Glasp, the social highliner

Yes, I wouldn’t want to define it differently, because this tool is really a wonderful social highliner. This is what Danilo Ruocco also calls him in his excellent article (Danilo, journalist and writer, is one of the few Italians I have found on Glasp, because that’s what it is about).

The rules are extremely simple, on a first level. You install the extension for Chrome or derivatives (Brave, Vivaldi, etc.) and from that moment on you have a set of highlighters, of different colours, ready to be used on any web page, to mark phrases of particular interest.

This is enough to start changing my modus operandi, which in these cases consisted of simply saving the page to Pocket and then going there to highlight the important sentences.

Here, everything is done in a flash. Just highlight the page – exactly as it appears on your browser, staying on the website you’re reading from – and it is instantly added to your list (btw, mine here), where you can then return, if you wish, to add tags, check if anyone else has read it, etc.1

Obviously, all the highlighted pages are easily found in your personal profile, anytime. But wait, there is much more. Glasp is a real social network with all the possibilities of the case: follow other people and see what they highlight, find niches of interests similar to yours, comment and interact at various levels. What seems very interesting to me is the possibility to download your own highlights in various formats, so that you never lose them, as well as some features pleasantly optimized for the web, such as obtaining an image with a specific sentence highlighted (as below).

Among others, the option to load the community page of a given web resource is particularly interesting and instructive, enabling you to see the total highlighters of the various people who have red it, and also who has highlighted what.

It is certainly not the only existing social highliner. There is for example, which is also open source . It appears a bit more spartan and lacks advanced social features, but it remains an interesting project for various fields (especially the academic one). There is also Liner, useful because it is among the few that can also be used on mobile devices (at least on Samsung devices), but the free version has some limitations. In short, there is more stuff in circulation, and the best thing would probably be to take a tour of each one to understand if and how it meets your needs.

What is not there yet on Glasp, that would be very nice (but to tell the truth I don’t think there is in any of the competitors I have examined) is a way to easily filter the contents in a specific language, very useful for those who – as myself – does not speak English from birth. It would be very attractive to me if I could click somewhere to list the recent contents in Italian, for example. For now there is no way and, as a consequence, I often hesitate to save contents in my language, because I have the feeling that they can be somewhat get lost in the mare magnum of content in English. Or maybe they could be found (with tags or keywords) by people who actually can’t read them (I know, and I agree with you: it’s a real pity that Italian is not understood and spoken all over the world, however this goes beyond the subject of this article). But it’s also something the developers tell me they absolutely want to work on, and I’m quite happy with this.

Yes, they tell me, because – and this is a wonderful peculiarity of Glasp, which gives an additional values to the project – the development team is very attentive and engaging in their business. It even happens that they write to you to find out how you think (at a Google scale it would be simply unimaginable, just try to imagine a human Google employer who actually writes a message to you to find out what you think of gmail and in which way it could be better…), they propose – if you want – even online meetings to discuss the characteristics of the product, relaunch your comments on Twitter and other social networks as well.

In short, this exquisite attention to the user – clearly possible only within certain factors of scale – is pleasant and even makes my memory go back, to the good old days when the web was a simple thing, a fun thing: a thing for enthusiasts, who by virtue of their common passion (which was still not about making money, but mainly about discover things) wanted to get in touch, to discuss, to share.

Well, closing memories section and returning to the main theme now. I also tested Glasp quite well as a working tool in preparing my talk for OpenLabs 2022 on the James Webb Space Telescope that I held last Saturday at the INFN laboratories in Frascati. And I must say that I was quite satisfied. Find an interesting page and quickly hook it to a list, quickly review the highlighted sentences, thus create a reasoned archive oriented towards the specific task that must be completed. All quite easy and fun, with Glasp.

Glasp can also give you a “map” of your interest, based on the pages you saved.

There are also a number of social features that are all to be discovered, and that really allow you to deepen some issues, as long as you choose the right people to follow. There is the real possibility of finding valid and interesting material, with en excellent signal to noise ratio. In passing, there are deep sharing knowledge instances behind the birth of Glasp, as I realized reading the interesting interview to one of the founder, Kazuki Nakayashiki, recently appeared on Ness Labs.

In short, everything makes me think that I will keep on enjoying the service. And if (dreaming mode) an Italian section was to be opened or – more realistically – an intelligent filtering of messages by language, well it will truly be a party to me, and I imagine that many people from my country will jump on board.

For now, let’s move on as an early adopter, as several times happened to me. After all, experimenting is the central point for a scientist. And here are all the reasons to experiment thoroughly, to fully understand potentiality and limits of this tool.

Therefore, if you want to gain experience, register on Glasp and underline this very post, it will be fun for me to see the sentences that will have seemed most significant to you. So, good highlights with Glasp, and good work for the team. By the way, did I mention that I would appreciate if filtering by language should be enabled?

  1. What is lost by not using Pocket (or similar) is an independent copy of the textual content of the page, useful in case it is removed from the original site. But I’m not talking about this here. ↩︎

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  1. Thank you, Marco, for writing about Glasp! We’re really glad to read your story and appreciate your work 🙂 Let’s keep learning and leave something great for future generations📚


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