We recently added support for creating highlights and notes to Flow. Based on a modified version of Annotator, this feature allows you to highlight some text and, if you like, leave a comment about that text.
Once you save the highlight, it is automatically posted to the site, like so.
Internally, we’ve been using this feature a lot, both for utility and for fun. The highlights collections page helps one of our engineers track his favorite snippets. Meanwhile, our VP of Engineering saw the perfect opportunity to troll our CEO. (She still works here.)
Until now, we haven’t talked publicly about this new feature, but we’ve been happy to see that some of you have managed to find and use it regardless. I spent some time today looking at the site analytics and individual highlights to see what I could learn about how you’re using this feature. Note that the following data includes users internal to Safari. Also, because the highlights functionality is so new and until now unannounced, we don’t have a lot of data to go on. But it’s still fun to take a look. Here are some things that I noticed.
You don’t like adding notes, much
I was surprised to see that 68.64% of highlights do not include a note of any kind (which is optional, remember). Most of you just highlight what you like and leave it at that.
You don’t like sharing, much
Notes and highlights include the social sharing buttons that you’re used to seeing on the web (Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, in this case). In fact, you’re apparently so used to seeing them that you’ve become really good at ignoring them.
Only 11.01% of highlights have been shared on social sites via those buttons. Rather than use the social media buttons, some of you simply copy and paste the URL (which is my preferred method, too) from the highlight page into your Twitter or Facebook client, although that data is more difficult to isolate.
You stay longer when you highlight
If you’re adding highlights as you read, you tend to stay twice as long on average versus those who don’t add highlights. Good work, highlighters. Good to see you’re the diligent sort.
You use highlights to keep the conversation going
Because they are publicly viewable, highlights are a nice way to share content that would otherwise require a Flow account, allowing you to post them and make useful connections to related technical discussions on the web. I’m thrilled to see such a practical and smart use of the tool.
I have no idea what this all means
While it’s fun to look at the data and the individual highlights and we’re excited about the possibilities, it’s probably too early to draw any meaningful conclusions about how we can improve this feature. Now that you know you can add highlights and notes as you read, I hope you find them useful in your work. In any case, let us know what you think. We’ll keep polishing in the meantime.