Social Reading User Interface for Discovery

I read quite a bit of material online. I save “bookmarks” of all of it on my personal website, sometimes with some additional notes and sometimes even with more explicit annotations. One of the things I feel like I’m missing from my browser, browser extensions, and/or social feed reader is a social layer overlay that could indicate that people in my social network(s) have read or interacted directly with that page (presuming they make that data openly available.)

One of the things I’d love to see pop up out of the discovery explorations of the IndieWeb or some of the social readers in the space is the ability to uncover some of this social reading information. Toward this end I thought I’d collect some user interface examples of things that border on this sort of data to make the brainstorming and building of such functionality easier in the near future.

If I’m missing useful examples or you’d like to add additional thoughts, please feel free to comment below.

Examples of social reading user interface for discovery

Google

I don’t often search for reading material directly, but Google has a related bit of UI indicating that I’ve visited a website before. I sort of wish it had the ability to surface the fact that I’ve previously read or bookmarked an article or provided data about people in my social network who’ve done similarly within the browser interface for a particular article (without the search.) If a browser could use data from my personal website in the background to indicate that I’ve interacted with it before (and provide those links, notes, etc.), that would be awesome!

Screen capture for Google search of Kevin Marks with a highlight indicating that I've visited this page in the recent past
Screen capture for Google search of Kevin Marks with a highlight indicating that I’ve visited his page several times in the past. Given the March 2017 date, it’s obvious that the screen shot is from a browser and account I don’t use often.

I’ll note here that because of the way I bookmark or post reads on my own website, my site often ranks reasonably well for those things.

On a search for an article by Aaron Parecki, my own post indicating that I’ve read it in the past ranks second right under the original.

In some cases, others who are posting about those things (reading, commenting, bookmarking, liking, etc.) in my social network also show up in these sorts of searches. How cool would it be to have a social reader that could display this sort of social data based on people it knows I’m following

A search for a great article by Matthias Ott shows that both I and several of my friends (indicated by red arrows superimposed on the search query) have read, bookmarked, or commented on it too.

Hypothes.is

Hypothes.is is a great open source highlighting, annotation, and bookmarking tool with a browser extension that shows an indicator of how many annotations  appear on the page. In my experience, higher numbers often indicate some interesting and engaging material. I do wish that it had a follower/following model that could indicate my social sphere has annotated a page. I also wouldn’t mind if their extension “bug” in the browser bar had another indicator in the other corner to indicate that I had previously annotated a page!

Screen capture of Vannevar Bush’s article As We May Think in The Atlantic with a Hypothes.is browser extension bug indicating that there are 329 annotations on the page.

Reading.am

It doesn’t do it until after-the-fact, but Reading.am has a pop up overlay through its browser extension. It adds me to the list of people who’ve read an article, but it also indicates others in the network and those I’m following who have also read it (sometimes along with annotations about their thoughts).

What I wouldn’t give to see that pop up in the corner before I’ve read it!

Reading.am’s social layer creates a yellow colored pop up list in the upper right of the browser indicating who else has read the article as well as showing some of their notes on it. Unfortunately it doesn’t pop up until after you’ve marked the item as read.

Nuzzel

Nuzzel is one of my favorite tools. I input my Twitter account as well as some custom lists and it surfaces articles that people in my Twitter network have been tweeting about. As a result, it’s one of the best discovery tools out there for solid longer form content. Rarely do I read content coming out of Nuzzel and feel robbed. Because of how it works, it’s automatically showing those people in my network and some of what they’ve thought about it. I love this contextualization.

Nuzzel’s interface shows the title and an excerpt of an article and also includes the avatars, names, network, and commentary of one’s friends that interacted with the piece. In this example it’s relatively obvious that one reader influenced several others who retweeted it because of her.

Goodreads

Naturally sites for much longer form content will use social network data about interest, reviews, and interaction to a much greater extent since there is a larger investment of time involved. Thus social signaling can be more valuable in this context. A great example here is of Goodreads which shows me those in my network who are interested in reading a particular book or who have written reviews or given ratings.

A slightly excerpted/modified screen capture of the Goodreads page for Melanie Mitchell’s book Complexity that indicates several in my social network are also interested in reading it.

