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Corrections metadata

It’s certain that this has already been suggested many times, and it’s highly likely it’s been implemented at least several times. But here goes:

Currently the convention for correcting an online mistake is to strikethrough the errant text and then put in the correct text. Showing one’s errors is a wonderful norm, for it honors the links others have made to the piece; it’s at best confusing when you post criticism of someone else’s work, but when the reader goes there the errant remarks have been totally excised. It’s also a visible display of humility.

But strikethrough text is a visual cue of a structural meaning. And it conveys only the fact that the text is wrong, not why it’s wrong.

So, why isn’t there Schema.org markup for corrections?

Schema.org is the set of simple markup for adding semantics to plain old Web pages. The reader can’t see the markup, but computers can. The major search engines are behind Schema.org, which means that if you mark up your page with the metadata they’ve specified, the search engines will understand your page better and are likely to up its ranking. (Here’s another post of mine about Schema.org.)

So, imagine there were simple markup you could put into your HTML that would let you note that some bit of text is errant, and let you express (in hidden text):

  • When the correction was made

  • Who made it

  • Who suggested the correction, if anyone.

  • When it was made

  • What was wrong with the text

  • A bit of further explanation

The corrected text might include the same sort of information. Plus, you’d want a way to indicate that these two pieces of text refer to one another; you wouldn’t want a computer getting confused about which correction corrects which errant text.

If this became standard, browsers could choose to display errant texts and their corrections however they’d like. Add-ons could be written to let users interact with corrections in different ways. For example, maybe you like seeing strikethroughs but I’d prefer to be able to hover to see the errant text. Maybe we can sign up to be notified of any corrections to an article, but not corrections that are just grammatical. Maybe we want to be able to do research about the frequency and type of corrections across sources, areas, languages, genders….

Schema.org could drive this through. Unless, of course, it already has.

 


Be sure to read the comment from Dan Brickley. Dan is deeply involved in Schema.org. (The prior comment is from my former college roommate.)

5 Responses to “Corrections metadata”

  1. My God, Weinberger, what’s with your Twitter photo? You have not aged well at all. I have seen Smithfield hams that look better than you. At the rate you are going you will have to be embalmed for your 50th class reunion.

  2. Interesting – and I think useful.

    IMHO schema.org’s strengths are more towards describing properties of the page and the entities that it mentions. Once we start getting into marking up the actual text as the ‘entity of interests’ things can get a bit slippery. So I’d nudge you towards the newish W3C Annotation WG, who are working more explicitly on the kinds of scenario you describe. Check out http://www.w3.org/annotation/
    http://www.w3.org/TR/2014/WD-annotation-model-20141211/
    … this is much more in the ‘structured sticky note’ direction.

  3. First, here’s my pragmatic ulterior motive for suggesting this as something for Schema.org as opposed to Open Annotation: Schema’s backing by the major search engines provides a greater incentive for the markup’s adoption. Insofar as the search engines are working on Schema.org because it helps them to under pages better (resulting in more relevant ranking and a smarter Knoweldge Graph), I’d argue that encouraging the marking up of corrections would be very helpful to them. (I love Open Annotation, and I will suggest this idea to them. In fact, if it’s in fact a good idea, there’s an overwhelming likelihood that they’ve already considered it.)

    Second, I understand that this would not be a paradigmatic case for Schema.org, but it’s not entirely clear to me why marking text up as a “headline,” “text,” or (which Schema’s CreativeWork allows) is so different than marking other text up as “correction” or “errant”. Yes, a headline is a structural element, whereas as a correction could be a property (attribute?) of any element. But neither “headline” nor “correction” tells us anything about what the actual text is referring to. And for more particular types — e.g., NewsArticle — “correction” seems very useful, even if it stretches the categories a bit.

    Anyway, thanks for the response, Dan. Informative and helpful, as always.

  4. […] it respects criticism accompanied with inbound links while flagging and correcting errors. And, as David Weinberger notes, “it’s also a visible display of […]

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