- Apr 2022
2. What influence does annotating with an audience have on how you annotate? My annotations and notes generally are fragile things, tentative formulations, or shortened formulations that have meaning because of what they point to (in my network of notes and thoughts), not so much because of their wording. Likewise my notes and notions read differently than my blog posts. Because my blog posts have an audience, my notes/notions are half of the internal dialogue with myself. Were I to annotate in the knowledge that it would be public, I would write very differently, it would be more a performance, less probing forwards in my thoughts. I remember that publicly shared bookmarks with notes in Delicious already had that effect for me. Do you annotate differently in public view, self censoring or self editing?
To a great extent, Hypothes.is has such a small footprint of users (in comparison to massive platforms like Twitter, Facebook, etc.) that it's never been a performative platform for me. As a design choice they have specifically kept their social media functionalities very sparse, so one also doesn't generally encounter the toxic elements that are rampant in other locations. This helps immensely. I might likely change my tune if it were ever to hit larger scales or experienced the Eternal September effect.
Beyond this, I mostly endeavor to write things for later re-use. As a result I'm trying to write as clearly as possible in full sentences and explain things as best I can so that my future self doesn't need to do heavy work or lifting to recreate the context or do heavy editing. Writing notes in public and knowing that others might read these ideas does hold my feet to the fire in this respect. Half-formed thoughts are often shaky and unclear both to me and to others and really do no one any good. In personal experience they also tend not to be revisited and revised or revised as well as I would have done the first time around (in public or otherwise).
Occasionally I'll be in a rush reading something and not have time for more detailed notes in which case I'll do my best to get the broad gist knowing that later in the day or at least within the week, I'll revisit the notes in my own spaces and heavily elaborate on them. I've been endeavoring to stay away from this bad habit though as it's just kicking the can down the road and not getting the work done that I ultimately want to have. Usually when I'm being fast/lazy, my notes will revert to highlighting and tagging sections of material that are straightforward facts that I'll only be reframing into my own words at a later date for reuse. If it's an original though or comment or link to something important, I'll go all in and put in the actual work right now. Doing it later has generally been a recipe for disaster in my experience.
There have been a few instances where a half-formed thought does get seen and called out. Or it's a thought which I have significantly more personal context for and that is only reflected in the body of my other notes, but isn't apparent in the public version. Usually these provide some additional insight which I hadn't had that makes the overall enterprise more interesting. Here's a recent example, albeit on a private document, but which I think still has enough context to be reasonably clear: https://hypothes.is/a/vmmw4KPmEeyvf7NWphRiMw
There may also be infrequent articles online which are heavily annotated and which I'm excerpting ideas to be reused later. In these cases I may highlight and rewrite them in my own words for later use in a piece, but I'll make them private or put them in a private group as they don't add any value to the original article or potential conversation though they do add significant value to my collection as "literature notes" for immediate reuse somewhere in the future. On broadly unannotated documents, I'll leave these literature notes public as a means of modeling the practice for others, though without the suggestion of how they would be (re-)used for.
All this being said, I will very rarely annotate things privately or in a private group if they're of a very sensitive cultural nature or personal in manner. My current set up with Hypothesidian still allows me to import these notes into Obsidian with my API key. In practice these tend to be incredibly rare for me and may only occur a handful of times in a year.
Generally my intention is that ultimately all of my notes get published in something in a final form somewhere, so I'm really only frontloading the work into the notes now to make the writing/editing process easier later.
How do you get your annotations into the rest of your workflow for notes and learning? How do you prevent that your social annotation tool is yet another separate place where one keeps stuff, cutting off the connections to the rest of one’s work and learning that would make it valuable?
My annotations broadly flow into two spaces:
My private Obsidian-based vault is where I collect the notes and actively work on, modify, edit, and expand them if and when necessary. This is also the space where I'm broadly attempting to densely interlink them together for future use and publication in other venues. If I could, I would publish these all on the web, but I've yet to find a set up with a low enough admin tax that I can publish them inexpensively in a way I'd like them to appear (primarily with properly linked [[WikiLinks]]) while still owning them in my own space.
I've been experimenting around with using Blot.im as a solution to display them here https://notes.boffosocko.com/, but at present it's a very limited selection of my extant notes and doesn't include Webmention or other niceties I'd like to add. As it's a very alpha stage experiment I don't recommend anyone follow or use it and it may disappear altogether in the coming months.
My main website uses WordPress. To a great extent, this is (now) primarily a back up location and the majority of the annotations are unpublished to the public, but are searchable to me on the back end.
I do, however, use it occasionally for quickly publishing and syndicating select annotations which I think others may find interesting or upon which I'm looking for comments/feedback and don't expect that the audience I'd like these from will find them natively on Hypothes.is' platform. An example of this might be a paper I was reading this weekend on Roland Barthes which discusses his reasonably well documented zettelkasten-like note taking practice. The article can be found here: https://culturemachine.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/373-604-1-PB.pdf with the annotations seen here: https://docdrop.org/pdf/The-Card-Index-as-Creativity-Ma---Wilken-Rowan-upq8g.pdf/. To tip off others in the space, I made a post on my site with a bit of a puzzle and syndicated it to Twitter. A few hours later I posted a follow up with some additional details and links to my notes on hypothesis which got some useful feedback from Matthias Melcher on the Barthes paper as well as on a related paper I mentioned by Luhmann, particularly about German translation, with which I have little facility.
