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ReadSocial is an API that helps content owners add paragraph-level comments (and groups) into their text. Think: discussions at the source. This blog covers what the RS team has to say.

June 14, 2013 at 5:08pm
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Larry Page’s thesis idea: a tool to annotate webpages. He wound up just building Google instead. #socialannotationsarehardbutcool
Wired, Feb 2013.

Larry Page’s thesis idea: a tool to annotate webpages. He wound up just building Google instead. #socialannotationsarehardbutcool

Wired, Feb 2013.

May 21, 2013 at 2:59pm
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Reblogged from directingfilm

The best way to combat piracy isn’t legislatively or criminally but by giving good options.

— Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos - who claims that every time Netflix enters a new territory, its numbers go up while Torrent numbers go down.  More here. (via directingfilm)

April 8, 2013 at 2:07pm
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ReadSocial Powers Open Access Publishing with QScience


ReadSocial is excited to announce a new partner, QScience! QScience is working to make open access, peer reviewed content richer and more interactive, using ReadSocial as the basis for contextual discussion.  

QScience.com launched in September 2011 (so they’ve got some cutting edge ideas). It’s technically a peer-reviewed online publishing platform that offers a collaborative research environment for scientists. The platform publishes a range of peer reviewed, high quality, open access journals, databases and repositories which adhere to international publishing standards.

As for ReadSocial, we now have paragraph-level commenting and groups working in a number of different environments (web, iPad, inside EPUBs). Since groups are created using hashtags, it’s possible to create very specific, subject-based discussions on top of articles as well. QScience was looking for something that offered powerful discussion features and was easy to implement (and scale), and thus the partnership was born. 

With ReadSocial, QScience readers can add commentary to any paragraph of any research article on the site (much more valuable than adding it at the end, where the context of a comment is often lost).  This means that when other researchers come to the article they’ll see comments made by others adjacent to the relevant paragraph, and they can respond with a comment, link or image. QScience is the first academic publisher to deploy this technology.  

In the official announcement, Paul Coyne, Technical Systems Director at QScience, said, “ReadSocial fits perfectly into the QScience vision that research should be open, transparent, shareable and social. We are very excited about this new development and believe that it will demonstrate to our authors our commitment to making their works highly visible, read and cited.”  

See an example of it being used on QScience here.

October 16, 2012 at 3:21pm
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It Is Easy For People To Miss Disruptive Trends

Atomic Change

A colleague sent this over to me today. It’s from an essay called “It Is Easy For People To Miss Disruptive Trends,” posted today on TechDirt. 

"People are notoriously bad at recognizing important trends in innovation. It’s most commonly seen in people dismissing some new technology or service as being unimportant. Over and over again, people seem to think that the world is static and thus, people "won’t need" certain technologies in the future…."

And he continues:

"…I’d say that if people aren’t missing the trend, then it’s not disruptive. What makes disruptive innovation so disruptive is often the very fact that so many people dismiss it and insist that nothing will come of it. It’s that dismissiveness that often helps the innovation become so powerful, because it gets better and better while people are so busy writing it off. And then, suddenly, it’s ready and the world wants it. And the incumbent players, who dismissed it, all feel taken by surprise. "

Last week I was watching the Twitter feed for a European conference (I wasn’t attending), and people were debating the value of social reading, discussing how they didn’t think anyone wanted conversations in their books. That was weird. After all, I can’t imagine pitching them on Twitter a decade ago, “it’s a backchannel that lets you have a conversation with other people in the room while a presentation is going on.” Right. Explained like that, most people would have agreed they don’t want a digital way to talk about a presentation while the presentation is, well, being presented, especially with people sitting in the same room. But it is now a conference requirement.

It’s a bit hard to tell how things will work out. So often it’s about how a technology is integrated that matters.

October 5, 2012 at 1:18pm
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Andreessen on 1993 Social Features for Mosaic


Back in 1993, when Eric Bina and I were first building Mosaic, it seemed obvious to us that users would want to annotate all text on the web – our idea was that each web page would be a launchpad for insight and debate about its own contents.

So we built a feature called “group annotations” right into the browser – and it worked great – all users could comment on any page and discussions quickly ensued. Unfortunately, our implementation at that time required a server to host all the annotations, and we didn’t have the time to properly build that server, which would obviously have had to scale to enormous size. And so we dropped the entire feature.

