Re: We need to start talking about group and public annotations

Carl Lagoze (
Wed, 20 Jul 1994 09:06:19 -0400

In message <>, w
>Okay, gang, I've looked EVERYWHERE I could, I've been on www-talk for the
>past 8 months and I've gone to the web conference in Geneva, and yet this
>topic eludes my research into its current status.
>The problem: we need to bring back group and public annotation BACK to
>the WWW.

> Brian


Thanks for lighting a fire under this topic. We've been talking about this issue
here at Cornell for a few months. An annotation system with various levels of
protection/authorization would be a big leap in the functionality of the Web.
Already we've seen forms move the web from simply a browsing system to a rather
powerful user interaction system. A good annotation infrastructure would move the
whole thing up a notch to a powerful collaboration system.

Our particular interest is using annotations for courseware. The most obvious
scenario is professor posts course notes and problem sets on the webs. Students
and teaching assistants should be able to annotate these documents to share
thoughts with other students. Clearly, there should be various levels of
protections - different groups should have different abilities to annotate (e.g.
students registered in the course should be able to only write annotations, TA's should be
able to delete some annotations, etc).

To summarize, some of the relevant design issues are:
- the authorization issues described above.
- arbitrary placement of annotations, the private annotation functionality as it
exists where all annotatins are linked at one place is insufficient. So would the
document designer need to specify specific annotation points?? Optimally, one would
like to click anywhere and add an annotation.
- document views - are annotations just another form of linkage or should there
be some mechanism for viewing the document with annotation embedded and then hiding
them (sort of like the outline collapse and expand feature you see in some outline
- time-to-live of annotations - should there be a way to add annotations that
dissapear after a specified time?
- How about moderated annotations?

Now I remember a draft group annotation design written by Andreeson that talked
about using usenet mail like features. I thought I had hard-copied this document
but I can't find it and its no longer available on the web. Does anybody have

Count me in on any further discussions on this. I think it opens up some real
interesting possibilities.

Carl Lagoze
Senior Software Engineer
Computer Science Technical Report Project
Department of Computer Science
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853

phone: 607-255-5691
FAX: 607-255-4428