Annotation Tools

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Two tools reviewed by Ethan Zuckermann [1]:

"Adrian Holovaty is one of the superstars in this field, known for creating digital journalism tools like the Chicago Crime mashup and the Django web development framework. He shows off a tool created to help him co-author a book on Django. Rather than putting the text of the book into a wiki and allowing anyone to edit it, the system allows fine-grained commenting on a fixed text. While the book isn’t currently open for commenting, you can see the comments placed on each paragraph of text, often suggesting very specific refinements to the book.

There’s the interesting potential for this model for document annotation to start discussions around political documents. It probably doesn’t make sense to put the text of a political speech in a wiki - the speech was delivered and the discussion is around interpretation of the words of that speech. There’s the exciting possibility that document annotation could become a new form of community interaction. Tom Steinberg of MySociety pointed out that the Free Software Foundation is trying an annotation method to allow group discussion of the new GNU Public Licenses which shows lines that are uncontroversial or more controversial based on the number of comments they’ve received. There’s a sense in which tools for allowing group development of software - versioning systems, repositories - might be applied to group authorship of text as well.

Michael Dale from Metavid has created a remarkable tool for annotating video through a wiki model. It’s a bit like Democracy Player/Miro, DotSub and MediaWiki colliding at high speed. The current MediaWiki site hints at what the future will look like - it currently provides video from CSPAN correlated with transcripts, with the transcript and video embeddable within other publishign platforms. The forthcoming version allows users to improve these captions in wiki form, to search video via captioning, and to edit and package video for export. It looks like it’s going to be an amazing and powerful system when it’s released." (

More Information

  1. Web Annotation
  2. Overlay Web