Annotation for the web
Quality conversation is the cornerstone of human interaction. But on the web - where anyone can make any claim - there is a danger of truth, frame of reference, and debate going missing. It is unsurprising that we live in a world where inaccuracies or missing contexts result in deep misunderstandings, even on the scholarly web.
Dan’s fellowship idea was Hypothes.is, to counteract this issue and enable widespread annotation on the internet. The tool overlays the web and enables conversation, collaboration and critique on any online content, anchored in place and context, on any medium.
We supported Dan because the quality of online discussion and discourse needs powerful improvement, while his annotation tool promoted a more open web. Starting from scratch, Dan built Hypothesis on top of Philipp Schmidt and Rufus Pollock’s AnnotateIt project, and grew it from an early stage idea to a fully fledged organisation over the course of his three years as a fellow.
Today, Hypothes.is is used by organisations, journalists, educators, scientists and collaborators who seek essential annotation tools for peer reviews, rebuttals, or engagements in contrary discussions. It has been enormously successful as a mission driven nonprofit, and at the time of writing has enabled 8 million annotations on over 800,000 online documents.
This project has been enormously successful in achieving sustainability and growing popularity, and Dan’s work has been important to proving the Foundation’s open philosophy, too. When the AnnotateIt project was put out into the world, not only did we all hope people would use it, but also build on it. Furthermore, after Dan’s focus on improving the level of debate in scholarly/expert circles, it provided inspiration for us to explore the quality of discourse in the public sphere, namely with Peter Cunliffe-Jones and Africa Check.
“The Foundation is an incredibly rare and unique organisation that provides substantial funding - essentially a million dollars over three years - to pursue open source technology projects in the public interest.
“And that really - as a category - doesn’t exist. There are a few other little things out there but essentially it doesn’t exist in any other forum.”