It would be an understatement to say there is a lot of information on the Internet, but it would be untrue to claim that most of that information is false. However, the question remains, how to wade through the nonsense to find the verified knowledge? Comment sections enable the everyman to participate in the conversation, fact check and correct perceived mistakes, but it often leads to unnecessary arguments, trolling and white noise that doesn’t add to the discussion. Dan Whaley wants to help by adding an annotation layer to the entire cyber landscape with his non-profit venture Hypothes.is.
Hypothes.is is an open-source platform that will crowdsource analysis, insights and reference on any page, in any corner of the Internet. Crucially, Hypothes.is does not need the permission of the underlying website to function – rather it exists as an overlaying annotation system that does not affect the website itself – that way there are no moderated or deleted comments at the discretion of the site. While there have been failed attempts at an overarching annotation system before such as ThirdVoice and Fleck, Whaley wants to learn from their mistakes. He told Fast Co.Exist:
The fact that it’s such a persistent pursuit of so many people for so long is testament to how important it is that we find a way to make it happen.
Whaley believes one of the keys to the system – a way to see through the junk – is a reputation based model, whereby annotations are ranked so that the more insightful the comment, the higher it will appear on Hypothes.is. High-ranking users will be able to rank others, and as your ranking raises, your reputation score, and visibility of your annotation, increases. The platform will begin with high-reputation annotations, seeded by a series of experts who will begin the commentary process.
It is a massive undertaking, to try and fact-check the entire Internet, but by crowdsourcing knowledge, and creating a format whereby you are rewarded for helpful insight, creates an incentive for others to produce works of high standard as well. Says lead developer Randall Leeds:
Hypothes.is is not a tool to tell people whether something is true or not — it’s a tool to let people have their input and, by having more information, they can decide for themselves whether it is true or false. But, at the end of the day, I can definitely see where it might have upward pressure on information quality.