Social Annotation with

Following David’s lead (and thanks to some great WordPress plugin work by Tim Owens),  I’ve installed a social annotation tool called on this site. Actually, it looks like much more than a social annotation tool, but I’ll get to that in a minute. is a non-profit funded by (among others) the Shuttleworth Foundation (who are funding some very innovative work right now in the education/web space, including the OERPub project and Siyavula). It is a social web annotation platform being developed around web standards proposed by the W3C Open Annotation community group.

A WordPress plugin is just one of the tools. There is also a Chrome browser plugin and (soon) a plugin for Firefox. These plugins allow you to annotate and highlight across the web. So, annotation works in 2 ways, either on the user side via the browser plugins, or on the site builder side via a WordPress plugin.

If you highlight and right-click any text on the page, you should see a little balloon/pen icon pop up. Click on the icon and a panel will slide out from the right of the page. You need a account to highlight and annotate. If you don’t have one, you can create one quickly from the fly out.

If you want to see the comments that are on the page, there are 2 prompts on the page that show you there are comments. First, you can click on the icon in the top right hand corner of the page that looks like this:


Hover over the icon and you’ll see some other icons appear that allow you see the annotations & highlights on the page, or to highlight and annotate yourself.

The second prompt that shows you there are comments are the icons on the right of the page that look like directional arrows:


This one appears in the bottom right corner of the page on posts that have comments on them (like the one you will see on this post if you are viewing the post itself. For some reason, doesn’t seem to be working on the home page of the blog). Click on the icon and you are taken to the exact spot in the post that has been highlighted or annotated.

This is still very much an alpha project, but looks promising as a collaborative annotation tool. One of the concepts that I really like about it is that you have the ability to aggregate all of your annotations and comments under one account, something I tried to do many years ago, but gave up on in frustration as the tools that were around at the time were frustrating to use. I want to be able to have a central place that shows me all of my conversations on the web, and this might be a good option.

There are a few things I like about the project as well. Reading their principles, it looks like they are committed to creating a tool that remains non-profit, free and that works anywhere – important qualities if they hope to garner enough critical mass to make the project a success. The rest of the principles are equally important and you should take a read through.

As more and more websites turn off comments, I can see services like (and existing tools like the Diigo, which is often forgotten as an annotation tool and used by many only as a social bookmarking tools) are going to be important tools to keep the conversation flowing.

As for the more than a social annotation tool bit I hinted at in the lead, appears to be framing itself as a tool for discussion and collaboration rather than simple highlighting and annotating. will be an open platform for the collaborative evaluation of knowledge. It will combine sentence-level critique with community peer-review to provide commentary, references, and insight on top of news, blogs, scientific articles, books, terms of service, ballot initiatives, legislation and regulations, software code and more.

I am not exactly sure how this bit works yet. But as I play with I am eager to find out.

Something I learned about the history of the web from the promotional video. Annotations were an original feature of Mosaic, but disabled at the last minute when the browser first shipped. Which makes you wonder what the web would be like today if comments were enabled from the start through the browser right from the get go.


3 ways I use Google Reader to do things other than read

The ultimate Swiss Army Knife for sale in Interlaken

A post by George Veletseanos got me thinking about one of the key tools in my PLE – Google Reader – and how I use GReader for things other than reading the myriad of sites and blogs I subscribe to. Here are three things I do with GReader beyond reading.

1) Archive my tweets.

I subscribe to the RSS feed of my Twitter account. I started doing this back in the day when Twitter capped access to old tweets at “about a month” or around 3000, or some other ridiculous number. Now, with Twitter tightening developer access to their api’s, we may begin to see services that allow you access old tweets slowly dwindle.

If you have some server skills, you might want to use a tool called ThinkUp to archive tweets (which not only archives, but also gives you some Twitter stats on your own network activity).

But not everyone has access to their own server or the chops to install and configure their own web service, so a relatively quick and dirty way to archive your tweets is to subscribe to the RSS feed of your Twitter account.

Now, your Twitter accounts RSS feed is even tougher to find than the RSS feed for a Delicious tag. To subscribe to the RSS feed of a Twitter account, you need to know your Twitter user id number. You can do this using a service like MyTwitterID or IDFromUser and then plunking that number into the following url:

Replacing the xxxxx with your Twitter ID number. Pop that RSS feed in GReader and you are archiving your own tweets.

This is also handy if I want to archive the tweets of key members of my PLN and take advantage of the second thing I like to do in GReader…

2) Search my trusted network for resources.

In GReader, you’ve got the power of Google search,  and I  often use that as a place to start my search about a group of topics. After all, I only add sites that I trust and have vetted as being a valuable resource to me, so who go to the crazy wild web first when I can go directly to the sources I have curated?

3) Track my own comments.

If I add a comment to a blog post, I will subscribe to that comment feed so I can follow up with what gets posted as comments and take part in the conversation. I have tried a number of comment tracking services over the years, but still find this the most reliable and user friendly way to track conversation on blogs. In Greader I have a folder called Comments, and when I subscribe to the Comments feed for a blog post, I add the feed there. That way I can take track the convo and take part in the conversation.

So those are 3 ways that I use Google Reader beyond reading. How about you? Any hacks or ways you use Google Reader that is a bit unusual?

Photo: The Ultimate Swiss Army Knife by redjar used under Creative Commons license.