I write margin notes while reading books. They help me keep my thoughts on record and within context. But how do I do that on a website or an ebook?
This is an experiment in implementing a marginalia (or annotation) system using the principles of the indieweb. The broad idea is to allow readers to write notes/comments that link to a particular part in my article and then notify me so that I can display a copy approriately in the right place.
Craig Mod wrote a beautiful article about Post-Artifact Books & Publishing talking about the problem of marginalia for ebooks. I highly recommend you read it. The artifact is the ‘final’ produced content — a book, an article, a magazine. The pre-artifact includes the process of creating and editing ideas to generate the content. In the case of digital content, the artifact, once created and published, is not static. Apart from further edits by the author, readers can add their own thoughts through comments, sharing, and sometimes marginalia.
Some publishers already have a kind of post-artifact system. As Craig notes, Amazon allows you to post and share public notes for the books you’ve bought on the Kindle. Medium allows you to post marginalia using your Twitter account. Such systems miss an important aspect of the process — ownership. Your notes/marginalia exist on some third-party system, not your own site.
The folks at indiewebcamp has already tackled this issue for web-based (i.e. HTML) content — the protocol is webmention and hooks are microformats. You can post a reply or comment (markedup with microformats) on your own site and choose to notify the original content (through webmention) by linking to it. This way the original comment exists on your own space (and under your control) while the original content gets a copy to display as it chooses.
This same idea could be adapted to marginalia that lives on the readers’ site; the missing piece of the puzzle is to have a way to refer to a part of the post with a URL.
This is where
’ fragmentions come in. Fragmention1 is a way to refer to an arbitrary piece of text on webpage by just appending it to the URL; for instance to refer to “some random text” on “example.com” you’d use the URL
But it is possible to use this not just to find and scroll to a text phrase, but also to refer to it from a comment. So if you sent a webmention to the URL of the post it will be treated as a comment to the whole post. But if you send it to a fragmentioned URL, then it will be treated as marginalia to that part of the post!
Federated marginalia — pretty awesome if you ask me!
So what would such a marginalia-enriched content look like? This article is an experiment at such a post.
By default the marginalia are treated just like normal comments, but their
The visual display and the related UI/UX is something I am still playing around with. At the Indiewebcamp 2014-East, I finished up a prototype UI for this. At smaller screens, the marginalia just appears below the content paragraph, and on longer screens it appears on a scrollable side-panel.
This is super exciting, great work building it! And a real testament to the power of simple ideas in combination… I can post marginalia comments without changing a line of code!
totally! kyle hit the nail on the head: this is a great new feature and tool in its own right, and also a powerful demonstration of how big new things can emerge from simple, orthogonal standards without any new or modified protocols. nice work!
i can’t wait to see a version that tries to render marginalia directly next to the part of the post they’re addressing, whether in the actual margin or otherwise. excited!
@kartik_prabhu amazing work overall! This is one of my favourite parts though — the fact that fragmention comments fall back gracefully if they’re not supported on either side, and yet all the data required to present them is preserved, so future updates can retro-actively put old marginalia in the right place!
I wonder how tricky it would be to implement this on the comment publisher side too — detecting fragmention URLs and tailoring the reply context content…
This is looking great! I’m leaving this comment on the same fragmention as Ryan just to see if anything blows up. :]
So, the real question is, does this Marginalia bit work yet? The in-reply-to includes a fragmention here :)
#IndieWeb: We’re talking about @kartik_prabhu and his “experiment in implementing a marginalia system”.