Michael Donohoe at the New York Times has developed an ingeniously simple way to mark the key passages in online articles, for the reader’s own use and for the use of others. He calls it Emphasis, and it’s like Kindle annotations but for Times articles. Donohoe’s hope is that it becomes a standard across the web (which is a consummation devoutly to be wished) and consequently has open-sourced the code and posted it to Github. Check out his explanation for it here.

I have for a long time kept an online commonplace book where I post quotations from online writing, but have been occasionally frustrated by the technologies involved. I was on Tumblr for more than three years, but in recent months the site has been down so often that it has been nearly unusable for me. I shifted to Posterous, but I do not at all like the way Posterous handles text copied from webpages (it preserves all the HTML, which means I often end up with some really crappy markup on my own site that I don’t want). I may end up going back to Tumblr.
But if I could mark up the web pages themselves and just link to them via Twitter, readers would be able to see highlighted the material I find interesting. No need to copy and paste to a new site. That would be cool.


  1. At a glance, Emphasis looks a lot like Reframe It, which is a highlighting/commenting site/service that keeps comments in context at the source. I like Reframe It's implementation but am not quite the eager self-promoter that it takes to attract a following (as with blogging and Twittering).

  2. brutus, I looked at Reframe It and it was somewhat difficult for me to figure out what it does — but I'll look into it more closely. Thanks for the tip.

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