kind team at Hypothesis sent me a care package with a lovely card, some sticky flags, some stickers, and some chocolate to see me through the next 10,000.

If I’m honest, I get so much value and joy out of annotating online, I should have been the one to send them the care package.

Thanks Hypothes.is! I’ll see you in the margins.

Looking for books with wider margins for annotations and notes

With the school year starting and a new slew of books to be purchased and read, I’ve been looking for books, particularly popular “classics” or “great books” that are published either with larger margins or even interleaved copies (books in which every other page is blank and meant for writing extensive notes).

Within the bible publishing space (and especially for study bibles), these features seem a lot more common as people want to write more significant marginalia or even full pages of text against or opposite of what they’re reading within the book itself. Given the encouragement many teachers give for students to actively annotate their books for class discussions as well as people commonly doing this, why isn’t it more common for them to recommend or require texts with ample margins?

Almost all of the published mass market paperbacks I see of series like Penguin Classics or Signet classics have the smallest possible margins and no interlinear space for writing notes directly in books. Often hard covers will have slightly larger margins, but generally most publishers are putting 1/2 inch or 3/4″ margins on their classics series (Penguin Classics, Everyman Library, Signet (a paltry 1/4 inch usually), Library of America, Norton Classics, Wordsworth Classics, Dover, etc.)

For those wanting ample margins for active “reading with a pen in hand” are there any publishers that do a great job of wider margins on classics? Which publishers or editions do others like or recommend for this sort of reading?

Are there any book sales platforms that actually list the size of margins of their books? (I never seen one myself.)

What can consumers do to encourage publishers to change these practices?

I’ve seen only a few select titles from very few publishers that do things like this. Examples include:

  • Gladius Books’ Huckleberry Finn
  • Annotate Books’ Marcus Aurelius, which has 1.8″ lined margins
  • The Folio Society has slightly better margins on their texts, but they’re generally larger hardcover collectors’ editions that are dramatically more expensive than is practicable for students on a budget. ($80+ versus $5-10)

If I can’t find anything useful, I’m tempted to self-publish custom versions of wide margin or interleaved books otherwise. Something in the inch to inch and a half margin size for commonly used texts in literature classes should be much more commonplace.

For those wanting ample margins for active “reading with a pen in hand” are there any publishers that do a great job of wider margins on “classics”/”great books”?
I’m tempted to self-publish custom versions of wide margin or interleaved books.
Replied to a post by Ton Zijlstra (zylstra.org)
Is it possible to annotate links in Hypothes.is that are in the Internet Archive? My browser bookmarklet for it doesn’t work on such archived pages. I can imagine that there are several javascript or iframe related technical reasons for it. An information related reason may be that bringing togeth...
The ability to annotate archived material on the Internet Archive with Hypothes.is is definitely possible, and I do it from time to time. I’m not sure which browser or annotation tool (via, browser extensions, other) you’re using, but it’s possible that one or more combinations may have issues allowing you to do it or not. The standard browser extension on Chrome has worked well for me in the past.

Hypothes.is has methods for establishing document equivalency which archive.org apparently conforms. I did an academic experiment a few years back with an NYT article about books where you’ll see equivalent annotations on the original, the archived version, and a copy on my own site that has a rel="canonical" link back to the original as well: 

  • https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/16/books/obamas-secret-to-surviving-the-white-house-years-books.html
  • https://web.archive.org/web/20170119220705/https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/16/books/obamas-secret-to-surviving-the-white-house-years-books.html
  • https://boffosocko.com/2017/01/19/obamas-secret-to-surviving-the-white-house-years-books-the-new-york-times/

I don’t recommend doing the rel-canonical trick on your own site frequently as I have noticed a bug, which I don’t think has been fixed.

The careful technologist with one tool or another, will see that I and a couple others have been occasionally delving into the archive and annotating Manfred Kuehn’s work. (I see at least one annotation from 2016, which was probably native on his original site before it was shut down in 2018.) I’ve found some great gems and leads into some historical work from his old site. In particular, he’s got some translations from German texts that I haven’t seen in other places.

