We intend to add annotation/commentarysupport to the open shakespeare web demo either in this release or next. As a first step we’ve been looking to see what (open-source) web-based annotation systems are already out there. Below is our list of what we’ve been able to find so far (if you know of more please post a comment). After examining several of these in some detail the one we’re going to try our properly is marginalia (if you’re interested our current efforts to do this including writing a python wsgi annotation service backend can be found here in the subversion repository).

  1. stet: javascript annotation system used for gpl v3 comments system
  2. commentary: javascript based wsgi middleware developed by ian bicking
    • http://pythonpaste.org/commentary/
    • Rather hacked together (apparently he coded it in a week). Had problems getting it working locally and no documentation to help in adaptation. Seems to be unmaintained (demo site is currently down) which is perhaps not surprising given how many other projects Ian has on the go.
    • One nice feature is that you don’t seem to have to mess with the underlying web pages you want to add comments to (this only works if you are sitting on top of another wsgi application)
  3. marginalia: javascript library and spec for adding web annotation to pages
  4. annotea: W3C project based on RDF
    • http://www.w3.org/2001/Annotea/
    • Been around a long time and now seems to be inactive
    • Server and client support rather lacking. No simple interface based on, e.g., javascript — you have to write a special client yourself — which is a major drawback
    • That said the protocol is well-documented and so writing a client (or a server) shouldn’t be that hard (other than having to mess around with rdf in javascript …)
    • The Schema seems reasonable
    • xpointer based which according to the marginalia site is a problem
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Rufus Pollock is Founder and President of Open Knowledge.

2 thoughts on “Adding Web-Based Annotation Support”

  1. Sam: interesting to hear that stet is now deprecated.

    Following this post we actually developed our own annotation system using marginalia two years ago. However we ran into javascript performance issues on large documents (we wanted to use it for shakespeare plays) — something we discovered later was common to most systems!

    Just recently we’ve been having a second stab based on a new javascript library (jsannotate) developed by one of our volunteers and a reworked version of our previous backend.

    This is nearly ready for an alpha release and we’ll be posting a demo soon.

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