25,000 Annotations: What I’ve Learned in My First Year at Hypothesis

By heatherstaines | 19 January, 2018

A few weeks ago, I celebrated my one year anniversary as Director of Partnerships at Hypothesis. The time has gone by in an amazing flurry of conversations, presentations, events, and explorations. It’s been wonderful to tell friends and former colleagues about this new venture, my first foray into the open-source space. But, honestly, the most incredible thing has been the annotation technology itself. I confess, I annotate everything, and the tool has changed the way I do my research and my reading.


Screenshot of a Hypothesis user activity page.


My first few months on the job were largely spent getting up to speed on the organization, the tool, and the opportunities in the publishing and education spaces. I learned from fantastic colleagues about work with the W3C to get the standard created (and subsequently approved), about the creation of the Annotating All Knowledge Coalition to support the annotation ecosystem, about the community effort that builds upon the code. I spent my days with Google docs, slide decks, and fact-finding video calls.

As part of a quest in February to find unique annotation examples to include in my demos, I reached out to some colleagues. Rather than shoot me some links, Jon Udell, our Director of Integration, asked me how I used the tool myself. Frankly, I’d largely been too busy to learn how to use it properly, although I did have an account, created as part of my interview prep. Feeling “annotation-shamed,” I strong-armed Jon into giving me a quick lesson. Many of you have heard me say that upon realizing how I could use the tool in my daily work, it was as if the clouds parted and a beam of sunlight came down and smacked me on the forehead. I was hooked.

I began to use annotation as part of my industry work, preparing for conference proposals, panels, and meetings. All my annotations anywhere on the web were accessible to me via my Hypothesis profile page, to filter by tag or to search. I never needed to worry about losing an article ever again! I annotated topics of interest from mainstream media to obscure academic pieces. I highlighted travel blogs, movie reviews, and newsletters. I even annotated my vacation in September. You may laugh, but what do you have when you go on vacation? My annotations provide a record about my hotel, that restaurant my friend told me about, museum sites, bookstores, city tours — simply annotating these sites and tagging them “Prague” enabled me to check my plans on my Hypothesis activity page. I could even share these sites later with my friends and family. I annotate calls for proposals (tagging them for later review), conference participant lists (marking who I’ve met and who I want to meet), you name it — if it is online, I’ll annotate it.

I’m experienced now in talking about post-publication annotation layers, about annotations as content and context, about using annotation during peer review, and around entity extraction. But I’m learning about new use cases for annotation all the time. I’ve got a publisher who made a production group together with their offshore vendor to annotate their questions about the xml on their staging site. There is a publisher in the midst of a large title migration on their host platform and they are using Hypothesis to figure out what they’ll need to change on all the affected journal landing pages. Still another has proposed that editorial and sales colleagues could tag academics by campus to raise awareness of synergy for campus visits.

I’m indebted to Jon for getting me started on this path and also for the way he explains the potential that this amazing technology brings. (I steal Jon’s explanations all the time!) We think of the web in terms of page level addresses — it’s what we’ve had. But the deep-linking technology behind Hypothesis allows us to create unique persistent web addresses for a paragraph, a sentence, a word, a cell in a CSV file. The implications for linked data will be huge. We’re able to connect things that we couldn’t precisely connect before — link data to articles, connect quotes to citations — and we won’t need publishers to retag or enrich their data to make it happen.

Today I made my 25,000th annotation. And I’m not stopping anytime soon.

Share this article