There was something about the literature on Medium in its early days. I liked it. So much! I don’t see it around anymore and I don’t know why it’s gone but I absolutely am desiring a like it on my web essays.
On my blog. On your blogs, too.
Look, folks, I want to annotate the web! But I don’t want it like any of these software—browser extensions. I want it to work native, like part of your site. Just like you would highlight and annotate in a book…
Look around what you’re reading here.
I deliberately styled my blog with ‘ample margins’ on either side of content. (Sure, the room’s gone if you’re reading me on a phone.) But the solution to the “question of annotation” I’m proposing will be possible on devices with narrower viewports, too.
Because, now, my content can breathe—no sidebars—but, boy, is it dry around here!
To Annotate a Post
That feature on Medium was that as you moused over a post, you noticed a small pencil-kinda icon to the right. If you clicked it it opened a small textbox that allowed you to type in short notes related to the section you were at.
Around each icon, you also found a button showing how much interaction from others that section had received. Some section did take a lot of beating, sorry, marginalia! The author had some control over approving notes and letting them viewable to the public or not.
Perhaps if Maria Popova knew Medium had had such feature before, she would not grieve the “loss” of marginalia so much “as we transition to digital text.”
Yes, Medium had brought marginalia to the web but had gotten rid of it only God knows why? I want it back. I want to annotate the web! And I need your help so!
My Idea on Web Marginalia
Marginalia are a playground for ideas and for intellectual discourse — with the author, as well as with one’s own mind at its most uninhibited. — Edgar A. Poe
Marginalia is how I’d like commenting on blog posts or web essays to work. Rather than wait till end of a post, how easy to forget then when it’s a long one, before you can leave a comment, Annotate will make sure you start interacting with the literature from the very first paragraph.
Because I’m thinking this attitude can be built into a product, a plugin, and put out there for website owners, I’m thinking calling it “Annotate.” You like the name? See, you could’ve just clicked and told me right here you do. Or don’t!
But we’re getting there. It will be done.
How Will Annotate Work?
Take a look at some of my sketches. See if you get the idea.
From my summary so far, you know that everything that makes “Annotate” work is initially hidden. As the consumer of content mouses over or hovers over or clicks on a paragraph, the pencil icon will be visible. They’ll be urged to leave a brief section-specific note. Annotate this!
Where others have left notes before a numerical count will display by the side of the “new note” icon. This count, upon clicking, will take a reader to a new page where all comments, ok, marginalia, are. Study my sketches again.
Of course, the behavior will be slightly different for mobile devices as on their desktop counterparts. Devices wider than 640 pixels will have the add notes feature slide in from right (or left, however the specific preference).
Devices of narrower than 480 pixels will have theirs come in from bottom (or top).
You tell me, is this not a better way to make an interactive web with content, than just one (as with many sites) lonely comment form sitting, waiting at the bottom of post?
From day one, I didn’t reveal a comment form on my blog, for, among other reasons, it’s too far away from content. And with many sites with many comments, it just lengthens the page. HubSpot handles that niftly on its blog.
As you might’ve noticed, I always publish each essay with a short hashtag to carry the comments to any social channel, but especially Twitter, where I mostly hang out. But “Annotate” will change all of that. It will bring the interaction right where its source lives. How great is that?
Required Technologies for Annotate
Full ownership of a book only comes when you have made it a part of yourself. — Mortimer Adler
With “Annotate,” the people who read our blogs can own our thoughts, engaging with them, ‘writing in them,’ as they travel through the content to its end.
But what technologies will make this work? I’m certain that’s already certain to you developers. A group of three, right?
- PHP or Node
I’ve been thinking about it, taking some notes—”pseudo code lines”—what can make this work. In the coming week I’ll publish my full thoughts. However, isn’t it possible to just use jQuery to create and display the textbox that receives comments, then use some PHP? to push those into arrays?
Can we investigate this and come up with something?
My Motivation Still
Now Annotate, for the reason of the web, will make for a better marginalia because it will be viral kind of available. If you marginaliaed in a book you love, except you lent it, and how many persons can you lend it to, it’s only yours.
Now marginalia can be shareable. Fun. Viral. Shall we build Annotate? I want to.
Again, the Slack channel #Annotate