Some thoughts on highlights and marginalia with examples

Earlier today I created a read post with some highlights and marginalia related to a post by Ian O’Bryne. In addition to posting it and the data for my own purposes, I’m also did it as a manual test of sorts, particularly since it seemed apropos in reply to Ian’s particular post. I thought I’d take a stab at continuing to refine my work at owning and controlling my own highlights, notes, and annotations on the web. I suspect that being able to better support this will also help to bring more self-publishing and its benefits to the halls of academe.

At present I’m relying on a PESOS solution to post on another site and syndicate a copy back to my own site. I’ve used Hypothesis, in large part for their fantastic UI and as well for the data transfer portion (via RSS and even API options), to own the highlights and marginalia I’ve made on the original on Ian’s site. Since he’s syndicated a copy of his original to, I suppose I could syndicate copies of my data there as well, but I’m saving myself the additional manual pain for the moment.

Rather than send a dozen+ webmentions to Ian, I’ve bundling everything up in one post. He’ll receive it and it would default to display as a read post though I suspect he may switch it to a reply post for display on his own site. For his own use case, as inferred from his discussion about self-publishing and peer-review within the academy, it might be more useful for him to have received the dozen webmentions. I’m half tempted to have done all the annotations as stand alone posts (much the way they were done within Hypothesis as I read) and use some sort of custom microformats mark up for the highlights and annotations (something along the lines of u-highlight-of and u-annotation-of). At present however, I’ve got some UI concerns about doing so.

One problem is that, on my site, I’d be adding 14 different individual posts, which are all related to one particular piece of external content. Some would be standard replies while others would be highlights and the remainder annotations. Unless there’s some particular reason to do so, compiling them into one post on my site seems to be the most logical thing to do from my perspective and that of my potential readers. I’ll note that I would distinguish annotations as being similar to comments/replies, but semantically they’re meant more for my sake than for the receiving site’s sake. It might be beneficial for the receiving site to accept and display them (preferably in-line) though I could see sites defaulting to considering them vanilla mentions as a fallback.  Perhaps there’s a better way of marking everything up so that my site can bundle the related details into a single post, but still allow the receiving site to log the 14 different reactions and display them appropriately? One needs to not only think about how one’s own site looks, but potentially how others might like to receive the data to display it appropriately on their sites if they’d like as well. As an example, I hope Ian edits out my annotations of his typos if he chooses to display my read post as a comment.

One might take some clues from Hypothesis which has multiple views for their highlights and marginalia. They have a standalone view for each individual highlight/annotation with its own tag structure. They’ve also got views that target highlights/annotation in situ. While looking at an original document, one can easily scroll up and down through the entire page’s highlights and annotations. One piece of functionality I do wish they would make easier is to filter out a view of just my annotations on the particular page (and give it a URL), or provide an easier way to conglomerate just my annotations. To accomplish a bit of this I’ll typically create a custom tag for a particular page so that I can use Hypothesis’ search functionality to display them all on one page with a single URL. Sadly this isn’t perfect because it could be gamed from the outside–something which might be done in a classroom setting using open annotations rather than having a particular group for annotating. I’ll also note in passing that Hypothesis provides RSS and Atom feeds in a variety of ways so that one could quickly utilize services like or Zapier to save all of their personal highlights and annotations to their website. I suspect I’ll get around to documenting this in the near future for those interested in the specifics.

Another reservation is that there currently isn’t yet a simple or standard way of marking up highlights or marginalia, much less displaying them specifically within the WordPress ecosystem. As I don’t believe Ian’s site is currently as fragmentions friendly as mine, I’m using links on the date/time stamp for each highlight/annotation which uses Hypothesis’ internal functionality to open a copy of the annotated page and automatically scroll down to the fragment as mentioned before. I could potentially see people choosing to either facepile highlights and/or marginalia, wanting to display them in-line within their text, or possibly display them as standalone comments in their comments section. I could also see people wanting to be able to choose between these options based on the particular portions or potentially senders. Some of my own notes are really set up as replies, but the CSS I’m using physically adds the word “Annotation”–I’ll have to remedy this in a future version.

The other benefit of these date/time stamped Hypothesis links is that I can mark them up with the microformat u-syndication class for the future as well. Perhaps someone might implement backfeed of comments until and unless Hypothesis implements webmentions? For fun, some of my annotations on Hypothesis also have links back to my copy as well. In any case, there are links on both copies pointing at each other, so one can switch from one to the other.

I could imagine a world in which it would be nice if I could use a service like Hypothesis as a micropub client and compose my highlights/marginalia there and micropub it to my own site, which then in turn sends webmentions to the marked up site. This could be a potential godsend to researchers/academics using Hypothesis to aggregate their research into their own personal online (potentially open) notebooks. In addition to adding bookmark functionality, I could see some of these be killer features in the Omnibear browser extension, Quill, or similar micropub clients.

