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NowComment / Profile

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NowComment ( is a web application that enables collaborative annotation of documents at the level of sentences, paragraphs, and documents overall. The program visually organizes these annotations for easy consultation. Various viewing modes allow for focus on the document, or focus on the annotations themselves. The program provides a compelling alternatives to blogs with comments, and traditional threaded discussion forums.  NowComment enables students, or any group of individuals, to  analyze and discuss texts in very granular ways. Students create or join conversations on whatever passages they find interesting and important. Since contribution of online comments don’t take commenting time or opportunity away from others, motivated students can share as many thoughts and perspectives as they wish. These features create a unique learning environment in which students can intellectually engage with a document, and with each other, in ways not possible in face-to-face class discussion. Instructors can join in to steer the discussion or correct errors, and the conversations can remain online for grading and student review. The application can also be used as a tool for research publications, review of materials leading to a conference, and public outreach and engagement programs.

General Associations
class discussion (1), online conversation (1), web-based education (1)


Current Version 2 Features:
  • attach comments to specific sentences and paragraphs
  • multiple views of document and comments to meet personal preferences
  • 2-Pane: comments accessible but not distracting
  • 1 Pane: all comments, viewable in full, within document
  • Comments only: See comments sorted by date, person, or document sequence
  • Document-only: Just document, no distracting elements whatsoever
  • tagging of comments
  • embedded media players and graphics can be included in documents and commented upon as single objects
  • university infrastructure (courses, instructors, TAs, students)
  • email notification of new messages
Forthcoming Version 3 Features:
  • preservation of rich text formatting in most documents
  • refactored 2-pane interface
  • creation of student subgroups within a class
  • private messaging (at least instructor—> student)
  • enhanced moderation of comments by teachers
  • much faster document uploading and markup
  • tools for school-wide site monitoring by system Admins
  • additional infrastructure to parallel university infrastructure
  • updated HELP files
  • integration with Sakai LMS (authentication/authorization, access, roster use, group awareness)
  • Features Under Consideration for Later Releases
  • social networking/profile data (coordinate with existing or desired UVA functionality)
  • enhanced notification of new posts (by email or RSS feeds or Facebook)
  • allow multimedia files to be attached to posts
  • guest/auditor roles (view but not post comments)
  • tagging integrated with subject taxonomies
  • granular annotations of images keyed to specific sections of the image.
  • granular annotations of audio-video through reliance upon transcripts to simply keying to timecodes
  • enable content to be dynamically delivered to, and embedded within, diverse web sites
  • enable live editing within diverse web sites of Now Comment content

Version and Plans

NowComment has been extensively tested at UVa from September 2008 to June 2009 in the Miller Center, Arts and Sciences, and Darden. It is currently released in version 2.0 and version 3.0 is under intensive development.

Interface Languages
English (416)

Technical Details

NowComment is a hosted web application (currently running on Amazon’s scalable EC2 “cloud”) written for the Ruby on Rails platform and the Linux operating system. The underlying database is PostgreSQL.

Technologies of Interest
Amazon (1), Cloud (1), EC2 (1), PostgreSQL (1), Ruby on Rails (10), linux (2)