Thursday, June 25, 2009

Using Web Annotation Tools for Projects and Research

All of the sudden we have quite a few players in the web annotation and notes game. A number of startups have been around for a while, like Diigo, Fleck, ShiftSpace, TrailFire, and Stickis, they let you add notes or comments in a sidebar to any public web page you happen to be browsing. These notes can be to yourself or an you can share them with friends or your network, and likewise you could also view notes from others on your network. Very recently, Reframe It, became yet another web annotation application offering much of the same features, plus a few social whistles like a Twitter-style feature to follow other people's comments.

One of the primary goals behind this type of application is to build a more informative browsing experience, and to build social networks around something we all do when we're not on our social networks, browsing the web. And while many of us will use tools like Stumbleupon to browse and discover the web, it's the contribution and integration of user opinion and knowledge to the actual activity of browsing which offers so much promise. Yet, if you spend some time on any of these web notes networks you quickly sense that the missing ingredient which would make these social apps graduate to powerful knowledge tools may never fall into place - critical mass.

Web annotation tools simply don't have the numbers to make them a relevant research tool for the solo browser. However, if you're actively involved in a "working" group or network on any one of these annotation sites, there is quite a bit of promise in using these tools for research and to project manage chunks of online research by a group.

If I were to recommend a web annotation tool I would definitely put my money on Diigo as the best service for researchers. Some of the key features in Diigo are that
  • it lets you post links to your blog,
  • connect to a number of well-used subject communities, and
  • it lets you explore these communities via a well-developed directory.
For more information on Diigo and how to use it check out their video.