Category Archives: comments

Golden Notebook Update: Even More Marginalia

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A screen is an extremely limited amount of space. We knew when we started The Golden Notebook Project that we could only fit about seven readers comfortably within the margins of the book. However, we are not interested solely in these seven (wonderful) readers; we want the public to contribute to the discussion. A program called ReframeIt allows you to annotate any page on the web, and we’d like to try it for the Project. ReframeIt displays tiny colored boxes in the sidebar that expand into full comments – this isn’t especially pretty, but it allows for many more comments in a single sidebar than you would have if you displayed every comment in its entirety, making room for many more comments than before. The program also allows you to highlight (as shown above) and allows for all sorts of social networking. We’re excited to try this for The Golden Notebook so that the original text, the seven readers’ comments, and public comments can be in one space (rather than dividing the readers’ comments and the public forums into separate pages). We would like to invite you to join and follow along in the margins with us. You can download the Firefox extension here.

commentpress update

Since we launched Holy of Holies last year, we’ve made a lot of progress with the paragraph-level commenting system we’ve been building on top of WordPress. We’ve taken to calling it “Commentpress,” and until we get significant pushback (or a great alternative suggestion), we’re sticking with it. This is a pre-announcement to say that we’re pursuing plans to open it up as a plugin for WordPress in March (middle to end of the month).
The original instantiation was put together very quickly over the course of a week and was the dictionary definition of a hack. Still, we knew we had something that was worthwhile from the feedback we received, and we were excited to figure out the next step for Commentpress. That was almost two months ago. In that time, we’ve launched three other sites in Commentpress (1 2 3). Each new installation has seen additions and refinements to the Commentpress functionality. But we haven’t released it.
Why the delay? It’s not because we are reluctant to let it go. No, it’s just that we feel a responsibility to present a project that is ready for the community to act upon. And that means taking a good crack at it ourselves: we want to have a minimum level of ease of use in the installation, a little documentation, and a code package that looks like something constructed by humans rather than something that crawled out from the primordial ooze. That will take a little time due to all the other projects and launches we’ve got throughout the spring. We’re also spending time trying to figure out how to manage an open-source project. Since we’ve never really done it before, suggestions, case studies, horror stories, and revealing of miracles are welcome.
Thanks for your patience, and we’ll keep you informed.

a book by any other name

Predicting the future is a fool’s errand, but it comforts me to look back on the past and see that some questions are important enough to revisit in each new age. In the 1996 collection The Future of the Book, edited by Geoffrey Nunberg, there are several essays that treat the same questions that we are concerned with now: how will reading change in the digital environment? What will be the form of digital texts? What role for the author? The reader?
Dan’s recent post provoked a range of commentary that clearly illustrates the ongoing status of the debate. Despite the fact that these questions were raised, and treated, more than a decade ago—and certainly even further back, in texts I am unaware of (please make recommendations)—their answers are still unknown, which makes their relevance undiminished. The discussion is necessary, as Gary Frost pointed out, because “we do not have a vernacular beyond synthetics such as blog or Wiki or live journal or listserv.” We haven’t developed a canonical term for this idea of a digital text that includes multimedia, that accretes other text and multimedia from the activity of the network. When you are working at the edges of technology, inventing new terms of art to try and explain and market your concept, the jargon production is fever pitched. But we just haven’t been exploring this question long enough to see what odd word will stick that can serve to separate the idea of a physical book, in all its permutations, from the notion of a networked book, in its unexplored mystery. It’s a fundamental direction of our research at the Institute, and the contributions from our community of readers continues to be instructive.