Thoughts on linkblogs, bookmarks, reads, likes, favorites, follows, and related links

Within the social media space there’s a huge number of services that provide a variety of what I would call bookmark-type functionality of one sort or another. They go under a variety of monikers including bookmarks, likes, favorites, stars, reads, follows, claps, and surely many quirky others. Each platform has created its own semantics which don’t always overlap with the others.

Because I’m attempting to own all of my own data, I’ve roughly mapped many of these intents into my own website. But because I have the ultimate control over them, I get to form my own personal definitions. I also have a lot more control over them in addition to adding other metadata to each for better after-the-fact search and use within my personal online commonplace book. As such, I thought it might be useful to lay out some definitions (both for myself and others) for how I view these on my website.

At the basest level, I look at most of these interactions simply as URL permalinks to interesting content and their aggregation as a “linkblog”, or a feed of interesting links I’ve come across. The specific names given to them imply a level of specificity about what I think exactly makes them interesting.

In addition to a bookmark specific feed, which by itself could be considered a “traditional” linkblog, my site also has separate aggregated feeds for things I’ve liked, read, followed, and favorited. It’s the semantic reasons for saving or featuring these pieces of content which ultimately determine which names they ultimately have. (For those interested in subscribing to one or or more, or all of these, one can add /feed/ to the ends of the specific types’ URLs, which I’ve linked,  for an RSS feed. Thus, for example, will give you the RSS feed for the “Master” linkblog that includes all the bookmarks, likes, reads, follows, and favorites.)

On my site, I try to provide a title for the content and some type of synopsis of what the content is about. These help to provide some context to others seeing them as well as a small reminder to me of what they were about. When appropriate/feasible, I’ll try to include an image for similar reasons. I’ll also often add a line of text or two as a commentary or supplement to my thoughts on the piece. Finally, I add an icon to help to quickly visually indicate which of the types of posts each is, so they can be more readily distinguished when seen in aggregate.

In relative order of decreasing importance or value to me I would put them in roughly the following order of importance (with their attached meanings as I view them on my site):

  1. Favorite – This is often something which might easily have had designations of bookmark, like, and/or read, or even multiple of them at the same time. In any case they’re often things which I personally find important or valuable in the long term. There are far less of these than any of the other types of linkblog-like posts.
  2. Follow – Indicating that I’m now following a person, organization, or source of future content which I deem to have enough regular constant value to my life that I want to be able to see what that source is putting out on a regular basis. Most often these sources have RSS feeds which I consume in a feed reader, but frequently they’ll appear on other social silos which I will have ported into a feed reader as well. Of late I try to be much more selective in what I’m following and why. I also categorize sources based on topics of value to me. Follows often include sources which I have either previously often liked or bookmarked or suspect I would like or bookmark frequently in the future. For more details see: A Following Page (aka some significant updates to my Blogroll) and the actual Following page.
  3. Read – These are linkblog-like posts which I found interesting enough for one reason or another to have actually spent the time to read in their entirety. For things I wish to highlight or found most interesting, I’ll often add additional thought or commentary in conjunction with the post.
  4. Like – Depending on the content, these posts may not always have been read in their entirety, but I found them more interesting than the majority of content which I’ve come across. Most often these posts serve to show my appreciation for the original source of the related post as a means of saying “congratulations”, “kudos”, “good job”, or in cases of more personal level content “I appreciate this”, “you’re awesome”, or simply as the tag says “I liked this.”
  5. Bookmark – Content which I find interesting, but might not necessarily have the time to deal with at present. Often I’ll wish to circle back to the content at some future point and engage with at a deeper level. Bookmarking it prevents me from losing track of it altogether. I may optionally add a note about how the content came to my attention to be able to better remember it at a future time. While there are often things here which others might have “liked” or “favorited” on other social silos, on my site these things have been found interesting enough to have been bookmarked, but I haven’t personally read into them enough yet to form any specific opinion about them beyond their general interest to me or potentially followers interested in various category tags I use. I feel like this is the lowest level of interaction, and one in which I see others often like, favorite, or even repost on other social networks without having actually read anything other than the headline, if they’ve even bothered to do that. In my case, however, I more often than not actually come back to the content while others on social media rarely, if ever, do.

