Annotating thoughts

Shared meaning is an important goal for any company trying to survive in
the slower knowledge economy. With shared meaning, comes easier
communication, greater alignment, more profitable identification of gaps,
market shifts and competitor strategies, easier cross community sharing
and improved awareness.

A key 'affordance' for supporting shared meaning and increasing
understanding is annotation, the ability to respond to written text,
critique, amend and anneal. Facile annotation speeds idea cycles,
introduces diversity of thoughts, supports & improves knowledge claim
validation, creates conditions for synergy and helps with the emergence of
new connections and knowledge.

Annotation may be a digital 'Post it Note', a note in the margin, a comment
on an instant message log by a 3rd party, a formal critique, comments on a
memo, adding new content or correcting someone's spelling errors. What we
need is the ability to attach annotations to a wide variety of objects
(power point presentations, styled Word documents, discussion posts, chat
room logs, podcasts). Such annotations should be with or without date & time
stamps, explicit author or pointers to the source. We should make provision for
annotations to annotations as well.

Annotations serve to capture key learnings and to allow the emergence of
improved context and meaning. Although the ability to have flexible
annotation services is key, it is not the entire story by any means. There
must be a culture that supports open communication, a recognition of the
value of strong feedback, an acceptance of the key role of validation and
critique, before any company will extract value from their annotation
services and functionality. Here is an article on text annotation:

Article based discussions from

The irony is bloggers such as eLearningPost do not support easy and
intuitive feedback and are mainly a one-to-many broadcast medium or
publishing genre.

I expect annotation to be a key KM functionality soon. So what role does
annotation really play in your organization and the way you work with
knowledge ??

A reflection around the use and (severe lack of) ubiquity of annotation,
interactivity and feedback mechanisms in knowledge management
applications. I see far too much publishing, push and static text with
little affordance for interaction, yet it is in the interaction, the
supplied context, rationale, alternate solution, different view, critique,
embellishment, reminder or suggestion that knowledge emerges, is created
and sustained. The 'knowledge' (really information) in the static document
is congealed, intractable and dormant.

So I'm looking at annotation / feedback as a whole, either my notes or
your critique of my notes, at the granularity of attachment, at the need
and implementation of bi-directional links, privacy gradients and the
practices around annotation that add or destroy value.

This is not a discovery of annotation as something new, it not a
revelation of the power of hypertext, linking or attaching objects, it is
a muse that we do not see much of this affordance, that certain forms e.g.
guestbooks may not be ideal (too serial and detached from the context?),
that much valued comment is never attached back, e.g. e-mail and thus
lives in a totally separate world, that privacy gradients and the ability
to hide or reveal annotations in context is key.

Annotations edge us closer to situatedness & context both of which, I
believe, are under appreciated in current knowledge management system


Annotation software