Handwriting to Website #FTW
While browsing today I ran across an awesome concept called PaperWebsite.com. It allows you to write on paper, take a photo, and then upload it to a website. Your handwritten words published to your website. A tactile writer’s dream.
My immediate thought—I need to have this now!
Articles written by hand in my journal to my website? Short notes that I write on index cards published as microblog updates. How cool would that be? I was also talking to someone this morning about voice-to-text as a note taking concept. What about that too?
Of course, as you may know, I’ve already got a website. Do I need another one like this for $10/month? Probably not.
But this has got me wondering “what the value proposition is for Paper Website as a company?” What are they really selling? Domain names? Hosting? Notebooks? They certainly seem to be selling all of the above, but the core product they’re really selling is an easy-to-use interface for transferring paper ideas to digital publishing. And this is exactly what I want!
The problem now is to buy this sub-service without all the other moving pieces like a domain name, hosting, etc., which I don’t need. Taking just the core service and abstracting it to the wider universe of websites could be a major technical hurdle (and nightmare).
IndieWeb and Micropub
Perhaps I could try find an OCR solution and wire it all together myself? I’d rather see the original developer run away with the idea though. So instead I’ll quietly suggest that they could take their current infrastructure and add a small piece.
Since PaperWebsite’s already got the front end up and running, why not add on Micropub support to the back end? Maybe Ben Stokes could take the OCR output and create a new Micropub client that could authenticate to any website with Micropub support? I have to imagine that he could probably program it in a couple of days (borrowing from any of the pre-existing open source clients or libraries out there) and suddenly it’s a product that could work with WordPress, Drupal, WithKnown, Craft, Jekyll, Kirby, Hugo, Blot, and a variety of other platforms that support the W3C spec recommendation or have plugins for it.
The service could publish in “draft” form and allow editing after-the-fact. There’s also infrastructure for cross-syndicating to other social services with Micropub clents, so note cards to my website and automatically syndicated to Twitter, Mastodon, or micro.blog? Yes, please.
And maybe it could be done as a service for a dollar a month or a few dollars a year?
I made a short mention of the idea in the IndieWeb chat, and it’s already a-buzz with implementation ideas… If you’re around Ben, I’m sure folks there would lend a hand if you’re interested.
The website, commonplace book, note taking, stationery, and fountain pen nerd in me is really excited about where this could go from a user interface perspective.
How Moleskine, Leuchtturm, LiveScribe or the other stationery giants haven’t done this already is beyond me. I could also see serious writing apps like iA Writer or Ulysses doing something like this too.
If you hate them, it’s not your fault.
A🧵 of annotations
What any individual infers about their hopes and dreams for an e-reader derives from their understanding of reading in the first place. You can’t have books without bookiness. Bookiness. That’s the word Glenn Fleishman, a technology writer and longtime bookmaker, uses to describe the situation. “It’s the essence that makes someone feel like they’re using a book,” he told me. Like pornography or sandwiches, you know bookiness when you see it. Or feel it? Either way, most people can’t identify what it is in the abstract. ❧
Does this only come out because there’s something that’s book-tangential or similar and it needs to exist to describe the idea of not-book, book-adjacent, or book-like on some sort of spectrum of bookishness.
Annotated on September 18, 2021 at 12:28PM
The ancient Romans sometimes connected wax tablets with leather or cords, suggesting a prototype of binding. Replacing the wax with leaves allowed many pages to be stacked atop one another, then sewn or otherwise bound together. ❧
early book prototypes
Annotated on September 18, 2021 at 12:30PM
In other words, as far as technologies go, the book endures for very good reason. Books work. ❧
Aside from reading words to put ideas into my brain, one of the reasons I like to read digital words is that the bigger value proposition for me is an easier method to add annotations to what I’m reading and then to be able to manipulate those notes after-the-fact. I’ve transcended books and the manual methods of note taking. Until I come up with a better word for it, digital commonplacing seems to be a useful shorthand for this new pattern of reading.
Annotated on September 18, 2021 at 12:33PM
If you have a high-quality hardbound book nearby, pick it up and look at the top and bottom edges of the binding, near the spine, with the book closed. The little stripey tubes you see are called head and tail bands (one at the top, one at the bottom). They were originally invented to reinforce stitched binding, to prevent the cover from coming apart from the leaves. Today’s mass-produced hardcover books are glued rather than sewn, which makes head and tail bands purely ornamental. And yet for those who might notice, a book feels naked without such details. ❧
It is an odd circumstance that tail bands are still used on modern books that don’t need them. From a manufacturing standpoint, the decrease in cost would dictate they disappear, however they must add some level of bookiness that they’re worth that cost.