While occasionally some individual specimens of each might “outrank” others in the category above this is roughly the order of how I perceive them. Within this hierarchy, I do have some reservations about including the “follow” category, which in some sense I feel stands apart from the continuum represented by the others. Still it fits into the broader category of a thing with a URL, title, and high interest to me. Perhaps the difference is that it represents a store of future potentially useful information that hasn’t been created or consumed yet? An unseen anti-library of people instead of books in some sense of the word.

I might also include the Reply post type toward the top of the list, but for some time I’ve been categorizing these as “statuses” or “note-like” content rather than as “links”. These obviously have a high priority if lumped in as I’ve not only read and appreciated the underlying content, but I’ve spent the time and thought to provide a reasoned reply, particularly in cases where the reply has taken some time to compose. I suppose I might more likely include these as linkblog content if I didn’t prefer readers to value them more highly than if they showed up in those feeds. In some sense, I value the replies closer on par to my longer articles for the value of not only my response, but for that of the original posts themselves.

In general, if I take the time to add additional commentary, notes, highlights, or other marginalia, then the content obviously resonated with me much more than those which stand as simple links with titles and descriptions.

Perhaps in the near future, I’ll write about how I view these types on individual social media platforms. Often I don’t post likes/favorites from social platforms to my site as they often have less meaning to me directly and likely even less meaning to my audiences here. I suppose I could aggregate them here on my site privately, but I have many similar questions and issues that Peter Molnar brings up in his article Content, Bloat, privacy, arichives.

I’m curious to hear how others apply meaning to their linkblog type content especially since there’s such a broad range of meaning from so many social sites. Is there a better way to do it all? Is it subtly different on sites which don’t consider themselves (or act as) commonplace books?

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Organizing my research related reading

There’s so much great material out there to read and not nearly enough time. The question becomes: “How to best organize it all, so you can read even more?”

I just came across a tweet from Michael Nielsen about the topic, which is far deeper than even a few tweets could do justice to, so I thought I’d sketch out a few basic ideas about how I’ve been approaching it over the last decade or so. Ideally I’d like to circle back around to this and better document more of the individual aspects or maybe even make a short video, but for now this will hopefully suffice to add to the conversation Michael has started.

Keep in mind that this is an evolving system which I still haven’t completely perfected (and may never), but to a great extent it works relatively well and I still easily have the ability to modify and improve it.

Overall Structure

The first piece of the overarching puzzle is to have a general structure for finding, collecting, triaging, and then processing all of the data. I’ve essentially built a simple funnel system for collecting all the basic data in the quickest manner possible. With the basics down, I can later skim through various portions to pick out the things I think are the most valuable and move them along to the next step. Ultimately I end up reading the best pieces on which I make copious notes and highlights. I’m still slowly trying to perfect the system for best keeping all this additional data as well.

Since I’ve seen so many apps and websites come and go over the years and lost lots of data to them, I far prefer to use my own personal website for doing a lot of the basic collection, particularly for online material. Toward this end, I use a variety of web services, RSS feeds, and bookmarklets to quickly accumulate the important pieces into my personal website which I use like a modern day commonplace book.


In general, I’ve been using the Inoreader feed reader to track a large variety of RSS feeds from various clearinghouse sources (including things like ProQuest custom searches) down to individual researcher’s blogs as a means of quickly pulling in large amounts of research material. It’s one of the more flexible readers out there with a huge number of useful features including the ability to subscribe to OPML files, which many readers don’t support.

As a simple example has an RSS feed for the topic of “information theory” at which I subscribe to. I can quickly browse through the feed and based on titles and/or abstracts, I can quickly “star” the items I find most interesting within the reader. I have a custom recipe set up for the service that pulls in all these starred articles and creates new posts for them on my WordPress blog. To these posts I can add a variety of metadata including top level categories and lower level tags in addition to other additional metadata I’m interested in.

I also have similar incoming funnel entry points via many other web services as well. So on platforms like Twitter, I also have similar workflows that allow me to use services like or Zapier to push the URLs easily to my website. I can quickly “like” a tweet and a background process will suck that tweet and any URLs within it into my system for future processing. This type of workflow extends to a variety of sites where I might consume potential material I want to read and process. (Think academic social services like Mendeley,, Diigo, or even less academic ones like Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) Many of these services often have storage ability and also have simple browser bookmarklets that allow me to add material to them. So with a quick click, it’s saved to the service and then automatically ported into my website almost without friction.