Are there other examples I’m missing? Are you aware of similar discovery related tools for reading that leverage social network data?

Reply to Chris Finazzo about Jekyll and GoodReads alternatives

Replied to a tweet by Chris FinazzoChris Finazzo (Twitter)

I think Pelle Wessman has a Micropub solution for Jekyll which might allow you to use gRegorLove’s indiebookclub as a start. Asking in chat may help get you moving on other ideas/help if you need them.

2019 Reading Challenge | Goodreads

2019 Reading Challenge logo

It’s a paltry number to be sure, but I’ve gotten so far behind in past years, or been reading such longer and denser texts, that starting small seemed like a better idea.

👓 How to Import Your GoodReads List Into WordPress, for free | Glenn Dixon

Read How to Import Your GoodReads List Into WordPress, for free by Glenn DixonGlenn Dixon (glenn.thedixons.net)
Here are the steps I took in order to get all of my GoodReads books/reviews over into my IndieWeb-ified Wordpress: Prerequisites: A GoodReads account with a decent amount of books reviewed and/or starred A self-hosted WordPress site Twenty Seventeen theme (could work with others) Advanced Custom Fie...

👓 Announcing indiebookclub | gRegorLove.com

Read Announcing indiebookclub by gRegor MorrillgRegor Morrill (gregorlove.com)
I’m pleased to announce a new project I have been working on. indiebookclub is an app for keeping track of the books you are reading or want to read. It is primarily intended to help you own your data by posting directly to your own site with Micropub. If your site does not support Micropub yet, y...

This portends some awesome things to come. Can’t wait to get this working and see what pieces come along with it later. This is going to make it much easier to leave silos like GoodReads.com.

📖 22% done with Suicide of the West by Jonah Goldberg

📖 Read 16-22% Chapter 4 “The Birth of Capitalism: A Glorious Accident” of Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics is Destroying American Democracy by Jonah Goldberg (Crown Forum, , ISBN: 978-1101904930)

Here Goldberg goes into the complexity of potential causes of capitalism. His discussion of The Miracle and what it represents gains a lot more flavor and nuance than the one word construct it’s had up until now in the text.

He discusses Common law as an emergent property of a society. Again here I note some vocabulary stemming from the “Complexity” science movement of the past several decades as well as that of David Christian et al in the Big History conversation. (Speaking of which, I’ve noted he’s got a new book out on the topic.)

I will take some issue with what looks like a logical problem toward the end of the chapter here:

Therefore the demise of our civilization is only inevitable if the people saying and arguing the right things stop talking.

I do take his broader point, but what, praytell, are the right things, particularly when you’ve just made the argument that you’re not exactly sure what complex system caused it all? We really need to know exactly what caused it to be able to fight to maintain the correct parts of the Goldilocks conditions.

In general, I find myself agreeing with the broadest points here and find the arguments and ideas quite intriguing.

I want to read 42 books in 2018.

I sometimes feel guilty about failing miserably at these based on the way GoodReads counts their books vis-a-vis finishing complete books, particularly when I’m often reading such dense technical books in which reading a page a day is a near Herculean task.

Thus, because I can have finer control of things on my own website, I’ll try to break things out on a more granular level.

I want to read (aka work my way through) 2-3 technical textbooks in 2018.
I want to read 10 non-fiction books in 2018.
I want to read 20 fiction books in 2018.
I want to read 10 juvenal fiction/literature books in 2018.

👓 Owning my Reading and 100 Days of Reading Chapters | Eddie Hinckle

Read Owning my Reading and 100 Days of Reading Chapters by Eddie HinkleEddie Hinkle (eddiehinkle.com)
One of my goals in 2018 is to own my reading data rather than using Goodreads for all of that information. This will allow me to track information the way I want rather than have to do it like Goodreads wants me to. My eventual goal is to have something like what Xavier made, but for now I’m going...

Reading even a chapter a day can be a useful and powerful thing. I ought to be doing this as a near term goal instead of just trying to generally always “read more.”

As part of Bryan Alexander’s online book club, I’ve recalled that GoodReads.com allows users with linked Amazon accounts to make their Kindle highlights and notes publicly available. Though I expect that I’ll post most/all of them here on my site over time, I thought I’d still add a link to my highlights and annotations for Weapons for Math Destruction here and use this as a reminder to others in the group who might want to take advantage of this functionality as well.