Annotated Mrs. Custer’s Tennyson by William Logan (newcriterion.com)
Those who read with pen in hand form a species nearly extinct. Those who read the marginal notes of readers past form a group even smaller. Yet when we write in antiphonal chorus to what we’re reading, we engage in that conversation time and distance otherwise make impossible. 
Annotated Pivoting with Hypothesis during Covid by Christine MoskellChristine Moskell (Hypothesis | OLC Innovate 2020 | YouTube)

Kicking off OLC Innovate 2020, Hypothesis held two free workshop sessions on collaborative annotation with members of AnnotatED. The sessions each started with a "Getting on the same page" introduction from Jeremy Dean of Hypotheses, followed by "Notes from the field", where a variety of AnnotatED community members talked about what's happening with collaborative annotation at their schools and participants had the chance to discuss ideas and questions with these experienced practitioners.

In this clip Christine Moskell, Instructional Designer at Colgate University, shares examples of how instructors used Hypothesis during the Covid pivot. 

Christine Moskell talks about a professor’s final exam design prompting students to go back to annotations and add new commentary (or links to other related knowledge) that they’ve gained during the length of a course.

This is very similar to the sort of sensemaking and interlinking of information that Sönke Ahrens outlines in his book How to Take Smart Notes though his broader note taking thesis goes a few additional steps for more broadly synthesizing ideas into longer papers, articles, theses, and books.

Dr. Moskell also outlined a similar tactic at the Hypothesis Social Learning Summit: Spotlight on Social Reading & Social Annotation earlier today, though that video may not be accessible for a bit.

How can we better center and model these educational practices in our pedagogies?

There aren’t many published copies of annotated books out there, but you can get a limited edition replica of Francis Ford Coppola’s prompt book The Godfather Notebook for the movie’s 50th anniversary. It includes Coppola’s handwritten annotations on Mario Puzo’s novel.

I did some reading and annotation and learned something deplorable about Perusall. What grade does your AI give me?


https://hyp.is/A9EcXpR0Eey_JGdvKnxDPg/twitter.com/perusall/status/1495945680002719751

I’m excited to join Dan Allosso‘s book club on How to Take Smart Notes as a means of turning my active reading, annotating, and note taking into papers, articles and books using Obsidian.md and Hypothes.is

Details: 

cc: Ian O’Byrne, Remi Kalir

Another really clever reimagining of the @Hypothes_is UI from @peterhagen_. Lots of color! A graph of annotations over time! And you can annotate on the page.

Try it at https://annotations.lindylearn.io/page/?url=https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1945/07/as-we-may-think/303881/

Alternate Hypothes.is UI featuring the Atlantic article As We May Think with rainbow colored highlights on one side and annotations to the right. At the top is a graph of the article's popularity showing the number of annotations over time.

Different types of notes and use cases

In taking notes and making annotations recently, I’ve started a list of some of the broad semantic types I’ve come across. 

Ideas

New ideas spurred by reading, potentially for future expansion and refinement.

Questions

Questions relating to the the text. What’s missing? What should have been asked or addressed? What biases exist that should be addressed?

Paraphrases

Paraphrases and [[progressive summaries]] of articles or portions of articles. Restatements of ideas which may be reused in other contexts.

Facts

Basic, usually new, facts highlighted for future use and/or [[spaced repetition]]

Quotes

Old school sententiae, aphorisms, and quotes for use in the future

Replies

Direct communication with others

Phatic notes and Reactions

Reactions, exhortations (Ha!, funny, ROFL, LOL, etc.), reacji, !, ?, ⭐, basic signs of life while reading

Others?

Are there any big holes I’m missing based on your experiences?

Annotation Colors Using Hypothes.is: Problems and Solutions

I frequently see the feature request from Hypothes.is users to have the tool add the ability to choose different colors for highlights.

The first occurrence of the issue is probably documented here: https://github.com/hypothesis/vision/issues/123, by the head of the company.

