Jeremy Dean and I have chatted a couple times now about the product he’s been involved with for some time called Hypothes.is. Several of us within CTE (Mark, John, Keegan) have been playing around the tool and are quite impressed with it’s ability to bring discussion to virtually any piece of text via annotation and threaded replies. So much so even that we have decided to include it as a pre-installed plugin on OU Create Wordpress sites.
What is Hypothes.is?
Hypothes.is is an open platform built for annotating the web. The fastest way of accessing it is to add via.hypothes.is/ to the beginning of any web address. For example, I added the proxy to the beginning of Gardner Campbell‘s most recent Educause article:
What was once an article that only allow comments at the bottom, now allows character-by-character highlighting and annotation. These annotation notes can then be made public or private by the user and are saved to your personal hypothes.is profile, which can be called via the Hypothes.is API, reminiscent of the early Twitter days. Further, you can also see other peoples public comments as well, allowing for a community to form/discuss a particular text.
This means that my colleagues (and if I try this in class, my students) have a choice to do these readings in isolation, or they can read them in asynchronous collaboration with others who had read and annotated them beforehand; they can learn from what others have been saying about those readings
How is Hypothes.is Thinking About Education?
One thing that Jeremy and I have bonded over is that we are educators firsts. He’s a former a school teacher himself. Hypothes.is has recently launched is a coalition around scholarship:
Scholars are natural annotators, as the process of creating new knowledge requires building on what’s come before. So, in order to bring this capability to the areas where new knowledge is created and published, we sought out some of the world’s most essential scholarly publishers and knowledge platforms.
Our goal is that within three years, annotation can be deployed across much of scholarship.
How is Hypothes.is Integrated with OU Create?
Every new install of WordPress on OU Create will now include the Hypothes.is plugin by default (Note that this will have no affect on any current WordPress installations. Only future). To use it, users will need to first enable plugin. Once activated, head over to Settings > Hypothesis. This will allow you to specify exactly where you want Hypothes.is to be automatically enabled.
Voilà! Now you’ve got annotation enabled on your site!
About a year ago, I was pretty interested in attempting to “Medium-ify” my blog. And, by that, I mean 1.) getting a clean theme that read incredibly well on a mobile device 2.) adding annotations. I’d argue that the reason Medium has gained popularity is 1.) a slick authoring experience 2.) great reading experience and 3.) social community focused around annotation, favoriting, and replying. I’ve managed to become satisfied with the way my site reads but have still been unable to capture the annotation I’ve desired. Mostly because the WordPress Plugins that are built for it (such as Inline Comments) only function well on very specific WordPress Themes. Wanting a little bit more flexibility, I’ve abandoned trying to integrate annotation myself (for now at least! ;-)).
Hypothes.is seems like a much better option for multiple reasons. It is unobtrusive first of all. But, second of all, it allows the commenter to retain a copy of the annotations which I think is much more valuable in the long run, a larger reason why we are so supportive of domains in general. We should let students do work in environments where they can retain their work.
There is still a lot of development left to be done on Hypothes.is. For instance, they’ve just rolled out groups, but groups still need a profile page. How great will it be once you can create a group for your class, see who is in the group, and then browse their annotations? Similarly, the personal profile isn’t currently nothing to write home about. Jeremy and I also discussed the potentially to integrate some of IndieWebCamp’s POSSE mentality into the product. Sure, it’s nice that your notes can be pulled via API but there needs to be a more integrated approached to syndicated your notes to your own site.
That said, I’m excited to see how Hypothes.is can be leveraged on our campus and how we can support a team like this. Hypothes.is fits really well in the characteristics articulated for Indie EdTech, and I’m always excited for how I can support local development.