An illustrated taxonomy of annotation types

I’m often asked: “What does the Hypothes.is software do?” The elevator pitch is easy.

“Visit a web page, then select some text and annotate with comments or tags. You’ll see those annotations when you return to the page, and so will other Hypothesis users.”

As a general proposition that seems to make sense to almost everyone. Then comes the follow-up question: “Why would I do that?” That’s harder because the answer is: “It depends.” There are several types of Hypothes.is annotations, and many patterns for using them. In this post I’ll present a taxonomy of annotation types. In a follow-up post I’ll explore some patterns of use.

Highlights

A highlight is the digital equivalent of swiping a yellow marker over a passage of text. Click the screencast to watch the creation of a highlight.

make-highlight

After making a selection, you use the popup Highlight control to create this type of annotation. As the name implies, it is just a highlight. It anchors to its selection in the document, and quotes the selection, but there are no comments or tags. A highlight is always private (“Only me”), which means only you can see it, and only when you’re logged in.

Annotations

An annotation is the digital equivalent of a marginal note. Click the screencast to watch the creation of an annotation.

make-anchored-annotation

After making a selection, you use the popup New Note control to create this type of annotation. Like a highlight, it is anchored to the selected text which it also quotes. Unlike a highlight it includes extra stuff that you add: text and/or tags. In this example the annotation is not marked “Only me” so it’s visible to everyone. But you can also mark this type of annotation “Only me.”

Page Notes

A page note is like a social bookmark: it associates comments and/or tags with a document without anchoring that information to a passage within the document. Click the screencast to watch the creation of a page note.

make-page-note

A page note isn’t selection-based. You create one using the New Note control on the Hypothesis sidebar’s vertical toolbar. As with an annotation you add text and/or tags. In this example the annotation is not marked “Only me” so it’s visible to everyone. But you can also mark this type of annotation “Only me.”

Replies

Click the screencast to watch the creation of a reply.

make-reply

Unlike a highlight, an annotation, or a page note, a reply doesn’t refer to an annotated document. Instead it refers to one of those annotation types, or to a prior reply. You use the Reply link to create a reply. Like other annotation types the reply can include text and/or tags, and must include one or the other.