Re: "Annotation" and "annotation" (was: RE: [data-model] Proposed Abstract for Web Annotation Data Model Spec)

In the Model, the Annotation and the *pointers* - forgive me, i know this
is not the perfect term - to Body e Targets are one resource. But the
actual Bodies and Targets can be separate resources. And Targets usually
are separate resources. Even in physical annotations you can have a
reference to another volume or book ("see ..."), which is exactly another

Given this, I don’t think in the abstract these details matter.

I personally like the beginning of the current abstract that I would
probably slightly rephrase to:
“Annotations express information about a resource, or associations between
resources. The Web Annotation Data Model specifies a structured…”

It is simple, short and, in the last two years of public speaking, it did
not seem hard to understand for anybody implementers and non-implementers.
Of course, the audience wanted to know more after that… and the
non-normative Introduction - ultimately the whole document - gives a more
precise idea of what this is about. In my experience, going the other way
around by 'asking the audience what annotation is' generates tons of
different views and definitions. This is because digital annotation, as Rob
said, is a very broad and hard concept to box in a definition.

I am not for renaming “Annotation” to “AnnotationAssertion”, which is
longer and, I believe, harder to understand. Speaking strictly as a
developer, I use ‘List’ and it's subclasses every day. A List is also a
“ListAssertion” as it is normally pointing to other objects resources. But
I like I just call it List.


On Fri, Nov 14, 2014 at 11:34 AM, Robert Sanderson <>

> On Thu, Nov 13, 2014 at 10:01 PM, Doug Schepers <> wrote
>>  If there is intended to be a meaningful distinction between
>>> “Annotation” and “annotation” – and I think it is a good idea –
>> This truly confuses me. Why would that be a good idea? If our aim is to
>> produce an intuitive data model, why would we make distinctions that are
>> fuzzy and counterintuitive?
> I didn't intend to imply that we should define annotation and Annotation
> differently, just that Doug is talking about the lay person's concept of an
> annotation from the physical world, as per the definitions, whereas the web
> annotation data model is about Web Annotations, which encompass a lot more
> than that.
>> I quoted several dictionary definitions for "annotation" [1]; none of
>> them made the distinction between the content (the annotation body) and the
>> description of the relationship (what Rob and you call the "Annotation").
>> In fact, they all referred to the annotation body as the annotation; the
>> attachment aspect was mostly secondary (though important).
> None of these definitions included tagging, replying to other annotations,
> annotating with audio or video comments, accessibility,
> internationalization, multiple targets or bodies, choices or lists, style
> of annotations, haring, duplication, searching etc etc etc.  The
> possibilities of Web Annotation go far beyond what is possible in the
> physical, paper based world.  We can't reuse definitions intended for the
> physical world and expect them to encompass the range of features that are
> desired for annotations in the digital.
> Doesn't it make more sense to give the digital analog of an annotation as
>> much verisimilitude to a traditional annotation as possible, so people
>> understand it immediately?
> I don't think that it does, no, due to the above.
>> If we really need a term for "the part of an annotation that makes an
>> assertion about the relationship between the body and the target", why
>> don't we coin a new term ("Annotation Assertion"?), rather than overloading
>> the term "Annotation" with a conflicting or narrower definition? (This is
>> bit like the problem with "punning", I guess...)
> It's not conflicting or narrower, it's broader due to its capabilities
> from being a Web Annotation, not marks on a physical object.
>> Looking at a sample annotation from the spec ...
>> ... it certainly looks to me like the body, the body's content, the
>> target, and the indicator that the object is an annotation are all bound up
>> in a single package, not separate resources. That's what I think of as an
>> annotation (or Annotation).
> If I have an annotation with the target being and the
> body being a video on YouTube that I just uploaded, are you saying that CNN
> is not a separate resource from YouTube?  You seem to be completely
> throwing out the web architecture to say that these are not separate
> resources and just parts bound up in a package called an annotation.
> I strongly disagree that the bodes, targets, and annotation are not
> separate resources and I think that many others would agree with that
> position.  As such the annotation cannot be just a package of things, it
> must be at least the association between resources, some of which may be
> embedded within the serialization for ease of consumption.
> Rob
> --
> Rob Sanderson
> Technology Collaboration Facilitator
> Digital Library Systems and Services
> Stanford, CA 94305

Dr. Paolo Ciccarese
Assistant Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School
Assistant in Neuroscience, Massachusetts General Hospital
Senior Information Scientist, MGH Biomedical Informatics Core

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Received on Friday, 14 November 2014 17:40:23 UTC