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).