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Bibliographic References in Textus

- June 20, 2012 in Bibliographic, Open Shakespeare, Our Work, TEXTUS

Textus is the OKFN’s open source platform for working with collections of texts. It harnesses the power of semantic web technologies and delivers them in a simple and intuitive interface so that students, researchers and teachers can share and collaborate around collections of texts. Sites such as the upcoming and the existing contain collections of texts, annotated by their respective communities. Following some excellent conversations at the recent openBiblio workshop and hack session, we now have a plan to make these text repositories play nicely with the rest of the world. Many thanks to all the participants at the openBiblio event for their comments and help, in particular to Peter Murray-Rust and Simone Fonda, and to the organisers for getting everyone into the same room.

New features

Within the next few weeks, we’re hoping to add a whole load of new features to Textus, so you’ll be able to:
  • Browse the texts in that instance, filtering by authors, dates etc.
  • Create your own reading lists and control whether they’re publicly visible on your profile page or private. Items in these reading lists can be
    • External references, added either completely manually by filling in all the details or through a search interface.
    • Entire texts or fragments of texts from within the Textus instance itself, allowing you to add very specific content to your reading list.
    • …or you can import the entire reading list from an uploaded file in BibJSON format.
  • Add citations to your annotations. As with the reading list creation you can add entirely manually or through search, with the extra feature that you can search your own reading lists – this means you can create annotations which reference other regions of the same or other texts within the Textus instance.
  • Export your reading lists as BibJSON for import into other tools and services.

References in, references out

Currently annotations are free text comments, which may be attributable to a user or may be anonymous, but are rarely any richer than this. Annotations of this kind are valuable, but they lack solid backing. We’d like to allow our annotators to provide evidence through citations. On the other side of things, we want to be able to reference texts or parts of texts held within a Textus installation from elsewhere, including hyperlinks directly into the reader interface such that when someone cites a fragment of a play in they can provide a link which opens that part of the play in a web browser along with any relevent annotations. An interesting side effect of having a text in Textus is that citing any arbitrary part of that text becomes possible – traditionally it’s been difficult to create truly fine grained citations (down to the paragraph, sentence or even word level). We can do this trivially as Textus defines a coordinate system over each text and references refer to a contigious range of characters within this system. It will be interesting to see how tools which expect very coarse grained references (entire books, articles etc) cope with these much more precise citations, but that’s for the future…

Tech and implementation

To integrate the functionality described above into Textus we’re going to be taking advantage of three existing projects.
  • BibJSON provides a format to express bibliographic information.
  • BibServer provides a set of APIs we can use to search external sources of reference and expose references from Textus (allowing Textus to act as a BibServer instance itself)
  • FacetView provides a rich filtering and browsing interface embedded in the Textus website to allow navigation and display of collections. This depends on an ElasticSearch or SOLR instance with the data, happily we already use ElasticSearch as the data store for Textus.
So, there is one component we need to write (a sensible search UI across distributed BibServer instances, including the instance embedded within Textus) and a couple to integrate. There will certainly be glitches and things which aren’t as easy as we expect, but really thanks to the excellent work from these other projects we should be able to get a lot of functionality very quickly.

Prizewinning bid in ‘Inventare il Futuro’ Competition

- November 5, 2011 in Annotator, Bibliographic, Essays, Featured Project, Free Culture, Musings, News, OKF Projects, Open Shakespeare, Public Domain, Public Domain Works, texts, WG Humanities, WG Open Bibliographic Data

By James Harriman-Smith and Primavera De Filippi On the 11th July, the Open Literature (now Open Humanities) mailing list got an email about a competition being run by the University of Bologna called ‘Inventare il Futuro’ or ‘Inventing the Future’. On the 28th October, Hvaing submitted an application on behalf of the OKF, we got an email saying that our idea had won us €3 500 of funding. Here’s how.

The Idea: Open Reading

The competition was looking for “innovative ideas involving new technologies which could contribute to improving the quality of civil and social life, helping to overcome problems linked to people’s lives.” Our proposal, entered into the ‘Cultural and Artistic Heritage’ category, proposed joining the OKF’s Public Domain Calculators and Annotator together, creating a site that allowed users more interaction with public domain texts, and those texts a greater status online. To quote from our finished application:
Combined, the annotator and the public domain calculators will power a website on which users will be able to find any public domain literary text in their jurisdiction, and either download it in a variety of formats or read it in the environment of the website. If they chose the latter option, readers will have the opportunity of searching, annotating and anthologising each text, creating their own personal response to their cultural literary heritage, which they can then share with others, both through the website and as an exportable text document.

As you can see, with thirty thousand Euros for the overall winner, we decided to think very big. The full text, including a roadmap is available online. Many thanks to Jason Kitkat and Thomas Kandler who gave up their time to proofread and suggest improvements.

The Winnings: Funding Improvements to OKF Services

The first step towards Open Reading was always to improve the two services it proposed marrying: the Annotator and the Public Domain Calculators. With this in mind we intend to use our winnings to help achieve the following goals, although more ideas are always welcome:
  • Offer bounties for flow charts regarding the public domain in as yet unexamined jurisdictions.
  • Contribute, perhaps, to the bounties already available for implementing flowcharts into code.
  • Offer mini-rewards for the identification and assessment of new metadata databases.
  • Modify the annotator store back-end to allow collections.
  • Make the importation and exportation of annotations easier.
Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if any of this is of interest. An Open Humanities Skype meeting will be held on 20th November 2011 at 3pm GMT.

