New Collaboration Capabilities for Annotation: Open and Restricted Groups

By arti_walker | 17 October, 2018

Screenshot of a BioPub article showing annotations.When Hypothesis first launched there was only one way people could annotate: Publicly. All annotations and all replies were visible to everyone else. Almost immediately, people began asking for ways of annotating more privately — either just for themselves, or with others. This led us to develop a feature called “Groups”. Groups allowed people to create private groups and invite their friends, colleagues, students or others to a space on top of documents where only they could see and add annotations. Within several months of its release, the Groups feature quickly grew to over 50% of our overall annotation traffic. Groups have enabled a whole range of diverse use cases, from classroom use, to private collaboration, copy-editing, more powerful personal organization, and more.

After Groups became available, it became obvious they were insufficient for what people wanted to do. There was clearly a need for more public forms of groups, but ones that might be topically themed, or hosted by different organizations, including publishers themselves.

After many conversations with some of our most engaged users as well as our partners, we have now created a richer groups model that we have released in our open-source code and are rolling out with key partners in our hosted service. The model introduces two new group types, “open” and “restricted”, each serving different needs for who can create annotations.

Hypothesis Groups Model

The table above describes the configurations and permissions available to readers and annotators of the Public Layer and Open, Restricted, and Private Groups in Hypothesis.
Public Layer Open Group Restricted Group Private Group
Who can read annotations? Anyone Anyone Anyone Only logged-in group members
Who can post annotations? Any logged-in user Any logged-in user Only logged-in group members Only logged-in group members
Who can join? N/A as anyone who is logged in to Hypothesis can annotate in the Public Layer N/A as anyone who is logged in to Hypothesis can annotate in an Open Group Invite only Invite only: Group creator can share a link for users to join group

Points to Note

  • Each group collects annotations in a dedicated, separate annotation layer.
  • The creator of a group has the ability to moderate annotations made in the group.
  • These new groups can work either with the Hypothesis account system, or with publishers’ 3rd-party account implementations.

Use Cases for Open and Restricted Groups

Open Groups

Open groups are world-readable, world-writeable groups. Open groups allow a community to create a dialogue in an open and visible way, but distinct from the Public Layer. Groups are owned and moderated by group creators. Uses include post-publication discussion, community peer review, and general updates or clarifications.

Restricted Groups

Restricted groups are world-readable, group-member-writeable groups. Only restricted group members can annotate, but the annotations are readable by anyone. Restricted groups are also owned and moderated by group creators. Use cases include dedicated author layers, official updates or corrections by journal editors, as well as open peer review.

What Are Publisher Groups

Publishers and website owners can use these new group types to create one or more authoritative annotation layers over their own content where they can control configuration and moderation. We call these “Publisher Groups,” and we wrote about them previously. Publishers who want to enable such groups should contact us.

Next Steps

For the most up-to-date information about group capabilities, please visit our help articles about all Groups in Hypothesis and Publisher Groups.

Going forward, we plan to create a self-service process for creating open and restricted groups and an admin interface for managing members. In the meantime, interested parties should contact us directly.

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