Web Annotation Addenda

Genius' Response in Recode

After Rep. Katherine Clark wrote a letter to Genius asking for clarification about its abuse-reporting and other policies, this article appeared at Recode with its reply. The article includes the full response letter from co-founder Tom Lehman. It notes:

We built the Genius Web Annotator to allow anyone to contribute to a layer of context, commentary, and criticism on top of any web page. Like every platform that enables commentary, it has the potential to be misused. However, we want to be clear that Genius does not enable abuse. This is a false narrative that has taken hold on Twitter and other outlets.

Twitter isn't a news outlet, but a collection of features, but, ok! And every platform always asserts that it doesn't enable abuse until such point as they change features to help fight abuse. 

nd we discover that Genius has moderators who read every annotation. They are…volunteers. And that isn't scalable. But also, ok! From the article:

Zechory said that there is a group of volunteer community moderators (like on Reddit) who examine all this content and can take action if they see abuse. He says that there is also a full-time staffer, originally a Genius community member, whose job is to monitor all comments made on the Web annotation tool as a safeguard, should the moderators miss something.

March 28 articles

Three articles appeared Monday about Genius and Ella's concerns and interactions. Slate wrote "Misguided Genius: A new tool wants to annotate everything on the Internet. But at what cost?" And at the Observer, "Genius Web Annotator vs. One Young Woman With a Blog: Can annotating text online straighten out our collective reasoning, or will it just be a new vector for trolls?"

That latter article included these even more chilling paragraphs:

During a recent interview with Ralph Swick, Chief Operating Officer of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the web’s standards body, he expressed optimism that a web standard for annotation is coming, which would almost certainly mean that the feature would be built into every major browser.
When and if it does, users might see some sort of flag at the top of their screen showing if any given web page has been annotated. Clicking on that flag might reveal a multitude of layers of communities that have chimed in, perhaps everyone from political parties to 8Chan users.

An article at Recode, "The Company Formerly Known as Rap Genius Is Once Again Enmeshed in Controversy," had this gem from the editor at News Genius (who, for context, is a woman):

But no one is exempt from a closer look under the microscope of Genius — or whatever! — because of their gender.

I don't know if that person understands that they are using the cadence of assault there, but — whatever! It's also not responding to the primary criticism, which isn't about criticism itself, but context and the use of the complete Web page as it appears on someone else's site. That's distinct from nearly every other form of enduring commentary on the Net.

Other Web Annotation Systems

The Internet's long-term memory bank, the aforementioned Mr. Marks, reminded me of two other systems that had elements in common with Third Voice, Spinspotter, and Genius Web Annotator: SideWiki and QuickTopic's original incarnation.

And I found two more, of a different kind. Microsoft Edge includes annotation, but it's essentially local or personal; it's not globally publishable. Dave Peck also noted via a tweet his own 2000-era project, E-Quill (he was employee #1), which allowed annotations you could email to other people. Again, not globally publishable. He notes, "Abuse was... an issue then, too."

Aram Zucker-Scharff commends Diigo to me, "…you left off my fav 'everyone got excited and then forgot about it' web highlighter Diigo, which is still doing its thing."

And another: Annotea, an abandoned W3C local annotation standard (via ttepasse).

The Politest Spam Ever

One receives spams every day, but it is rare to have one that so eloquently and politely attempts to dissuade one from believing it is a fraud, and that even starts with my accurate first name. This is genuine message that appears to be fake due to its incredible earnestness: 

Greeting my dear Glenn,
How are you today? I hope you are fine. I want to assure that this transaction is real and that I am man of integrity. I can never contemplate or think of cheating you because as a christain we are taught to be our brother’s keeper and I do carry out my duty with the fear of God. I am married with kids and I will not do anything that will tarnish my family's image. I work so hard in order to better the lives of my family and people around me and this necessitated my letter to you, so that we can carry out this transaction in order to assure the future of our families.
I want you to trust me, as I will also trust you. You don't need to feel jittery or panicky because you are not going to lose anything in this transaction, rather you will gain tremendously from this transaction. Some of the stories written about Africa as a continent is very biased and prejudicial and has no place in our history. Such write ups are jaundiced, however, I know that there are some unscrupulous elements in the continent that their stock in trade is causing mischief but such people are in the minority. For this transaction to be successful, you have to remove all cynicism and skeptism that might be capable of jinxing this transaction. Have a positive attitude towards this transaction and I assure that you will smile at the end of this transaction.
I will guild and direct you on how to put claim over the release of the fund for our sharing according to the indicate percentage in my previous message which is subject to negotiation. The most important thing is for you to assure me that;
(1). You will not betrayed me at last (2). You will manage my share inyour country or company (if available). (3). You will stand as the sponsor; I mean you will finance the whole process of releasing this fund to you Do contact me on my private email:
Thanks and God Bless.
Regards, [OMITTED] REPLY TO MY PRIVATE EMAIL;( [OMITTED] ) Call me for discussion.

Pick-Up Artists and Kickstarter

I wrote a rather long item for BoingBoing about a Kickstarter campaign for a "seduction" guide that caused a lot of fuss in its final hours. The Kickstarter campaign itself sounded tame and somewhat lame. But the linked content that the project creator planned to turn into a book was full of a jumbled bunch of advice about how men can pick up women that mixed reasonable relationship guidelines with what is essentially sexual assault. 

The pick-up artist (PUA) community is largely socially awkward men who think there's a "secret" they're missing, when they simply cannot understand normal social interactions. The community reinforces the notion that women are objects and that tricks and techniques allow the practitioners to obtain the desired result: sex. It's pitiful and laughable, except for the notion that men should continuously physically escalating until a woman verbally or physically resists.

That's assault, not consent. Read more at BoingBoing.