Since I launched www.commentonthis.com in December, there have been a number of people who’ve asked about future expansions. Here are some initial thoughts on the directions it wont go, but which others may wish to take similar sites which I’d .
CoT does what it does – lets you comment on specific paragraphs of selected PDFs which we’ve put up. There are no immediate plans to expand it to commentsonthis.com to arbitrary documents. However, the process by which they are converted is pretty much document independent.
You take a PDF document, and run it through a text converter. Then it gets edited to clean up page footers/headers and other bits, and add in markup for section headers. Then it gets processed again which puts it into the database for comment. While the process is a pain in the neck for most documents, it’s not particularly complicated.
While, currently, the whole thing is done through scripts and editing is done via a text editor, there’s no reason it can’t be done through scripts and a wiki, hence be done in the browser.
Which means, that we can easily get to a point where people can publish arbitrary documents, and have them be commentable and linkable at a relatively fine granularity. There would need to be various proceedures put in to avoid spam, but the addition of some security and hooks for anonymity (https to hide what you’re looking at, and serverside hooks to avoid some traffic analysis attacks, plus whatever you need to do to be tor, or anything else, friendly).
For various reasons, you often do not want the original documents to be fully wikied, but want them to be commentable and linkable down to the paragraph level.
However, if you then automate the process, such that you can put up and start cross linking a set of documents and running tasks over them.
As another possible application, do we know any projects which will start getting documents in which people deem to have value and which may be usefully commented on and linked to? Yes, we do.
Does anyone want to run with this idea? I’ve not got the time to build it, but I’m happy to help.