My WordPress-based site uses the Post Kinds Plugin which takes incoming website URLs and does a very solid job of parsing those pages to extract much of the primary metadata I’d like to have without requiring a lot of work. For well structured web pages, it’ll pull in the page title, authors, date published, date updated, synopsis of the page, categories and tags, and other bits of data automatically. All these fields are also editable and searchable. Further, the plugin allows me to configure simple browser bookmarklets so that with a simple click on a web page, I can pull its URL and associated metadata into my website almost instantaneously. I can then add a note or two about what made me interested in the piece and save it for later.

Note here, that I’m usually more interested in saving material for later as quickly as I possibly can. In this part of the process, I’m rarely ever interested in reading anything immediately. I’m most interested in finding it, collecting it for later, and moving on to the next thing. This is also highly useful for things I find during my busy day that I can’t immediately find time for at the moment.

As an example, here’s a book I’ve bookmarked to read simply by clicking “like” on a tweet I cam across late last year. You’ll notice at the bottom of the post, I’ve optionally syndicated copies of the post to other platforms to “spread the wealth” as it were. Perhaps others following me via other means may see it and find it useful as well?


At regular intervals during the week I’ll sit down for an hour or two to triage all the papers and material I’ve been sucking into my website. This typically involves reading through lots of abstracts in a bit more detail to better figure out what I want to read now and what I’d like to read at a later date. I can delete out the irrelevant material if I choose, or I can add follow up dates to custom fields for later reminders.

Slowly but surely I’m funneling down a tremendous amount of potential material into a smaller, more manageable amount that I’m truly interested in reading on a more in-depth basis.

Document storage

Calibre with GoodReads sync

Even for things I’ve winnowed down, there is still a relatively large amount of material, much of it I’ll want to save and personally archive. For a lot of this function I rely on the free multi-platform desktop application Calibre. It’s essentially an iTunes-like interface, but it’s built specifically for e-books and other documents.

Within it I maintain a small handful of libraries. One for personal e-books, one for research related textbooks/e-books, and another for journal articles. It has a very solid interface and is extremely flexible in terms of configuration and customization. You can create a large number of custom libraries and create your own searchable and sort-able fields with a huge variety of metadata. It often does a reasonable job of importing e-books, .pdf files, and other digital media and parsing out their meta data which prevents one from needing to do some of that work manually. With some well maintained metadata, one can very quickly search and sort a huge amount of documents as well as quickly prioritize them for action. Additionally, the system does a pretty solid job of converting files from one format to another, so that things like converting an .epub file into a .mobi format for Kindle are automatic.

Calibre stores the physical documents either in local computer storage, or even better, in the cloud using any of a variety of services including Dropbox, OneDrive, etc. so that one can keep one’s documents in the cloud and view them from a variety of locations (home, work, travel, tablet, etc.)

I’ve been a very heavy user of for years to bookmark and organize my physical and e-book library and anti-libraries. Calibre has an exceptional plugin for GoodReads that syncs data across the two. This (and a few other plugins) are exceptionally good at pulling in missing metadata to minimize the amount that must be done via hand, which can be tedious.

Within Calibre I can manage my physical books, e-books, journal articles, and a huge variety of other document related forms and formats. I can also use it to further triage and order the things I intend to read and order them to the nth degree. My current Calibre libraries have over 10,000 documents in them including over 2,500 textbooks as well as records of most of my 1,000+ physical books. Calibre can also be used to add document data that one would like to ultimately acquire the actual documents, but currently don’t have access to.

BibTeX and reference management

In addition to everything else Calibre also has some well customized pieces for dovetailing all its metadata as a reference management system. It’ll allow one to export data in a variety of formats for document publishing and reference management including BibTex formats amongst many others.

Reading, Annotations, Highlights

Once I’ve winnowed down the material I’m interested in it’s time to start actually reading. I’ll often use Calibre to directly send my documents to my Kindle or other e-reading device, but one can also read them on one’s desktop with a variety of readers, or even from within Calibre itself. With a click or two, I can automatically email documents to my Kindle and Calibre will also auto-format them appropriately before doing so.

Typically I’ll send them to my Kindle which allows me a variety of easy methods for adding highlights and marginalia. Sometimes I’ll read .pdf files via desktop and use Adobe to add highlights and marginalia as well. When I’m done with a .pdf file, I’ll just resave it (with all the additions) back into my Calibre library.