Annotated on September 18, 2021 at 12:37PM
One site of that erosion, which may help explain ebook reticence, can be found in self-published books. For people predisposed to sneer at the practice, a lack of editing or the absence of publisher endorsement and review might justify self-published works’ second-class status. That matter is debatable. More clear is the consequence of disintermediation: Nobody takes a self-published manuscript and lays it out for printing in a manner that conforms with received standards. And so you often end up with a perfect-bound Word doc instead of a book. That odd feeling of impropriety isn’t necessarily a statement about the trustworthiness of the writer or their ideas, but a sense of dissonance at the book as an object. It’s an eerie gestalt, a foreboding feeling of unbookiness. ❧
Having helped others to self-publish in the past, I definitely do spend a bit of time putting the small sort of bookiness flourishes into their texts.
Annotated on September 18, 2021 at 12:41PM
The weird way you tap or push a whole image of a page to the side—it’s the uncanny valley of page turning, not a simulation or replacement of it. ❧
This may be the first time I’ve seen uncanny valley applied to a topic other than recognizing people versus robots or related simulacra.
Annotated on September 18, 2021 at 12:44PM
The iPad’s larger screen also scales down PDF pages to fit, making the results smaller than they would be in print. It also displays simulated print margins inside the bezel margin of the device itself, a kind of mise en abyme that still can’t actually be used for the things margins are used for, such as notes or dog-ears. ❧
It would be quite nice if a digital reader would allow actual writing in the margins, or even overlaying the text itself and then allowing the looking at the two separately.
I do quite like the infinite annotation space that Hypothes.is gives me on a laptop. I wish there were UI for it on a Kindle in a more usable and forgiving way. The digital keyboard on Kindle Paperwhite is miserable. I’ve noticed that I generally prefer reading and annotating on desktop in a browser now for general ease-of-use.
Also, I don’t see enough use of mise en abyme. This is a good one.
In Western art history, mise en abyme (French pronunciation: [miz ɑ̃n‿abim]; also mise en abîme) is a formal technique of placing a copy of an image within itself, often in a way that suggests an infinitely recurring sequence. In film theory and literary theory, it refers to the technique of inserting a story within a story. The term is derived from heraldry and literally means “placed into abyss”. It was first appropriated for modern criticism by the French author André Gide.
Annotated on September 18, 2021 at 12:49PM
Ebook devices are extremely compatible with an idea of bookiness that values holding and carrying a potentially large number of books at once; that prefers direct flow from start to finish over random access; that reads for the meaning and force of the words as text first, if not primarily; and that isn’t concerned with the use of books as stores of reader-added information or as memory palaces. ❧
Intriguing reference of a book as a memory palace here.
The verso/recto and top/middle/bottom is a piece of digital books that I do miss from the physical versions as it serves as a mnemonic journey for me to be able to remember what was where.
I wonder if Ian Bogost uses the method of loci?
Annotated on September 18, 2021 at 12:53PM
So do all manner of other peculiarities of form, including notations of editions on the verso (the flip side) of the full title page and the running headers all throughout that rename the book you are already reading. ❧
I do dislike the running headers of digital copies of books as most annotation tools want to capture those headers in the annotation. It would be nice if they were marked up in an Aria-like method so that annotation software would semantically know to ignore them.
Annotated on September 18, 2021 at 12:56PM
Skimming through pages, the foremost feature of the codex, remains impossible in digital books. ❧
This is related to an idea that Tom Critchlow was trying to get at a bit the other day. It would definitely be interesting in this sort of setting.
(Why yes I am procrastinating my to-do list. You?)
— Tom Critchlow (@tomcritchlow) September 17, 2021
Annotated on September 18, 2021 at 01:03PM
“We’ve been thoughtful,” Amazon continued, “about adding only features and experiences that preserve and enhance the reading experience.” The question of whose experience doesn’t seem to come up. ❧
They’re definitely not catering to my reading, annotating, and writing experience.
Annotated on September 18, 2021 at 01:04PM
For some fun context, it popped up when I pressed the “+” button to create a Twitter thread.
So apparently if you’re going to bother to write more than 280 characters you definitely need a newsletter…
My take is that the web could feel warmer and more lively than it is. Visiting a webpage could feel a little more like visiting a park and watching the world go by. Visiting my homepage could feel just a tiny bit like stopping by my home. And so to celebrate my blogging streak reaching one year, this week, I’m adding a proof of concept to my blog, something I’m provisionally calling Social Attention.
If somebody else selects some text, it’ll be highlighted for you. ❧
Suddenly social annotation has taken an interesting twist. @Hypothes_is better watch out! 😉
Annotated on March 28, 2021 at 10:03AM
How often have you been on the phone with a friend, trying to describe how to get somewhere online? Okay go to Amazon. Okay type in “whatever”. Okay, it’s the third one down for me…
This is ridiculous!