Yep. Unless it’s your core feature, you probably don’t want to build it. The devil is in the details…kinda the raison d’être for ReadSocial.

Source here.

August 31, 2012 at 5:10pm
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Founder Travis Alber’s video for the Women 2.0 PITCH NYC event. #ReadSocialInANutshell

August 9, 2012 at 3:05pm
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Envisioning ReadSocial.

ReadSocial is an API. Technically that means it’s a bunch of code, running complex interactions on a server. It lives in the cloud. In the case of ReadSocial, the code tracks paragraphs and selections, comments, who makes them, who replies, etc., and serves up those conversations on whatever device that text appears. But at its core it is just lines and lines of code that the average user can’t see. That can make it hard to imagine. 

For programmers that’s alright. Once they get the core concept they can often begin to think about how to use it. But for the sake of discussion (and speed), we also offer a few pieces of ReadSocial for the front-end. Pieces you can see. User interfaces that you can look at and understand. They give us a basis to talk about how it might work inside your content. These code libraries also let you get up and running immediately - if you like them you can use them right out of the box. One is for web-based content. The other is for iPad apps. The clients are open-source, so you can update them with your logo. Or change the look-and-feel. You can build completely new clients from what we’ve given you, to make it fully customizable. Just tie them to our backend and you’re good to go. You get the idea.

I’ve added a few screenshots of our web and iPad clients to this post. The functionality is the same for both, they just look a little different, because one is on the web and the other is, well, on the iPad. But they both do the same thing - enable conversations inside a piece of text, and move those conversations across systems, to wherever that text lives.

July 31, 2012 at 3:53pm
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Melville House interviews ReadSocial

Travis and Aaron

A perspective on the future of the book

Travis Alber and Aaron Miller both have undergraduate degrees in English, and Aaron also has a MFA in creative writing from Irvine. One might expect them to have typical literary professions, perhaps in traditional publishing or journalism. In fact, for the last 15 years they’ve had careers in technology. Having always been interested in the ways that literature and technology intersect, they’re two brilliant minds on the forefront of the ways that web and ebook technology are converging. And they think it’s an exciting place to be. Travis was able to answer a few questions about the future of publishing from Argentina….Read More

July 26, 2012 at 12:42pm
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Commenting On The Web Is Broken

Women 2.0

ReadSocial Founder Travis Alber recently contributed Commenting On The Web Is Broken to the Women 2.0 network; it’s an article that discusses the need for innovation in how we communicate around what we read. 

Commenting is broken. I don’t want to sound too harsh, realizing there are comments at the end of this article and that it’s technically possible to use them. The paradigm for commenting on the web hasn’t changed in 15 years, but how we communicate online has. We communicate in the moment. We share our thoughts. Talk about it.

But just like we’ve done for more than a decade, we talk about it somewhere else. We scroll 30 paragraphs down the article and type in a little box at the end. Or open a separate tab. Sometimes we comment on a separate social network with just a link to send people back to what we’re talking about.

Although we live in a world where we want to discuss things in the moment, it is somehow nearly impossible to discuss it in context. In a world where we have more ways to get information and more ways to share it, why don’t we have the ability to talk about it in context, where that information lives?

Read the rest on Women 2.0.

June 18, 2012 at 3:24pm
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The Straw that Stirs the Drink

Street Art in San Francisco, near Clay and Polk

I can tell a ReadSocial meeting is on track when the person I’m speaking to gets a little uncomfortable and says “Well, I have to tell you, we talk a lot about adding social to our books. We’re thinking about building this.” Most people expect me to get defensive, but my reaction is usually:

That’s great! Of course you are!

If you’ve put much thought into it, you realize that it’s more complex than just highlighting a few words. I’d imagine you’re realizing you’re going to have to hire the right team, commit those resources for the next 3-6 months, set up and manage the servers, create or customize a content management system, figure out what social paradigm you’re going to use, design and build out the feature set, have a vision for the product roadmap, and get buy-in for a budget to handle all that long-term.

That’s why we built the ReadSocial API, because everyone is thinking about this.

All I can really say is: you can use this right now. Today. All those tasks above? We already did all that. Moreover, you still own the content and the users, we’re just the straw that stirs the drink. We’re ready to help you launch it today, you know? Just sayin’