I suspect it may take a while before such a color feature might be built in, if ever. (Here I’ll note that I don’t work for or speak for the company or any of the other open source developers on the project, but I am one what one would consider a “heavy user”.) If they have the time (I know they’re very busy), perhaps they may chime in with a potential roadmap or other ideas.

Color highlights are a difficult user interface problem

While I’m thinking about it, in an academic context for students, colors may be slightly better indicators of different users’ annotations of a particular text as a means of differentiating one annotator from another more subtly, particularly on texts that are extensively marked up.

Just this difference points out what a mixed bag of functionality colored highlights brings from a usability, design, and user interface perspective. While colored highlights is a seemingly “simple” sounding feature in the analog world where a single document is only annotated by one user, mapping it into a digital shared context is a difficult engineering problem to navigate and solve for. What if your color meanings aren’t the same as those of another?, for example.

While colors can be useful for individuals, do they have the same place in a social annotation product?

I already find it difficult to annotate heavily annotated pages that all use the same color, much less a rainbow of others’ colors. (If this is also you, I’ll note that there’s a handy “eye” icon in the annotation drawer that will allow you to turn them on/off.)

Potential Color Highlight Hacks

While the value of colors may be useful in some contexts, you could potentially use a few other features, functionality, and methods to creatively achieve a similar feature in Hypothes.is for yourself today. Below are a few potential creative “hacks” that some might try.

Use the tagging functionality

You could use the tagging system to create specific tags to stand in for your desired colors: As an example, in some systems I might use the following color designators:

  • Yellow—general highlights and highlights which don’t fit under another category below
  • Orange—Vocabulary word; interesting and/or rare word
  • Green—Reference to read
  • Blue—Interesting Quote
  • Gray—Typography Problem
  • Red—Example to work through

Instead of colors in Hypothesis, for example, one could use the tags “words” or “vocabulary”, “reference” or “citation“, “typo“, “quotes“, or “examples” to stand in for these particular “colors” respectively. I sometimes practice some of these which you can find by clicking on the links, though you may note that in practice I use other tags for them.

In some sense, this is what the software would be doing, particularly with regard to search for these after-the-fact. If you wanted a list of all your “citations” for example, you’d have to search for the color for that and be able to find them all, presuming this search functionality existed with such a color feature. This isn’t really much different than simply tagging all those particular highlights with words like “citation” or “reference” in the first place.

Use the Group Functionality

You could created different “groups” (private or public) to stand in for the colors you wish you had, thus a “yellow group” could be used for one “color” of highlight and a “green group” for another. ( See Annotating with Groups for more details.)

Switching between groups for annotating isn’t going to be drastically different than a user interface for switching colors of highlighter. The one drawback (or perhaps it’s a feature?) here is that you will only be able to see one “color” at a time.

Roll your own solution with open source

As ever, with some work, you could self-host the open source software and modify your copy to add this functionality in for yourself.

Some clever hacks in your browser with CSS might also give you your preferred output. I know some users have done custom work to the Hypothes.is UI in the past: eg. https://tomcritchlow.com/2019/02/12/annotations/, see his gist at the bottom of the post.

Another custom solution which may give you ideas can also be found at https://web.hypothes.is/blog/do-it-yourself-anchoring-and-the-evolution-of-the-hypothesis-toolkit/.

Perhaps adding custom classes on the tags or usernames might allow people the ability to target highlights on a page so that one could define custom CSS rules for each highlight using either usernames of tags as well? Of course, just like the “eye icon” described above, I’m sure there are times that people will appreciate the ability to turn these colors on and off. I personally don’t want the clean interface dressed up in Josephs Amazing Technicolor Annotation Dreamcoat.

Other solutions and problems?

Are there ideas or potential solutions for color highlights I’ve missed? How about design problems that might be encountered in implementing color-coded highlights in the older single document/single user model being transferred to a multi-user space with infinite scale? Is color the best and most accessible solution? Are there better things that could be done with color in the product?

Feel free to comment below with your ideas or links to examples.

Interested in other Hypothes.is hacks, tips, and ideas? Try browsing my Hypothes.is archive.