Exporting highlights/marginalia to my website

For Kindle related documents, once I’m finished, I’ll use direct text file export or tools like to export my highlights and marginalia for a particular text into simple HTML and import it into my website system along with all my other data. I’ve briefly written about some of this before, though I ought to better document it. All of this then becomes very easily searchable and sort-able for future potential use as well.

Here’s an example of some public notes, highlights, and other marginalia I’ve posted in the past.


Eventually, over time, I’ve built up a huge amount of research related data in my personal online commonplace book that is highly searchable and sortable! I also have the option to make these posts and pages public, private, or even password protected. I can create accounts on my site for collaborators to use and view private material that isn’t publicly available. I can also share posts via social media and use standards like webmention and tools like so that comments and interactions with these pieces on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and others is imported back to the relevant portions of my site as comments. (I’m doing it with this post, so feel free to try it out yourself by commenting on one of the syndicated copies.)

Now when I’m ready to begin writing something about what I’ve read, I’ve got all the relevant pieces, notes, and metadata in one centralized location on my website. Synthesis becomes much easier. I can even have open drafts of things as I’m reading and begin laying things out there directly if I choose. Because it’s all stored online, it’s imminently available from almost anywhere I can connect to the web. As an example, I used a few portions of this workflow to actually write this post.

Continued work

Naturally, not all of this is static and it continues to improve and evolve over time. In particular, I’m doing continued work on my personal website so that I’m able to own as much of the workflow and data there. Ideally I’d love to have all of the Calibre related piece on my website as well.

Earlier this week I even had conversations about creating new post types on my website related to things that I want to read to potentially better display and document them explicitly. When I can I try to document some of these pieces either here on my own website or on various places on the IndieWeb wiki. In fact, the IndieWeb for Education page might be a good place to start browsing for those interested.

One of the added benefits of having a lot of this data on my own website is that it not only serves as my research/data platform, but it also has the traditional ability to serve as a publishing and distribution platform!

Currently, I’m doing most of my research related work in private or draft form on the back end of my website, so it’s not always publicly available, though I often think I should make more of it public for the value of the aggregation nature it has as well as the benefit it might provide to improving scientific communication. Just think, if you were interested in some of the obscure topics I am and you could have a pre-curated RSS feed of all the things I’ve filtered through piped into your own system… now multiply this across hundreds of thousands of other scientists? Michael Nielsen posts some useful things to his Twitter feed and his website, but what I wouldn’t give to see far more of who and what he’s following, bookmarking, and actually reading? While many might find these minutiae tedious, I guarantee that people in his associated fields would find some serious value in it.

I’ve tried hundreds of other apps and tools over the years, but more often than not, they only cover a small fraction of the necessary moving pieces within a much larger moving apparatus that a working researcher and writer requires. This often means that one is often using dozens of specialized tools upon which there’s a huge duplication of data efforts. It also presumes these tools will be around for more than a few years and allow easy import/export of one’s hard fought for data and time invested in using them.

If you’re aware of something interesting in this space that might be useful, I’m happy to take a look at it. Even if I might not use the service itself, perhaps it’s got a piece of functionality that I can recreate into my own site and workflow somehow?

If you’d like help in building and fleshing out a system similar to the one I’ve outlined above, I’m happy to help do that too.

Related posts

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🔖 The Story of Your Life: Using WordPress as Your Memory Warehouse

The Story of Your Life: Using WordPress as Your Memory Warehouse by Brianna Privett (WordCamp US 2017)
The Personal Web of the 1990s/early 2000s was the first wave of online diarists and bloggers who use the web as a platform to chronicle and share their our daily lives. WordPress came out of this movement, and is now in its second decade. 2017 marks 20 years that I’ve been using the web to create and archive memories, and 12 years that I’ve been doing it with WordPress. I’ve learned a few things about creating a real and permanent record of a lifetime on the ephemeral digital landscape, and together we’ll discuss how to use WordPress to create your own home on the web. We’ll cover topics such as how to maintain your (and your family’s) privacy, using WordPress to build a keepsake repository your friends and family can contribute to, and how to ensure that these digital spaces are available as a legacy for lifetimes to come.

I can’t wait until WordPress.TV (presumably) posts this up in a few weeks. This sounds a lot like Brianna’s talking about a web-enabled commonplace book, a topic which intrigues me greatly and the purpose for which I’m most often using my own site.

