This caused me to take a look at where the conversations on webmentions went within the Hypothesis project. Unless they’re hiding offline or somewhere else, it would appear that they’ve stalled, though I have a feeling that it could be an interesting notification method for Hypothesis to indicate to a site that it’s been highlighted or annotated. Also given that the Webmention spec is a W3C recommendation as of January 2017 compared to its status in 2014 when the topic was last brought up on the GitHub repo.
As a result of the above, if they’re free, I’d love to extend an invitation to Dan Whaley (t), Jon Udell (t), Jeremy Dean (t), Nate Angell (t), or anyone else working on the Hypothes.is project to join us in Portland this June 26-27 for the annual IndieWebSummit / IndieWebCamp. I highly suspect there will be some heavy interest in the topics of open ways of annotating, highlighting, and notifying websites as well as UI/UX discussion around this area which we can all continue to expand and improve upon. And naturally there are sure to be a broad area of other topics at the summit that will be of interest in addition to these.
Text, as the Hypothesis annotation client understands it, is HTML, or PDF transformed to HTML. In either case, it’s what you read in a browser, and what you select when you make an annotation. What’s the equivalent for audio and video? It’s complicated because although browsers enable us to select passages of text, the standard media players built into browsers don’t enable us to select segments of audio and video. It’s trivial to isolate a quote in a written document. Click to set your cursor to the beginning, then sweep to the end. Now annotation can happen. The browser fires a selection event; the annotation client springs into action; the user attaches stuff to the selection; the annotation server saves that stuff; the annotation client later recalls it and anchors it to the selection. But selection in audio and video isn’t like selection in text. Nor is it like selection in images, which we easily and naturally crop. Selection of audio and video happens in the temporal domain. If you’ve ever edited audio or video you’ll appreciate what that means. Setting a cursor and sweeping a selection isn’t enough. You can’t know that you got the right intro and outro by looking at the selection. You have to play the selection to make sure it captures what you intended. And since it probably isn’t exactly right, you’ll need to make adjustments that you’ll then want to check, ideally without replaying the whole clip.
I suspect that media fragments experimenters like Aaron Parecki, Marty McGuire, Kevin Marks, and Tantek Çelik will appreciate what he’s doing and will want to play as well as possibly extend it. I’ve already added some of the outline to the IndieWeb wiki page for media fragments (and a link to fragmentions) which has some of their prior work.
I too look forward to a day where web browsers have some of this standardized and built in as core functionality.
Highlights, Quotes, & Marginalia
This selection tool has nothing intrinsically to do with annotation. It’s job is to make your job easier when you are constructing a link to an audio or video segment.
(If I were Virginia Eubanks I might want to capture the pull quote myself, and display it on my book page for visitors who aren’t seeing it through the Hypothesis lens.)
Of course, how would she know that the annotation exists? Here’s another example of where adding webmentions to Hypothesis for notifications could be useful, particularly when they’re more widely supported. I’ve outlined some of the details here in the past: http://boffosocko.com/2016/04/07/webmentions-for-improving-annotation-and-preventing-bullying-on-the-web/
Given what you’ve got here, I suspect that you may be unaware of the W3C spec for media fragments which may make portions of what you’re attempting to do a bit easier (and also much more standardized). The spec is relatively broadly supported by most browsers, so it immediately makes things a tad easier from a plumbing perspective.
Some people will be somewhat familiar with the targeting technique as it’s similar to the one used by YouTube which lets users hot link to specific portions of video on their platform.
To summarize the concept, on most audio and video files one can add a #t=XXX the the end of a URL where XXX is the number in seconds into the file where one wants to start. One can target stretches of audio similarly with the pattern #t=XXX,YYY where XXX is the start and YYY is the stop time for the fragment, again in seconds.
As an example I can use it to specifically target the audio on a particular standalone audio file like so:
As an added bonus, on this particular page with audio, you’ll notice that you can play the audio and if you pause it, the page URL in your browser should automatically refresh to indicate the particular audio timestamp for that particular position! Thus in your particular early example it makes things far easier to bookmark, save, or even share!
It would be nice if the user could queue up the particular audio segment and press pause, and then annotate the audio portion of the page using such a targeting segment. Then one could potentially share a specific URL for their annotation (in typical Hypothesis fashion) that not only targets the original page with the embedded audio, but it could also have that audio queued up to the correct portion (potentially with a page refresh to reset the audio depending on the annotation.)
The nice part is that the audio can be annotated within the page on which it originally lived rather than on some alternate page on the web that requires removing the context and causing potential context collapse. It also means one doesn’t have to host an intermediate page to have the whole thing work.
I’m curious if the scheme may make putting all the smaller loose pieces together even easier, particularly for use within Hypothesis? and while keeping more of the original context in which the audio was found?
I also suspect that these types of standards could be used to annotate audio in much the same way that the SoundCloud service handles their audio annotations, though in a much more open way. One would simply need to add on some additional UI to make the annotations on such audio present differently.
Back in April, Audrey Watters’ decided to block annotation on her website. I understand why. When we project our identities online, our personal sites become extensions of our homes. To some online writers, annotation overlays can feel like graffiti. How can we respect their wishes while enabling ...
It’s been well over a month since I blocked annotations (Hypothesis and Genius) on my websites. I’m a little taken aback that some folks are still muttering about it. Perhaps I need to restate a couple of things:
- You can still annotate my work. Just not on my websites.
