Thursday, 27 August 2009


A  few weeks ago Mark Rawlinson (@nosnilwar) in the School of English put a project idea to me. Months ago he got me reading Anna Karenina (because I'd never heard of it!) and since then he's been thinking about a project related to it. As most other people in the world seem to know (I didn't), Anna Karenina is quite a long book, more than 900 pages, the problem that Mark commonly experiences in tutorials is where students can't quite remember where they read something. They have experienced reading a book (often a very long book) but they can't pinpoint in the text where a particular theme, or idea, or event can be found. It therefore usually relies on the expertise and knowledge of the tutor to remember key sections for them. Mark's suggestion was to task students with reading a paper copy of a book in the conventional way but then ask them to tag or comment on an online version of the book. The tagging and commenting would need to be visible to a defined group and, importantly, searchable.

Rather than test the project out on 900 pages of Tolstoy, Mark suggested that we start with a short story, so we're using Ward no. 6 by Anton Chekhov (both this and Anna Karenina, and many others are available via Project Gutenberg).

Alan blogged about the project after an early meeting a few weeks ago, since then I've been thinking more about what tools to use for the tagging and commenting bit. Two tools seem like they might work:


Diigo's strap line is 'Highlight and Share the Web!' and describes itself as 'a powerful research tool and a knowledge-sharing community'. Alan didn't like diigo but it's growing on me (not least since I connected it up to my delicious account, but that's another post). The groups feature is the bit that looks like it's going to be the most useful for this project, and I've created a tagginganna group (which you can request to join if I haven't invited you already) and put the text of Ward no. 6 on a Wordpress site (am I allowed to do that?). I haven't tested it yet because no one has yet joined the Diigo group - so come and join in the fun! 'is a plugin for WordPress that lets you comment paragraph by paragraph in the margins of a text'. The blurb looks great (although I've had some issues with dodgy script):

I don't have WordPress downloaded and hosted so I'm using to host the project instead. You can find it here and, once you have a account (which looks confusingly similar to a WordPress account but is actually different), you can start commenting.

So, please help!


  1. I tried it on my server and it is up and running ok. If you want to host something for a test, let me know! :-)

  2. Do the students all need to use the same edition if they are going to tag things such as page numbers? Perhaps it is usual practice anyway to require students in English to use the same edition (my copy of Anna K certainly doesn't have the same cover as the example above, for example)

  3. Good to see you're using :-) Rather than have people sign up for an account in order to comment, you could change the 'discussion' settings so that people commenting for the first time have their comments moderated and after that, can comment freely. That way, you act as gatekeeper.

    My own approach is to let people comment freely without moderation and then if gets abused or spammed, quickly take action at that point. You might find that there's no need for moderation at all. You could change the privacy settings of the document to be ignored by Google and that will keep a lot of the public away, if that's what you want. Then again, an insighful comment from a member of the public might be welcomed?

  4. Thanks Joss. Hope to meet you at altc2009 so we can catch up

  5. [...] because James Clay retweeted it at ALTC2009 (thanks James!). I’m pleased to see one of the Tagginganna posts up there, Advice from Helpdesk Hollie, and of course (who could forget) [...]