I could also see a use-case for adding highlight and annotation kinds to the Post Kinds plugin for accomplishing some of this. In particular it would be nice to have a quick and easy user interface for creating these types of content (especially via bookmarklet), though again this path also relies on doing individual posts instead of a single post or potentially a collection of posts. A side benefit would be in having individual tags for each highlight or marginal note, which is something Hypothesis provides. Of course let’s not forget the quote post kind already exists, though I’ll have to think through the implications of that versus a slightly different semantic version of the two, at least in the ways I would potentially use them. I’ll note that some blogs (Colin Walker and Eddie Hinkle come to mind) have a front page that display today’s posts (or the n-most recent); perhaps I could leverage this to create a collection post of highlights and marginalia (keyed off of the original URL) to make collection posts that fit into my various streams of content. I’m also aware of a series plugin that David Shanske is using which aggregates content like this, though I’m not quite sure this is the right solution for the problem.

Eventually with some additional manual experimentation and though in doing this, I’ll get around to adding some pieces and additional functionality to the site. I’m still also interested in adding in some of the receipt/display functionalities I’ve seen from Kartik Prabhu which are also related to some of this discussion.

Is anyone else contemplating this sort of use case? I’m curious what your thoughts are. What other UI examples exist in the space? How would you like these kinds of reactions to look on your site?

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Reply to Web Annotations are Now a W3C Standard, Paving the Way for Decentralized Annotation Infrastructure

Replied to Web Annotations are Now a W3C Standard, Paving the Way for Decentralized Annotation Infrastructure by Sarah Gooding (WordPress Tavern)
Web annotations became a W3C standard last week but the world hardly noticed. For years, most conversations on the web have happened in the form of comments. Annotations are different in that they usually reference specific parts of a document and add context. They are often critical or explanatory in nature.

Hypothesis Aggregator

Be careful with this plugin on newer versions of WordPress >4.7 as the shortcode was throwing a fatal error on pages on which it appeared.

p.s.: First!

Kris Shaffer, the plugin’s author

Here’s his original post announcing the plugin. #

Web annotation seems to promote more critical thinking and collaboration but it’s doubtful that it would ever fully replace commenting systems.

But why not mix annotations and comments together the way some in the IndieWeb have done?! A few people are using the new W3C recommendation spec for Webmention along with fragmentions to send a version of comments-marginalia-annotations to sites that accept them and have the ability to display them!

A good example of this is Kartik Prabhu’s website which does this somewhat like Medium does. One can write their response to a sub-section of his post on their own website, and using webmention (yes, there’s a WordPress plugin for that) send him the response. It then shows up on his site as a quote bubble next to the appropriate section which can then be opened and viewed by future readers.


For those interested, Kartik has open sourced some of the code to help accomplish this.

While annotation systems have the ability to overlay one’s site, there’s certainly room for serious abuse as a result. (See an example at It would be nice if annotation systems were required to use something like webmentions (or even older trackback/pingbacks) to indicate that a site had been mentioned elsewhere, this way, even if the publisher wasn’t responsible for moderating the resulting comments, they could at least be aware of possible attacks on their work/site/page. #

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Reply to Ben Hanowell about, Fragmentions, and Annotations

Replied to a tweet by Brash EquilibriumBrash Equilibrium (Twitter)
@ChrisAldrich is this the fragmentions plugin along with @hypothes_is or just the latter? Link to instructions por favor!!!!’ reply will get you most of the way, but I’ll add some additional thoughts below.

There are a couple of fragmentions plugins in the WordPress repository. I use and recommend WP Fragmention. Mostly it comes down to supporting a chunk of javascript that is the brainchild of Kevin Marks.

For, I use the plugin referenced in the tweet above, but I’ve also been using Aggregator by Kris Shaffer. I will note that the latter broke for me recently (possibly with the upgrade to WP 4.7, but I’ve filed a ticket and hopefully it’ll get sorted shortly). Shaffer’s plugin also makes using and posting with’ Chrome extension more useful and interesting to me, since I can own copies of my highlights/annotations on my own website.

I’m hoping that sometime soon that highlights and annotations on pages will also support sending webmentions so that when someone annotates one of my pages that I’ll receive a notification about it, almost as if it were a comment. If you’re interested in this sort of thing, Kartik Prabhu has a fantastic write up and some code on mixing marginalia and webmentions which I’m hoping to implement sometime soon myself.

If you need any help with any of the above, I (and surely others) are happy to help you via IndieWeb 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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A fragmention is an extension to URL syntax that links and cites a phrase within a document by using a URL fragment consisting of the phrase itself, including whitespace.

I’ve been meaning to do it for ages, but now supports fragmentions.

“A fragmention is an extension to URL syntax that links and cites a phrase within a document by using a URL fragment consisting of the phrase itself, including whitespace.”


Proposed Fragmention Icon
Proposed Fragmention Icon

To take advantage of the functionality, append a # and the text you’d like to highlight on the particular page after the address of the particular web page. Add a + to indicate whitespaces if necessary, though typically including a single, unique keyword is typically sufficient to highlight the appropriate section.


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