Melody Kramer

Quick Thoughts About Annotation

20 Jan 2015 by melodyjoykramer

I tried using Genius to annotate the State of the Union address that was posted on Medium. Genius, which is still in beta, started out as a way to annotate rap lyrics but has since expanded to create an annotation layer that allows anyone to add annotations as a new layer on any website. They just hired a few journalists to strengthen their work across news platforms.

It’s smart, if it works. An annotation layer across all websites could make traditional comment sections irrelevant, while giving Genius a plethora of information about how people interact with content across the web.

Here are my quick thoughts:

  1. Information that provides context is different than people offering commentary. There’s currently no way to say “I’m providing more or additional information vs. I’m providing a comment.” I didn’t really care or want to click on comments from people who were making fun of the President’s speech. I really only wanted to see the ones that provided additional information but there is currently no way to differentiate between different types of annotation, visually or otherwise.

  2. The prompts within Genius instruct you to “Say something interesting” or “Show love.” I would be curious if they’ve experimented with different prompts. Asking someone to say something interesting doesn’t instruct them on what makes the best annotation. On a comment page, you can easily see the community norms. How do you instruct people on what the community norms are when the community extends to the entire web?

Screenshot 2015-01-20 22.05.51 Screenshot 2015-01-20 22.02.34

  1. Genius now knows what websites I visit, who my Facebook friends are, what I like on Facebook, and what I comment on, on a website. That provides a pretty detailed picture of me, overall, for advertisers.

  2. There’s nothing to currently indicate that there are Genius annotations on a page.

  3. By having Genius, I no longer had access to Medium’s tweet-what-you’ve-highlighted feature, which is one of the things I like best about the platform.

  4. Genius lets you upvote annotations, share a specific annotation, and/or share the annotation on social.

Screenshot 2015-01-20 22.14.35


I would be interested in seeing a list of the most upvoted annotations across the web on any given day, though part of what I currently really like about Reddit is being able to see comments within the context of a larger conversation.

  1. For this to work, I think there needs to be a community. On Wikipedia, the community wants to add knowledge. On Reddit, different communities function in different ways. I will be curious to see how Genius plans to tackle community, because I think it’s a lot more difficult when everyone is leaving a comment here or there.

  2. I would like a way to expand all annotations or see all annotations within a page. I would like to be able to annotate in mediums other than text. I would like to know when someone is an expert or has a particular expertise, if they’re annotating something related to that expertise.

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