In looking briefly at her personal site, I don’t see lots of evidence of her use of the idea, so I’m guessing that she’s either keeping it privately on her back end, password protected, or on another site altogether like I do for some of my content. Her talk mentions this, so I’m excited to see how she executes on it.

I’m also curious, after having recently remotely attended the Dodging the Memory Hole 2017 conference, how she’s archiving and backing it up for future generations, particularly if she’s keeping large chunks privately.

I’m keeping my eyes open to see if she posts slides from her presentation.

Update December 10, 2017:

Here are links to the slides (Google Docs version).

The video has also been posted today on
Brianna Privett: The Story of Your Life: Using WordPress as Your Memory Warehouse

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Reply to Pingbacks: hiding in plain sight by Ian Guest

Pingbacks: hiding in plain sight by Ian Guest (Marginal Notes)
Wait! Aren’t you researching Twitter? I am indeed and the preceding discussion has largely centred on pingbacks, a feature of blogs, rather than microblogs. I have two points to make here: firstly that microblogs and Twitter may have features which function in a similar way to pingbacks. The retweet for example provides a similar link to a text or resource that someone else has produced. I’ll admit that it has less permanence than a pingback, patiently ensconced at the foot of a blog and ready to whisk the reader off to the linked blog, but then the structure and function of Twitter is one of flow and change when compared with a blog; it’s a different beast. The second is that my point of entry to the blogs and their interconnected web of enabling pingbacks was a tweet. Two actually. Andrea’s tweet took me to another tweet which referenced Aditi’s blog post; had I not been on Twitter and had Andrea and I not made a connection through that platform, the likelihood of me ever being aware of Aditi’s post and the learning opportunities that it and its wider assemblage brings together would be minimal.

I’m finding your short study and thoughts on pingbacks while I was thinking about Webmentions (and a particular issue that Aaron Davis was having with them) after having spent a chunk of the day remotely following the Dodging the Memory Hole 2017 conference at the Internet Archive in San Francisco.

It’s made me realize that one of the bigger values of the iteration that Webmentions has over its predecessor pingbacks and trackbacks is that at least a snapshot of the content has captured on the receiving site. As you’ve noted that while the receiving site has the scant data from the pingback, there’s not much to look at in general and even less when the sending site has disappeared from the web. In the case of Webmentions, even if the sending site has disappeared from the web, the receiving site can still potentially display more of that missing content if it wishes. Within the WordPress ecosystem simple mentions only show the indication that the article was mentioned, but hiding within the actual database on the back end is a copy of the post itself. With a few quick changes to make the “mention” into a “reply” the content of the original post can be quickly uncovered/recovered. (I do wonder a bit if you cross-referenced the Internet Archive or other sources in your search to attempt to recover those lost links.)

I will admit that I recall the Webmention spec allowing a site to modify and/or update its replies/webmentions, but in practice I’m not sure how many sites actually implement this functionality, so from an archiveal standpoint it’s probably pretty solid/stable at the moment.

Separately, I also find myself looking at your small example and how you’ve expanded it out a level or two within your network to see how it spread. This reminds me of Ryan Barrrett’s work from earlier this year on the IndieWeb network in creating the Indie Map tool which he used to show the interconnections between over three thousand people (or their websites) using links like Webmentions. Depending on your broader study, it might make an interesting example to look at and/or perhaps some code to extend?

With particular regard to your paragraph under “Wait! Aren’t you researching Twitter?” I thought I’d point you to a hybrid approach of melding some of Twitter and older/traditional blogs together. I personally post everything to my own website first and syndicate it to Twitter and then backfeed all of the replies, comments, and reactions via using webmentions. While there aren’t a lot of users on the internet doing something like this at the moment, it may provide a very different microcosm for you to take a look at. I’ve even patched together a means to allow people to @mention me on Twitter that sends the data to my personal website as a means of communication.

After a bit of poking around, I was also glad to find a fellow netizen who is also consciously using their website as a commonplace book of sorts.

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Indieweb and Education Tweetstorm

Chris Aldrich:

I’ve posted an article about Indieweb and Education on the #Indieweb wiki at

I’ve posted an article about Academic Samizdat on the #Indieweb wiki at

I’ve also posted an article about commonplace books on the #Indieweb wiki at

I’m writing a multi-part series for academics on #Indieweb & Education based on these links.