- My work here and on Hack Education is openly licensed. As long as you follow that license – CC BY NC SA – you can copy and redistribute my articles without my permission.
- The CC license on my work also means you can post my articles in another file format or medium – that is, they needn’t stay in HTML. You can publish my articles as PDFs. You can hit “print.”
In this episode, we talk about Audrey's decision to block annotations from her websites.
While I have been seeing some really great and thoughtful conversations, particularly in the last 6 months or more, as a result of people posting on their own websites and using open standards like webmentions to carry on conversations, the rest of the internet still needs to take great strides to improve itself. A lot of these issues are ones of bias, and particularly of the white male sort, but I think that the ideas encapsulated in this short podcast will help to open people’s eyes. While it’s sad that Audrey had these experiences on Twitter, I’m glad that she and Kin took the time to discuss them here in hopes of improving the space in the future for others.
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.
Kris Shaffer, the plugin’s author
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 https://indieweb.org/annotation#Criticism.) 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. #
I’ve started into the documentation, but I’m curious if there’s a simple way of doing this without some 3rd party like Hypothes.is, Genius, etc. or some other massive framework?
— Hypothes.is (@hypothes_is) January 5, 2017
For Hypothes.is, I use the plugin referenced in the tweet above, but I’ve also been using Hypothes.is 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 Hypothes.is’ 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 Hypothes.is 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.
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 hypothes.is 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 Hypothes.is 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 Hypothes.is Notebook
My IndieWeb annotations
I can also easily embed my recent annotations about the IndieWeb below:
[ hypothesis user = 'chrisaldrich' tags = 'indieweb']
A 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 hypothes.is or even the academic portions of Genius.com 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.
There are potential solutions to the recent News Genius-gate incident, and simple notifications can go a long way toward helping prevent online bullying behavior.
There has been a recent brouhaha on the Internet (see related stories below) because of bad actors using News Genius (and potentially other web-based annotation tools like Hypothes.is) to comment on websites without their owner’s knowledge, consent, or permission. It’s essentially the internet version of talking behind someone’s back, but doing it while standing on their head and shouting with your fingers in their ears. Because of platform and network effects, such rude and potentially inappropriate commentary can have much greater reach than even the initial website could give it. Naturally in polite society, such bullying behavior should be curtailed.
This type of behavior is also not too different from more subtle concepts like subtweets or the broader issues platforms like Twitter are facing in which they don’t have proper tools to prevent abuse and bullying online.
A creator receives no notification if someone has annotated their content.–Ella Dawson
Towards a Solution: Basic Awareness
I think that a major part of improving the issue of abuse and providing consent is building in notifications so that website owners will at least be aware that their site is being marked up, highlighted, annotated, and commented on in other locations or by other platforms. Then the site owner at least has the knowledge of what’s happening and can then be potentially provided with information and tools to allow/disallow such interactions, particularly if they can block individual bad actors, but still support positive additions, thought, and communication. Ideally this blocking wouldn’t occur site-wide, which many may be tempted to do now as a knee-jerk reaction to recent events, but would be fine grained enough to filter out the worst offenders.
Toward the end of notifications to site owners, it would be great if any annotating activity would trigger trackbacks, pingbacks, or the relatively newer and better webmention protocol of the W3C which comes out of the IndieWeb movement. Then site owners would at least have notifications about what is happening on their site that might otherwise be invisible to them. (And for the record, how awesome would it be if social media silos like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Medium, Tumblr, et al would support webmentions too!?!)
Perhaps there’s a way to further implement filters or tools (a la Akismet on platforms like WordPress) that allow site users to mark materials as spam, abusive, or “other” so that they are then potentially moved from “public” facing to “private” so that the original highlighter can still see their notes, but that the platform isn’t allowing the person’s own website to act as a platform to give safe harbor (or reach) to bad actors.
Further some site owners might appreciate gradable filters (G, PG, PG-13, R, X) so that either they or their users (or even parents of younger children) can filter what they’re willing to show on their site (or that their users can choose to see).
Consider also annotations on narrative forms that might be posted as spoilers–how can these be guarded against? For what happens when a even a well-meaning actor posts an annotation on page two which foreshadows that the butler did it thereby ruining the surprise on the last page? Certainly there’s some value in having such a comment from an academic/literary perspective, but it doesn’t mean that future readers will necessarily appreciate the spoiler. (Some CSS and a spoiler tag might easily and unobtrusively remedy the situation here?)
Certainly options can be built into the annotating platform itself as well as allowing server-side options for personal websites attempting to deal with flagrant violators and truly hard-to-eradicate cases.
Do you have a solution for helping to harden the Internet against bullies? Share it in the comments below.
- Genius Wants To Let Readers Annotate Any News Article. What Could Possibly Go Wrong? by Jessica Goldstein, ThinkProgress 2016-03-30
- Genius responds to Congresswoman Katherine Clark’s letter on preventing abuse by Noah Kulwin, Re/code 2016-03-29
- Misguided Genius by Chelsea Hassler, Slate 2016-03-28
- The Genius Problem by Chuq Von Rospach 2016-03-28
- Genius Web Annotator vs. One Young Woman With a Blog by Brady Dale, The Observer 2016-03-28