Another recent illustrative example was this annotation on the Library of Congress website about Vladimir Nabokov which was picked up by my website (though unpublished/not public) but which I syndicated to Twitter primarily to be able to send a notification to Eleanor Konik who I know is interested in the idea of World Building using historical facts and uses Obsidian in her work. (The @mention in the tweet is hiding in the image of the index card so that I could save text space in the main tweet.) Several others interested in note taking and zettelkasten for writing also noticed it and "liked" it. Not being on Hypothes.is to my knowledge much less following me there, neither Eleanor nor the others would have seen it without the Tweet.
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Nabokov used index cards for his research & writing. In one index card for Lolita, he creates a "weight-heigh-age table for girls of school age" to be able to specify Lolita's measurements. He also researched the Colt catalog of 1940. #WorldBuildinghttps://t.co/i16Yc7CbJ8 pic.twitter.com/JSjXV50L3M— Chris Aldrich (@ChrisAldrich) April 10, 2022
Getting annotations from Hypothes.is to Obsidian is a short two-step process which is reasonably well automated so that I don't spend a lot of time cutting/pasting/formatting.
I start with an IFTTT recipe that takes the RSS output of Hypothes.is and creates text files directly into my Obsidian vault. The results are quite rudimentary and only include the title of the document, the permalink of the Hypothes.is post, the highlighted text, and my annotation. It doesn't include the tags as RSS doesn't have a specification for these.
Second, I've set up Hypothesidian which has a much higher fidelity dovetail with the Hypothes.is API to get all the data and even the formatting set up I'm looking for. A reasonably well laid out set of instructions with a low/no code approach for it can be found at https://forum.obsidian.md/t/retrieve-annotations-for-hypothes-is-via-templater-plugin-hypothes-idian/17225. It allows importing annotations by a variety of methods including by date and by document URL. I've also made a small modification to it so that tags on Hypothes.is are turned into [[wikilinks]] in Obsidian instead of #tags which I only use sparingly.
All the IFTTT annotations will be ported individually into a specific Obsidian folder where I'll process them. I can then quickly use Hypothesidian to import the properly laid out version (using templates) of the notes with just a few keystrokes and then focus my time on revising my notes if necessary and then linking them to the appropriate notes already in my system. Finally I'll move them into the appropriate folder based on their content—typically one of the following: zettelkasten, wiki, commonplace, dictionary, or sources (for bibliographic use). Careful watchers will notice that I often use Hypothes.is' "page notes" functionality to create a bookmark-like annotation into which I will frequently post the URL of the page and occasionally a summary of a piece, these are imported into my system and are used as source/bibliographic information. I also have some dovetailing with Zotero as a bibliographic set up which feeds into this data as well.
This version which I've cobbled together works well for me so that I'm not missing anything, but there are definitely other similar processes available out there both for Obsidian (with plugins or scripts) as well as for other platforms. If I'm not mistaken, I think Readwise (a paid solution) has a set up for note transfer and formatting.
As there isn't an extant Micropub client for Hypothes.is I initially used RSS as a transport layer to get my notes from Hypothes.is into WordPress. The fidelity isn't great in part because RSS doesn't include any tags. To get some slightly better presentation I set up a workflow using RSS output from Hypothes.is as input into an IFTTT workflow which outputs to a webhook that stands in as a Micropub client targeting my websites Micropub server. Some of the display on my site is assisted by using the Post Kinds plugin, which I know you've been working around yourself. The details may be above some, but I've outlined most of the broad strokes of how this is done in a tutorial at https://boffosocko.com/2020/01/21/using-ifttt-to-syndicate-pesos-content-from-social-services-to-wordpress-using-micropub/. In that example, I use the service Pocket as an example, but Hypothes.is specific information could easily be swapped out on a 1-1 basis.
Ideally, I'm hoping that small pieces loosely joined and IndieWeb building blocks will allow me to use the tools and have the patterns I'm looking for, without a lot of work, so that I can easily make annotations with Hypothes.is but have and share (POSSE) my content on my own site in a way that works much the way many IndieWeb sites dovetail with Twitter or Mastodon.
I'm doing some portions of it manually at present, without a lot of overhead, but it would be fun to see someone add micropub and webmention capabilities to Hypothes.is or other IndieWeb building blocks. (I suspect it won't be Hypothes.is themselves as their team is very small and they're already spread thin on multiple other mission critical projects.)
In the end, I'm using Hypothes.is as a well designed and convenient tool for quickly making notes on digital documents. All the data is flowing to one of two other locations where I'm actually making use of it. While there is some social layer there, I'm getting email notifications through the Hypothes.is settings and the data from my responses just gets rolled back into my spaces which I try to keep open and IndieWeb friendly by default. At the same time, for those who want or need it, Hypothes.is' interface is a great way of reading, searching, sorting, and interacting with my notes in public, particularly until I get something specific and user friendly up to do it on my own domain.
- note taking
- note taking methods
- social annotation
- manual until it hurts
- card index for writing
- Obsidian plugins
- atomic notes