Details on the functionality can be found at Share Your Kindle Notes and Highlights with Your Friends (Beta).

GoodReads 2017 Reading Challenge: 42 Books

I want to read at least 42 books this year.

I totally fell down on the job last year (compared to my goal), but I did read a lot of additional material online instead and lot of what I did read, (but didn’t necessarily finish toward my goal) was of a highly dense/technical nature. We’ll do better this year.

🔖 Want to read: Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow

Bookmarked Washington: A Life by Ron ChernowRon Chernow (Amazon.com)
In Washington: A Life celebrated biographer Ron Chernow provides a richly nuanced portrait of the father of our nation. With a breadth and depth matched by no other one-volume life of Washington, this crisply paced narrative carries the reader through his troubled boyhood, his precocious feats in the French and Indian War, his creation of Mount Vernon, his heroic exploits with the Continental Army, his presiding over the Constitutional Convention, and his magnificent performance as America's first president. Despite the reverence his name inspires, Washington remains a lifeless waxwork for many Americans, worthy but dull. A laconic man of granite self-control, he often arouses more respect than affection. In this groundbreaking work, based on massive research, Chernow dashes forever the stereotype of a stolid, unemotional man. A strapping six feet, Washington was a celebrated horseman, elegant dancer, and tireless hunter, with a fiercely guarded emotional life. Chernow brings to vivid life a dashing, passionate man of fiery opinions and many moods. Probing his private life, he explores his fraught relationship with his crusty mother, his youthful infatuation with the married Sally Fairfax, and his often conflicted feelings toward his adopted children and grandchildren. He also provides a lavishly detailed portrait of his marriage to Martha and his complex behavior as a slave master. At the same time, Washington is an astute and surprising portrait of a canny political genius who knew how to inspire people. Not only did Washington gather around himself the foremost figures of the age, including James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, but he also brilliantly orchestrated their actions to shape the new federal government, define the separation of powers, and establish the office of the presidency. In this unique biography, Ron Chernow takes us on a page-turning journey through all the formative events of America's founding. With a dramatic sweep worthy of its giant subject, Washington is a magisterial work from one of our most elegant storytellers.

🔖 Want to read: Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow (Penguin Press, October 5, 2010) as part of the GoodReads History Book Club (Presidential Series) Book Discussion

As of 9/13/16 I’m beginning to own all of my reading data into & from @GoodReads 📚 #IndieWeb

As of 9/13/16 I’m beginning to own all of my reading data into & from @GoodReads 📚

A New Reading Post-type for Bookmarking and Reading Workflow

Thoughts on post types/kinds relating to reading within the Indieweb construct

This morning while breezing through my Woodwind feed reader, I ran across a post by Rick Mendes with the hashtags #readlater and #readinglist which put me down a temporary rabbit hole of thought about reading-related post types on the internet.

I’m obviously a huge fan of reading and have accounts on GoodReads, Amazon, Pocket, Instapaper, Readability, and literally dozens of other services that support or assist the reading endeavor. (My affliction got so bad I started my own publishing company last year.)

READ LATER is an indication on (or relating to) a website that one wants to save the URL to come back and read the content at a future time.

I started a page on the IndieWeb wiki to define read later where I began writing some philosophical thoughts. I decided it would be better to post them on my own site instead and simply link back to them. As a member of the Indieweb my general goal over time is to preferentially quit using these web silos (many of which are listed on the referenced page) and, instead, post my reading related work and progress here on my own site. Naturally, the question becomes, how does one do this in a simple and usable manner with pretty and reasonable UX/UI for both myself and others?

Current Use

Currently I primarily use a Pocket bookmarklet to save things (mostly newspaper articles, magazine pieces, blog posts) for reading later and/or the like/favorite functionality in Twitter in combination with an IFTTT recipe to save the URL in the tweet to my Pocket account. I then regularly visit Pocket to speed read though articles. While Pocket allows downloading of (some) of one’s data in this regard, I’m exploring options to bring in the ownership of this workflow into my own site.

