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Tools for Translators: hypothes.is

I have a confession to make: I like trying out new tools. Apps, software, plugins, anything that can help me with taking notes, writing, managing my time and overall being more efficient, I like to try.

One tool I’ve discovered recently and which has instantly become a favourite is the open-source project hypothes.is. What does it do? Something very simple yet incredibly useful: it lets you annotate the web.

hypothes.is homepage

How many times have you found yourself researching something for a translation, then copying and pasting it to a text file, or clipping it into Evernote(1) “for further reference”, only to forget about it once the job is done and let it disappear in the inmost depths of your computer? In my case, far too many times. Hypothes.is feels like a great alternative to all that pasting and clipping because it allows me to highlight and annotate webpages, then organise and search through notes without cluttering my laptop.

Our team is building an open platform for discussion on the web. It leverages annotation to enable sentence-level critique or note-taking on top of news, blogs, scientific articles, books, terms of service, ballot initiatives, legislation and more. (Source)

So how does it work? You start by registering on their website and adding a bookmarklet to your browser. (Alternatively, if you’re a Chrome user, you can download an extension.)

A simple drag and drop into your bookmarks bar, and you’re done!

Then, well… Let the annotating begin! Click on the bookmark you’ve just created to launch the app and you’ll see a few icons appear on the right-hand side of your browser. By default, annotations and highlights are public for everyone to see and comment on — which makes it a great tool for students and researchers as well. If you’d rather keep your notes private or only share them with specific people, you can also create groups.

Examples of groups: Public, Asteroid Hunters and Translucere

I’m using two at the moment: “Translucere”, where I’m storing general information, and “Asteroid Hunters” in which I’m collecting data for one of my current translation projects.

Comments you add on a webpage show up in the sidebar — along with notes made by other users if you’re in Public mode. As you can see, only the notes created on this particular Wikipedia page are visible. All highlights and comments filed under “Translucere” can be accessed, searched, shared and edited from my profile on the hypothes.is website.

Here’s what an annotated page looks like.

Visualising all notes in a group

Of course, what suits some people might not feel right to others…

So why does this tool work for me?

Because I do a lot of reading online. Not exclusively, of course, but RSS feeds and articles shared on social media are definitely part of my daily reading routine. When I stumble upon a quote or a piece of information that I find interesting, I like to make a note of it so that future me can easily retrieve it when she needs it.

I’m also a little obsessive when it comes to organising information — especially when information is dematerialised. Very rarely do I bookmark entire webpages or add them to my favourites: it just doesn’t work for me. My browser is for… well, browsing, not for storing ridiculous amounts of links. Before using hypothes.is, I would just clip things into Evernote. But once you’ve written and saved hundreds of notes, finding what you need can be a little tedious. Besides, I have visual memory so the possibility of highlighting text definitely helps me retain things better.

Hypothes.is has become an efficient go-between in my workflow: whenever I’m looking something up and want to keep a record of it, all I need to do is launch the app and start annotating. It has proven particularly useful on short projects, when I have to do a lot of research and don’t want to waste time wondering whether I want to store information in the long run or not. Rather than storing pages and pages of definitions, interviews and various articles, I can save only the information I need — and since the entire webpage is just one click away, I can easily recontextualise this information later.

I’m curious to see how the platform will evolve over time and what use people will make of it… So if you choose to give it a try, let me know your thoughts!


If you’d like to read more about hypothes.is, have a look at this article from Fast Company: “Are We Finally Ready To Annotate The Entire Internet?

  1. Or any other note-taking platform, for that matter! ↩︎
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