Framing Use Cases (was: Annotating Bibliographic Information)

Hi, Ray, folks–


Let's describe our use cases in a way that highlights the most common 
uses of Web Annotations.

Long-winded version:

I took the liberty of converting your .doc file into HTML format 
(attached); this is the preferred format for W3C, for obvious reasons, 
not least of which is that it can be viewed in email clients and our 
online archives without opening it in a separate app. I hope this helps 
the conversation.

I took the further liberty of adding a couple of links that I found 
helpful in reading it; I didn't know before what BIBFRAME was, so I 
linked to the Wikipedia article on that; I also added a link to the 
BIBFRAME Annotation Model whitepaper, because I was confused about the 
way you were using the word "annotation". I hope my links help others on 
this list.

As I said on the last telcon, if the deliverables of this WG help your 
use case, that's great; if the data model or other specs can be tweaked 
to be more helpful to your particular need, that seems like a good idea.

The web has become the overwhelming success it is today because people 
took the basic building blocks provided to them, and used them for 
creative purposes unforeseen. Few people would have thought at the 
beginning of the Web, "hey, let's take this document format and use it 
to build full-powered applications." But that's what we did, and that's 
what makes it great.

So, if you see some of the basic building blocks of Web Annotations and 
think, "hey, we can use that to build a distributed bibliographic 
reference system that allows 'class inheritance' or 'subtyping' of 
bibliographic entries to add information (like whether our library has a 
copy of this book)", then that's useful, especially if it means that 
some of that content can be directly exposed through the web more 
easily. If we don't have to do anything special to meet your use case, 
and it just works out of the box, even better!

For me, however, that's not an exemplar of a Web Annotation. It's a 
specialized use with some overlap. Your technical terminology uses the 
word "annotation", but I think you mean it in a slightly different sense 
than what I'd call an annotation (and more like what I'd call 

(For those not familiar with exemplar theory: if I ask you to name a 
type of bird, you're likely to say "pigeon" or "starling" or "hawk" or 
"duck"; you're less likely to say "ostrich", and even less likely still 
to say "penguin". These are all fine birds, but the latter 2 have fewer 
features in common with other birds. Members of a category that have 
more features in common with other members of that category are known as 

If an annotation only has a link selection, and no body (e.g., a 
highlight), is it an annotation? How about if the body of the annotation 
is simply a link to another lengthy resource, or there's no body but two 
link selections? How about if the body of the annotation is a link to an 
image or video, which is then rendered inline in the annotation viewer? 
Yes, those are all annotations, but they aren't exemplars, in my opinion.

Why is this relevant? When we're collecting use cases, we're not just 
making a list of all possible uses for a technology. We're communicating 
an aspirational goal for our desired outcome to a wide community of 
potential stakeholders, in an effort to get them involved because they 
see relevance to what they're doing; so you might think that we want to 
cast the net as broadly as possible. But we're also trying to convince 
them that this effort is worth investing resources in, and that the odds 
of success are high, which means that we are clear on our goals and 
priorities, and that we are focused on a set of smaller gains that lead 
toward broader wins.

With that in mind, my preference would be for our use cases and 
requirements to be framed in terms of those exemplars that the broadest 
audience is likely to relate to. It might be as simple as casting the 
actors. So, when I think of your cover art example, I might say:

Anna is reading a short story on her ebook reader, and the main 
character reminds her of a drawing by her friend; she annotates an 
instance of the character's name with a link to the drawing online. Ben 
works at a library, and has gotten permission to add the short story to 
their ebook collection; he wants to find cover art for it, so he 
searches an online annotation service for annotations on the short story 
that include images, and finds Anna's annotation. Ben obtains permission 
from the artist to use the image, and publishes the short story with its 
new cover art.

(I might have added some social aspect to it, like, "Ben replies to 
Anna's annotation asking for the source, and Anna connects him to her 

This still covers your use case, but it does so in a narrative that 
emphasizes different aspects of the desired ecosystem; it's got the 
distributed aspect, an end user reading and annotating a selection in an 
ebook, online annotation services, linking to online image services, 
social media, search and discovery, all wrapped up in a story, with 
characters who have motivations. It feels less like "there's a 
collection of data in a database, we don't care how the data got there, 
and we searched the database", and more like, "here's a bunch of people 
in the wonderful future world of web annotations! Huzzah!" (And hey, 
maybe Anna works at a library, too, so this might be the very same story 
you told.) It includes an exemplar act of annotation, something that 
could only happen with web annotations, rather than a story that could 
substitute "Google image search" for "annotation" (of course, Google 
could index annotations to add relevance to their image search...).

You might think this is trivial, but I think it makes a real difference 
in the story we're trying to tell people about this new thing called 
"Web Annotations", which they are trying to distinguish from other 

Does that seem reasonable to you?


On 12/19/14 10:50 AM, Denenberg, Ray wrote:
> At the recent call I promised to elaborate on the use cases I had
> suggested, including cover art, and to try to explain why I think that
> cover art really is an annotation use case.   In order to do that I need
> to provide background on some of the thinking within the
> library/bibliographic community about annotations (specifically the
> thinking with the BIBFRAME project,  So I
> have prepared a (roughly) two-and-a-half page discussion paper that
> tries to provide background, in “layman” terms (i.e. for those not
> familiar with library/bibliographic terminology).  The paper is attached
> and I hope you will take the time to read it and to comment.
> (Note: I am not sure if this is the proper way to contribute a paper; if
> not, let me know how.)
> Ray

Received on Saturday, 20 December 2014 00:43:19 UTC