What if, instead, you both went to the website and then you could just say: follow me. ❧
There are definitely some great use cases for this.
Annotated on March 28, 2021 at 10:05AM
A status emoji will appear in the top right corner of your browser. If it’s smiling, there are other people on the site right now too. ❧
This is pretty cool looking. I’ll have to add it as an example to my list: Social Reading User Interface for Discovery.
We definitely need more things like this on the web.
It makes me wish the Reading.am indicator were there without needing to click on it.
I wonder how this sort of activity might be built into social readers as well?
Annotated on March 28, 2021 at 10:13AM
If I’m in a meeting, I should be able to share a link in the chat to a particular post on my blog, then select the paragraph I’m talking about and have it highlighted for everyone. Well, now I can. ❧
And you could go a few feet farther if you added [fragment](https://indieweb.org/fragmention) support to the site, then the browser would also autoscroll to that part. Then you could add a confetti cannon to the system and have the page rain down confetti when more than three people have highlighted the same section!
Annotated on March 28, 2021 at 10:18AM
I want the patina of fingerprints, the quiet and comfortable background hum of a library. ❧
A great thing to want on a website! A tiny hint of phatic interaction amongst internet denizens.
Annotated on March 28, 2021 at 10:20AM
What I’d like more of is a social web that sits between these two extremes, something with a small town feel. So you can see people are around, and you can give directions and a friendly nod, but there’s no need to stop and chat, and it’s not in your face. It’s what I’ve talked about before as social peripheral vision (that post is about why it should be build into the OS). ❧
I love the idea of social peripheral vision online.
Annotated on March 28, 2021 at 10:22AM
streak: New posts for 52 consecutive weeks. ❧
It’s kind of cool that he’s got a streak counter for his posts.
Annotated on March 28, 2021 at 10:24AM
In 1965 Ted Nelson imagined a system of interactive, extendable text where words would be freed from the constraints of paper documents. This hypertext would make documents linkable.
Twenty years later, Tim Berners Lee took inspiration from Nelson's vision, as well as other narratives like Vannevar Bush's Memex, to create the World Wide Web. Hypertext came to life.
There are a few missing pieces for the primacy of some of these ideas. The broader concept of the commonplace book predated Nelson and Bush by centuries and surely informed much (if not all) of their thinking about these ideas. It’s assuredly the case that people already had the ideas either in their heads or written down and the links between them existed only in their minds or to some extent in indices as can be found in the literature—John Locke had a particularly popular index method that was widely circulated.
The other piece I find missing is a more historical and anthropological one which Western culture has wholly discounted until recently. There’s a pattern around the world of indigenous peoples in primarily oral cultures using mnemonic techniques going back at least 40,000 years. Many of these techniques were built into daily life in ways heretofore unimagined in modern Western Culture, but which are a more deeply layered version of transclusion imagined here. In some sense they transcluded almost all of their most important knowledge into their daily lives. The primary difference is that all the information was stored visually and associatively in the minds of people rather than on paper (through literacy) or via computers. The best work I’ve seen on the subject is Lynne Kelly’s Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies: Orality, Memory and the Transmission of Culture which has its own profound thesis and is underpinned by a great deal of archaeologic and anthropologic primary research. Given its density I recommend her short lecture Modern Memory, Ancient Methods which does a reasonable job of scratching the surface of these ideas.
Another fantastic historical precursor of these ideas can be found in ancient Jewish writings like the Mishnah which is often presented as an original, more ancient text surrounded by annotated interpretations which are surrounded by other re-interpretations on the same page. Remi Kalir and Antero Garcia have a good discussion of this in their book Annotation (MIT Press, 2019).
It would create a more layered and nuanced form of hypertext – something we’re exploring in the Digital Gardening movement. We could build accumulative, conversational exchanges with people on the level of the word, sentence, and paragraph, not the entire document. Authors could fix typos, write revisions, and push version updates that propogate across the web the same way we do with software. ❧
The Webmention spec allows for resending notifications and thus subsequent re-parsing and updating of content. This could be a signal sent to any links to the content that it had been updated and allow any translcuded pages to update if they wished.
Annotated on February 09, 2021 at 02:38PM
In this idealised utopia we obviously want to place value on sharing and curation as well as original creation, which means giving a small fraction of the payment to the re-publisher as well.We should note monetisation of all this content is optional. Some websites would allow their content to be transcluded for free, while others might charge hefty fees for a few sentences. If all goes well, we’d expect the majority of content on the web to be either free or priced at reasonable micro-amounts. ❧
While this is nice in theory, there’s a long road strewn with attempts at micropayments on the web. I see new ones every six months or so. (Here’s a recent one: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLqrvNoDE35lFDUv2enkaEKuo6ATBj9GmL)
This also dramatically misses the idea of how copyright and intellectual property work in many countries with regard to fair use doctrine. For short quotes and excerpts almost anyone anywhere can do this for free already. It’s definitely nice and proper to credit the original, but as a society we already have norms for how to do this.
