Boingling Along

Another social annotation tool, this time called Boingle, put together by Greg Martin, who writes:

Boingle is a stripped down social annotation system that lets you annotate within web pages with the result being a simple markup (“Boingles (2)”) that looks as though it belongs in the page, much as a link titled “Comments (4)” looks normal within a blog. It is very understated in nature, and lets the annotation content itself be the star.

Social annotation, in case you’ve not done it, is a method to leave comments (annotations) on web pages so others can see them when they visit. It’s mildly popular, though of course only starts working when a critical mass develops of people using the same tool.

Boingle is a toolbar for Firefox and IE, allowing you to add comments (Boingles) by selecting portions of a webpage and then typing in comments (no need for an account; just enter your name, or anyone else’s).

I agree Boingle is understated, which is good, but not being able to see what the comments are on the actual web-page reduces its effectiveness, I suspect. Clicking on the ‘Boingles (2)’ link will open another browser window, which surfers may feel is one browser window more than they need. The other problem, I suspect is that perhaps the ‘Boingles’ links are too understated, sometimes not really being visible to anyone who isn’t looking hard for them.

I think I’d rather see the Boingles appear either as a pop-up or in the browser sidebar. But there might be sound reasons why that may not work.Anyway, great to see people exploring this avenue again.

List of all the social annotation tools I can find here. Please let me know of more I’ve missed.

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A Directory of Social Annotation Tools

Update July 24 2006: Diigo is now live, combining “Social Bookmarking, Web Highlighter, Sticky-Note & Clipping to make it a powerful tool for online research, collaboration and information discovery”. Looks good; I’d be interested in hearing how people get on with it.

Social annotation, sometimes called web annotation, is back. Put simply, it’s software that allows users to “leave” comments on webpages they visit, so that others visiting the page,  and using the same software, can see their comments. Used well, it’s very useful, as useful as Amazon book reviews, say. Used badly it ends up laden down with offensive and sophomoric graffiti. A few years back (around 1999/2000, if I recall. I’m thinking uTok and ThirdVoice) there were quite a few of these around. Most have gone. Now, with social tagging and blogs, perhaps it’s time for a comeback. (I’m not including any social bookmarking tool here; I guess the distinction is that these tools allow the comments to be read without the surfer leaving the site itself. For ordinary clippings tools go here.)

Here’s the beginnings of a list:

  • WizLite “allows you to highlight text (like on real paper) on any page on the Internet and share it with everybody (or just your friends).” Nicely executed, though development has been sporadic.
  • trailfire marks “web pages that interest you and add your comments. Stitch them together to form a trail. Send trails to your friends, post them in your blog, or publish them on Trailfire.com. Use Trailfire to communicate your own view of the web.” Yes, I’m not quite sure what it means either.
  • Diigo combines “social bookmarking, clippings, in situ annotation, tagging, full-text search of everything, easy sharing and interactions.” Now live.
  • Squidoo lets you join thousands of people making their own “lenses” on their favorite stuff and ideas. It’s fast, fun and free. (And you could even get paid).
  • Jeteye enables users to create, send, view and share any type of online content, add notes and annotations and save it all in user organized Jetpaks™ through an easy drag and drop interface.
  • Chatsum “is a FREE add-on for your web browser that lets you chat with all the other Chatsum users that are looking at the same website as you.” (thanks, pieman)
  • Gabbly  “enables people to instantly connect and collaborate around any content, topic or interest.”
  • Wikalong “is a Firefox Extension that embeds a wiki in the Sidebar of your browser, which corresponds to the current page you are viewing. In its simplest form, a wiki-margin for the internet, but it can be much more.” I like this one because it makes best use of the sidebar. But it’s basic and only works on Firefox.
  • BlogEverywhere “is a simple way for you to log your thoughts and comments on any web page “without leaving it” . It enables you to have a conversation with other readers of that page.” (Thanks, Charles)
  • stickis by activeweave “is a simple and unobtrusive part of your web experience: wherever you are, stickis are there with you, helping you see, compose, and remix all the web, your way.” Still in closed alpha, so I’m not quite sure what that means.
  • Annozilla is another Firefox extension that is “designed to view and create annotations associated with a web page”.
  • Boingle “is a stripped down social annotation system that lets you annotate within web pages with the result being a simple markup (“Boingles (2)”) that looks as though it belongs in the page, much as a link titled “Comments (4)” looks normal within a blog. It is very understated in nature, and lets the annotation content itself be the star.”
  • HyLighter “extends the potential of documents as a medium for the negotiation of meaning. Use HyLighter to make what you understand more transparent and how you understand more effective.” Whatever that means. Website seems to be idle.
  • Plum Why is collecting and sharing, beyond photos and email, so hard? Why can’t I put all my favorite stuff in one place? (still in private beta; it’s not as hard as it was before, guys)

Please do let me know what I’ve left out; I’m sure there’s more. I do get the feeling that this kind of thing is going to make a comeback. But the ones which work will be those that allow either everyone, or groups of users to see each other’s comments on web pages, and to leverage tagging and other new things we’ve gotten used to see comparable pages. And some way of filtering out the silliness would be good.

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Website Annotation Is Back?

Techdirt points to an effort by Slate’s Paul Boutin  to Make Website Annotation Cool Again. As Techdirt points out, this idea — where surfers can add their comments to websites so that others who use the same annotation software can view them, and add their own comments — is not new. (The semi-official term is Web Annotation.)

I went back through my old columns and saw that it was exactly five years ago that I wrote about ThirdVoice, which (according to c2) stopped offering its service, in part because of complaints, a year later.

Others were uTok, Instant Rendezvous and Gooey, all of which seem to no longer be operating.