Commentary with Hypothesis

Pulished 2018-05-29. Written by Teodor Heggelund.

Hypothesis may be able to provide proper discussion for any web site. Sounds interesting? Read on to learn how Hypothesis can provide interaction to the web in a good way.

Why do I care? And why should you care?

The Internet just works, doesn’t it? I will begin by taking a step back. You are reading this text from a web browser. The web browser does not, however, only understand the text of the document. It also understands its semantic structure. Division into paragraphs is an example of semantic structure. You’ve double clicked to open documents before. Why don’t you try to triple-click here?

Your web browser is not only able to show you the content of this page, it also understands what a paragraph is. This is possible because what you are seeing is a semantic document.

What are examples of things that are not semantic documents? An audio file does provide semantic information about where a paragraph begins and ends. A video file does not provide semantic information about filmed text. A human may be able to recognize a paragraph is, but a machine may not reliably do so.

But how is this useful?

The fact that the Internet is divided into documents that stay at the same Internet address is the reason that you are actually able to find things on Google. Ever tried searching for a paragraph inside a video file or an audio file? That’s pretty hard. Another challenge is differentiating between words that sound the same. The Internet is composed of stable, semantic documents.

… what about commentary?

Commentary is not stable by nature. Commentary is interaction, change. It does not fit well into the realm of stability of the Internet. Put a comment in some comment box on some random site? How will you know if someone replies? Will you note all the places you ever made a note on the Internet? Or will you just not make notes? I tend to not bother with commenting on what others publish on the Internet for this exact reason. Here’s where Hypothesis comes in. I will state this about Hypothesis:

I do not want to own your comments. I want you to own them. If you own them, you can easier take responsibility for them. You can follow up on something that’s important. You can delete them if you need to. You can publish with the knowledge that you can respond.

This is where Hypothesis comes in.

So how does one use Hypothesis?

Looking to annotate pages and comment? Check out on how to get started.

Looking to integrate Hypothesis into your own Web site as with this one? Include this snippet on the pages where you want Hypothesis to load:

I’m using a slightly modified setup, to avoid loading the comment system unless you need it, which lets you load this site quicker. Right click paragraph following about the commenting system and click “inspect element” if you’re interested.

That’s all for now!

Got a comment? Just , then use the arrow in the upper-right corner to make a general note. Or mark text to make an annotation to just that text. More information on the commentary system is available at Commentary with Hypothesis.