Perhaps @profhacker might be interested in running such a series of articles? #Indieweb

I’m contemplating a proposal to @osbridge on #Inieweb and Education based on @t‘s recommendation ‏

May have to come up with something related for @mattervc based on @benwerd‘s tweet

In #Indieweb fashion, I’ve archived this tweetstorm using on my own site:

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A reply to Kimberly Hirsch: Doing my part to fix the internet

Doing my part to fix the internet by Kimberly Hirsh
I have put all the tech in place that I need to, I think, for my publishing to happen here at, go out to my various social places, and then have responses come back here.

Kimberly, Congratulations and welcome to the #indieweb! Interestingly, I’m seeing your post via Superfeedr piped into an IRC channel on freenode rather than webmention to my own site (since upgrading to the most recent version of Webmention for WordPress, I apparently need to re-enable exotic webmentions to my homepage).

I’m amazed that such a short comment that I wrote on my site back in November (and syndicated manually to another’s) should not only crop up again, but that it could have had such an influence. Further, the fact that there’s now a method by which communication on the internet can let me know that any of it happened really warms my heart to no end. As a counter example, I feel sad that without an explicit manual ping, Vicki Boykis is left out of the conversation of knowing how influential her words have been.

Kimberly, I’m curious to know how difficult you found it to set things up? A group of us would love to know so we can continue to make the process of enabling indieweb functionality on WordPress easier for others in the future. (Feel free to call, email, text, comment below, or, since you’re able to now, write back on your own website–whichever is most convenient for you. My contact information is easily discovered on my homepage.)

If it helps to make mobile use easier for you, you might find Sharing from the #IndieWeb on Mobile (Android) with Apps an interesting template to follow. Though it was written for a different CMS, you should be able to substitute WordPress specific URLs in their place:

Template examples

You might also find some useful functionality hiding at WordPress Bookmarklets for Desktop if you haven’t come across it yet.

As someone who works in academic circles and whose “professional and personal interests are intertwined, I choose not to separate the two” on my site either, to help people more easily subscribe to subsets of data from my site more easily, I did a few things I’ve documented here: RSS Feeds. Additionally, choosing what gets syndicated to other sites like Twitter and Facebook rounds out the rest.

There are a number of other folks including myself using their sites essentially as commonplace books–something you may appreciate. Some of us are also pushing the envelope in areas like hightlights, annotationsmarginalia, archiving, etc. Many of these have topic pages at along with examples you might find useful to emulate or extend if you’d like to explore, add, or extend those functionalities.

If you need help to get yourself logged into the indieweb wiki or finding ways to interact with the growing community of incredibly helpful and generous indeweb people, I am (and many others are) happy to help in any way we can. We’d love to hear your voice.

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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 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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Boffo Socko Now Supports Annotations

You can now highlight and annotate most of the pages here on Boffo Socko as well as other web pages.

I’d played around with many of them in the past, but a recent conversation with Matt Gross about News Genius and their issues in the last week reminded me about internet annotation platforms. Since some of what I write here is academic in nature, I thought I would add native Annotation support to the site.

hypothesisIf you haven’t heard about it before, you might find the ability to highlight and annotate web pages very useful. Hypothesis allows for public or private highlights and notes and it can be a very useful extension of one’s commonplace book.

At the moment, I’m not sure where it all fits into the IndieWeb infrastructure I’m building here, but, at least for the moment, I’d hope that those making public annotations and notes will also enter their commentary into the comments either here on the blog or by way of syndicated versions on Facebook or Twitter so that they’re archived here for posterity. (Keep in mind site-deaths are prevalent and even acknowledges in a video on their homepage that there have been many incarnations of web annotations that have come and gone in the life of the internet.) Perhaps one day there will be a federated and cross-linked version of highlights and annotations in the IndieWeb universe with webmentions included?!

Educators and researchers interested in using web annotation are encouraged to visit the wealth of information provided by providers like and  In particular, the blog has some great material and examples over the past year, and they have a special section for educators as well.

As it’s similar in functionality to highlighting on the web, I’ll remind users that we also still support Kevin Marks’s fragmentions as well.

If anyone is aware of people or groups working on the potential integration of the IndieWeb movement (webmentions) and web annotation/highlighting, please include them in the comments below–I’d really appreciate it.


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