Annotated on February 09, 2021 at 02:46PM
Transclusion would make this whole scenario quite different. Let’s imagine this again… ❧
A great example can be found at https://www.kartikprabhu.com/articles/marginalia
This reminds me that I need to kick my own server to fix the functionality on my main site and potentially add it to a few others.
Annotated on February 09, 2021 at 02:59PM
We can easily imagine transclusions going the way of the public comments section. ❧
There are definitely ways around this, particularly if it is done by the site owner instead of enabled by a third party system like News Genius or Hypothes.is.
Examples of this in the wild can be found at https://indieweb.org/annotation#Annotation_Sites_Enable_Abuse.
Annotated on February 09, 2021 at 03:04PM
I've been a little scatter-brained over the past few weeks. I've started lots of little projects and finished almost none of them. Hopefully, they'll all start to wrap up soon. I mentioned on a previous Indie Dev Life that I was working on an update to the Pine.blog iOS app, and that is still true. ...
Wikilinks everywhere: a web extension/library/bookmarklet that eagerly or lazily resolves [[wikilinks]] in any web property within a user-chosen context, e.g. an Agora or other distributed knowledge graph.
Narwhal is a free WordPress plugin I maintain which adds a minimal front end new post box. You may configure it within WordPress' Writing settings. I use t...
A Metacrap Problem
It’s metacrap–I know, I know–but I’ve been thinking about easy ways to use Open Graph Protocol meta data to add contextual Twitter cards to some of my content when syndicating posts to Twitter. My goal is to leverage the speed and ease-of-use of Micropub clients while doing as little as possible manually, but achieving as much parity between posts on multiple sites.
I’m particularly keen to do this to syndicate/share more of the articles I read and post about on my site without adding additional manual work on my own part.
Outline of Some Resources
The Post Kinds plugin for WordPress parses URLs for me and pulls in data to create reply contexts for a variety of posts like bookmarks, reads, watches, listens, etc. Since Post Kinds doesn’t display featured images (yet), I’ve also been using the External Featured Image plugin to display the featured images from the original to add to the reply context of my posts as well.
In addition to all these I’ve been using the All in One SEO plugin to easily add an SEO layer to posts without having to do much thinking about it. AIOSEO recently upgraded their UI and features in the last year, and yesterday I upgraded to the newest v4.0+. One of the new features it’s got is the ability to add default fields or pull in pre-existing custom fields to output OGP meta data.
Start of a Solution
So I got the idea that since Post Kinds and External Featured Image plugins are pulling in and displaying the sort of data I’d like to show in Twitter cards, I figured why not use them? While metacrap is a DRY violation, the fact that it’s automated for me and is based on data I’m actually showing visually on my website makes it feel much less dirty. It also has the benefit that it helps make some of my syndicated content look and feel on Twitter, more like it does on my website. This is also a problem since Twitter hampers how much data I can syndicate in a single post.
I’ve still got some issues about how to deal with the Post Kinds data, but after a bit of digging around, I discovered the image URL for External Featured Image plugin is hiding in the
_dcms_eufi_img field. So I can make the default Twitter settings in AIOSEO pull the external image by setting
Default Post Image Source to
Image from Custom Field and set the
Post Custom Field Name to
Since a lot of my posts are reads, bookmarks, etc., this works well, but I can easily override the settings for articles or other custom posts which I make less frequently.
Hopefully I can figure out the settings for Post Kinds to get the rest of the default fields to map across. I’m happy to hear ideas on what field names I’d need to use to get the Post Kinds
Summary/Quote fields to map over for the
og:description respectively. Ideally I can manage to get it done without needing to get a subscription to the pro version of AIOSEO which also has support for custom taxonomies which is how Post Kinds works.
Since my theme has relatively solid microformats support, and I have plugin infrastructure to allow easy syndication from my website to Twitter through micropub clients, this last bit for creating Twitter reply contexts helps close some of the loop for me in my syndication workflow while keeping as much context across platforms.
Here’s a visual example of a native post on my site and the corresponding syndicated copy on Twitter. There are some differences, mostly because I don’t have as much control of the appearance on Twitter as I do on my own site, but they’re about as close as I can get them with minimal work.
In particular take a look at the great, and intuitive UI she’s got at the bottom of her post:
Just click on the link, reply and go. It would be nice to see other social platforms allow this sort of interaction. Setting it up for Mastodon should also be pretty simple too.