Monday, August 03, 2009


Anna Karenina Last week I was chatting to @stujohnson and he mentioned that @nosnilwar was interested in developing online discussion formats for various texts. For the purpose of tinkering, we decided to play with the Project Gutenberg version of Anna Karenina.

Stuart had suggested using diigo for the purpose. I had never found a use for diigo before, so I installed the diigo bookmarklet (rather than the toolbar, which can't be installed on Macintoshes or on CFS) and had a play. A nice feature of diigo are the sticky notes other users can see on annotated pages:

diigo note

What I really like about this is that the discussion is inline with the text. However, the amount of text which can be placed in a note is limiting and if many people are commenting on the same text, it would get messy, so it may be necessary to use the diigo groups for extended discussion:

diigo groups

I thought it might be possible to use CiteULike for similar purposes. By manually bookmarking a passage of text it's possible to build up a dataset, although this is relatively laborious since the process is not automated. However, it does provide access to the nice features of CiteULike such as tagging and RSS everywhere. There is no direct way to have inline discussions around the selected passages, although each CiteULike group has its own message board, discussion forum and blog:

CiteULike group

The last thing I tried was a shared Google document. However, at 1.9 Mb, the text is too long (500 MB limit), but by splitting it into the the eight component parts - not ideal - I was able to upload each one. Google Docs allows those with editing permission to add inline comments and footnotes to the text:

Google docs

To try to promote discussion, it would be advisable to notify the people who can edit the document when annotations are added:

Google document
All of these solutions could work, so I guess you pays your money (or not) and takes your choice. What have I missed?