For more academic leaning content (read journal articles), I tend to rely on an alternate Mendeley-based workflow which also starts with an easy-to-use bookmarklet.

I’ve also experimented with bookmarking a journal article and using hypothes.is to import my highlights from that article, though that workflow has a way to go to meet my personal needs in a robust way while still allowing me to own all of my own data. The benefit is that fixing it can help more than just myself while still fitting into a larger personal workflow.

Brainstorming

A Broader Reading (Parent) Post-type

Philosophically a read later post-type could be considered similar to a (possibly) unshared or private bookmark with potential possible additional meta-data like: progress, date read, notes, and annotations to be added after the fact, which then technically makes it a read post type.

A potential workflow viewed over time might be: read later >> bookmark >> notes/annotations/marginalia >> read >> review. This kind of continuum of workflow might be able to support a slightly more complex overall UI for a more simplified reading post-type in which these others are all sub-types. One could then make a single UI for a reading post type with fields and details for all of the sub-cases. Being updatable, the single post could carry all the details of one’s progress.

Indieweb encourages simplicity (DRY) and having the fewest post-types possible, which I generally agree with, but perhaps there’s a better way of thinking of these several types. Concatenating them into one reading type with various data fields (and the ability of them to be public/private) could allow all of the subcategories to be included or not on one larger and more comprehensive post-type.

Examples
  1. Not including one subsection (or making it private), would simply prevent it from showing, thus one could have a traditional bookmark post by leaving off the read later, read, and review sub-types and/or data.
  2. As another example, I could include the data for read later, bookmark, and read, but leave off data about what I highlighted and/or sub-sections of notes I prefer to remain private.

A Primary Post with Webmention Updates

Alternately, one could create a primary post (potentially a bookmark) for the thing one is reading, and then use further additional posts with webmentions on each (to the original) thereby adding details to the original post about the ongoing progress. In some sense, this isn’t too far from the functionality provided by GoodReads with individual updates on progress with brief notes and their page that lists the overall view of progress. Each individual post could be made public/private to allow different viewerships, though private webmentions may be a hairier issue. I know some are also experimenting with pushing updates to posts via micropub and other methods, which could be appealing as well.

This may be cumbersome over time, but could potentially be made to look something like the GoodReads UI below, which seems very intuitive. (Note that it’s missing any review text as I’m currently writing it, and it’s not public yet.)

Overview of reading progress
Overview of reading progress

Other Thoughts

Ideally, better distinguishing between something that has been bookmarked and read/unread with dates for both the bookmarking and reading, as well as potentially adding notes and highlights relating to the article is desired. Something potentially akin to Devon Zuegel‘s “Notes” tab (built on a custom script for Evernote and Tumblr) seems somewhat promising in a cross between a simple reading list (or linkblog) and a commonplace book for academic work, but doesn’t necessarily leave room for longer book reviews.

I’ll also need to consider the publishing workflow, in some sense as it relates to the reverse chronological posting of updates on typical blogs. Perhaps a hybrid approach of the two methods mentioned would work best?

Potentially having an interface that bolts together the interface of GoodReads (picture above) and Amazon’s notes/highlights together would be excellent. I recently noticed (and updated an old post) that they’re already beta testing such a beast.

Kindle Notes and Highlights are now shoing up as a beta feature in GoodReads
Kindle Notes and Highlights are now shoing up as a beta feature in GoodReads

Comments

I’ll keep thinking about the architecture for what I’d ultimately like to have, but I’m always open to hearing what other (heavy) readers have to say about the subject and the usability of such a UI.

Please feel free to comment below, or write something on your own site (which includes the URL of this post) and submit your URL in the field provided below to create a webmention in which your post will appear as a comment.

Big History Summer Reading List | Big History Project

Replied to Big History Summer Reading List (blog.bighistoryproject.com)
The best part of teaching Big History is that we’re always learning right alongside our students. As the year winds down here in the US, many BHP teachers are looking for books to take with them to the beach, the mountains, or wherever they choose to unwind this summer. We asked our teacher leaders for their favorite books related to Big History and this list is what they came up with.

I’ve got a lot of these on my big history book list on GoodReads.com
It also looks like a lot of these are things that Bill Gates has been reading too!