Forthcoming Series of Open Articles on Open Shakespeare

- September 5, 2011 in Essays, News, OKF Projects, Open Shakespeare, texts

This is a cross-posting from Open Shakespeare to announce the culmination of a project run over the summer to encourage greater participation in the website and greater awareness of its goals of promoting open critical commentary. From Monday 12th September to Monday 10th October, Open Shakespeare will host a series of articles on the topic of ‘Shakespeare and the Internet’. When we invited contributions, the theme was deliberately kept as broad as possible in order to facilitate a wide and diverse range of responses from each of those who have written a post for us. Our contributors range from teachers and students of Shakespeare to an experimental theatre company. Having already read the majority of the contributions, I can say now that the series fulfils its goal of offering what the Bard would call a “multitudinous” range of approaches to the topic of Shakespeare and the Internet; subjects range from why Polonius would appreciate hypertext to the problems and opportunities of online abundance. The contributions will appear in the following order: Every article in this series is published under a Creative Commons 3.0 SA BY licence; as with all the other material on Open Shakespeare, we hope that publication under such a licence will encourage the diffusion and development of our contributors’ ideas. My thanks to all those who have contributed their time and thoughts to this project, particularly Erin Weinberg, whose proof-reading skills have been extremely useful in the preparation of these pieces for publication. Depending on the success of this series, we intend to publish similar, themed posts under an open licence in the future: if you would like to participate as either a writer or an editor, please get in touch through the usual channels. Now, to conclude, I leave you, I hope, in approximately the same state of anticipation as Leonato leaves an impatient Claudio in Much Ado about Nothing:
till Monday [...] which is hence a just seven-night; and a time too brief too, to have all things answer my mind.

Update: Text Camp: 13th August 2011

- August 8, 2011 in Bibliographic, Events, OKF Projects, Open Shakespeare, texts, Workshop

The Open Knowledge Foundation’s first ever Text Camp will be taking place this Saturday 13th August, thanks to JISC offering us the use of their meeting rooms in London.


  • Where? Brettenham House, 9 Savoy Street, WC2E 7EG, London. – Meet outside ‘The Savoy Tup’ Pub, Savoy Street, at 10am to be guided to the venue.
  • When? Saturday 13th August, 10am – 6pm
  • What?A gathering for all those interested in the relation between technology and literature, with a specal focus on the creation of open knowledge.
  • More details:
  • Order (free) tickets:
  • Twitter: #tcamp11
Hope you can make it!

Announcing… Text Camp 2011

- July 25, 2011 in Events, Open Shakespeare, Public Domain, Public Domain Works, WG Cultural Heritage, WG Humanities, WG Public Domain, Workshop

The following post is from James Harriman-Smith, coordinator of the OKF’s Open Literature Working Group, and Lecteur at the ENS de Lyon. The OKF’s first ever ‘Text Camp’ hopes to bring together many different people, all interested in the relationship between digital technologies and literature, with a strong focus on the creation of open knowledge. When? 13th August 2011, 10am – 6pm
Where? London – Event Location TBA.
Register: During the day, we hope to create, discuss and maybe even publish ‘open literature’, which is to say that we will work on both texts that are in (and about) the public domain, and on the open-source tools for the analysis and appreciation of these works. Planned activities include:
  • Discussion and/or hacking of 2,231 texts recently released from Eighteenth-Century Collections Online (ECCO) with the help of the Text Creation Partnership
  • Coming up with ideas for and perhaps composing a web based narrative.
  • Writing a guide to creative commons and related licenses as regards literary productions.
  • Working out how to build an online community around a work of literature, with advice on the process of receiving edits to one’s own online work.
  • And, of course, much much more…
Why not suggest your own ideas? or take a look at the wiki for the event?

Open Shakespeare Annotation Sprint

- February 2, 2011 in News, OKF Projects, Open Shakespeare, Sprint / Hackday, WG Humanities

The following is a guest post by James Harriman-Smith who is coordinator of the Open Shakespeare project. This weekend we’re holding the first Open Shakespeare Annotation Sprint — participate and help change criticism forever! We’ll be getting together online and in-person to collaborate on critically annotating a complete Shakespeare play with all our work being open. All of Shakespeare’s texts are, of course, in the public domain, and therefore already open. However, most editions of Shakespeare people actually use (and purchase) are ‘critical’ editions, that is texts together with notes and annotations that explain or analyze the text, and, for these critical editions no open version yet exists. This weekend we’re aiming to change that! Using the annotator tool we now have a way to work collaboratively online to add and develop these ‘critical’ additions and the aim of the sprint is to fully annotate one complete play. Anyone can get involved, from lay-Shakespeare-lover to English professor, all you’ll need is a web-browser and an interest in Bard, and even if you can’t make it, you can vote right now on which play we should work on! Using specially-designed annotation software we intend to print an edition of Shakespeare unlike any other, incorporating glosses, textual notes and other information written by anyone able to connect to the Open Shakespeare website. Work begins with a full-day annotation sprint on Saturday 5th February, which will take online as well as at in-person meetups. Anyone can organize a meetup and we’re organizing one at University of Cambridge English Faculty (if you’d like to hold your own please just add it to the etherpad linked above). Related posts:
  1. Annotation is Working!
  2. Open-Source Annotation Toolkit for Inline, Online Web Annotation
  3. v0.4 of Open Shakespeare Released