increasing annotations during Open Review

Screenshot 2018-10-21 16.23.58.png

One of the most helpful parts of Open Review is annotations.  As I’ve written about elsewhere, these annotations really helped me improve Bit by Bit.  However, the proportion of readers who actually annotated Bit by Bit was quite low (less than 1%).  So, some authors might wonder: how can I get more annotations on my manuscript?  In this post, I’ll offer three ideas.  If you have other ideas or data about the effectiveness of any of these approaches, please let me know.

Here are three ideas for getting more annotations during Open Review: 1) change the defaults for, 2) make the ask more explicit, and 3) respond to annotations more quickly.

  • Change the defaults for

The annotations in the Open Review Toolkit are all handled by an amazing, open-source project called  The interface has two main interface options, both of which can make the annotation option more salient.

Here’s a screenshot of the default layout.

ORT-screenshot.pngHere’s a screenshot with highlights turned on.


Here’s a screenshot with highlights turned on and the sidebar open.

ORT-screenshot-highlight-sidebar.pngTurning on highlighting by default and keeping the sidebar open by default might make the reading experience a bit less enjoyable, but readers who really don’t enjoy those options can change them.

Here are instructions about how to adjust these two features:

  1. Highlighting:
  2. Sidebar:
  • Make the ask more explicit

In the current layout, the description about Open Review is an alert at the top of the page, but this alert is relatively easy to miss or ignore.  An alternative approach would be to have a window appear on top of the text that says something like:

I’ve decided to put my manuscript into Open Review   This means that you can read the entire book for free right now.  In exchange for making my manuscript available, I’d love to get your feedback.  To add an annotation, just highlight the text you want to comment on and a window will pop up allowing you to make an annotation.  Thank you.

Button: [I’d love to participate in Open Review, and I plan to make at least 2 annotations]

Button: [I’d love to read the manuscript, but I don’t want to contribute]

Button: [I’ll wait until the book is published and then purchase a copy]

Obviously the text could be tweaked to suit an authors taste, and it could be optimized in a series of A/B tests.

  • Respond to annotations more quickly

When I was writing Bit by Bit, I generally waited until the end of the Open Review process and then responded to all annotations at once.  If an author were to respond to annotations more quickly (roughly as they are being made) someone making annotations might make more of them.

Overall, I hope that these ideas help increase the number of annotations for other manuscripts in Open Review.


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