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Summary:

Have you ever wanted to do more than just send someone a web page, or post a link on Twitter? If I could, I would present every link I ever wanted to share in person, so I could explain to the person I was sharing with […]

layers_logoHave you ever wanted to do more than just send someone a web page, or post a link on Twitter? If I could, I would present every link I ever wanted to share in person, so I could explain to the person I was sharing with exactly what it was I wanted them to see, and why I thought they might enjoy it or find it useful.

You can always provide a covering letter in the body of your email when you send something along, but a recently launched web app provides a tool that’s much more useful in sharing that context along with the web content you choose to share. Layers.com allows you to layer images, text and video on top of any site of your choosing, and then to share your annotated version with whomever you choose.

Initial Impressions

At first, owing maybe its noisy interface, Layers.com seems a little overwhelming. There’s a lot of visual static going on, but if you can get past the initial shock, you’ll find it surprisingly easy to use. If you know how to find an article or blog post’s permalink, then you’re already well on your way to mastering Layers.com

layers1To take full advantage of Layers.com, you should sign up for account, which takes no time at all, and allows to create and manage as many identities as you want for sharing your annotated pages with others. You can keep a separate identity for work and for your friends, or even create multiple work identities for different lines of business or if you wear multiple professional hats. You could also create individual client-specific identities.

Layers of Research

The obvious application of this new site, for me at least, is with research-intensive engagements. Especially if you’re doing a literature survey for a larger company, the ability to not only provide links and an attendant context and analysis document, but to incorporate said document directly on top of the information in question (which ups its relevance considerably for a reader) might provide enough of a “wow” factor to ensure a client comes back to you for similar work again and again. It should make analyzing individual pieces much easier for you as a researcher, too.

Layers of Creativity

Of course, there are many other applications, too. As on editor of online content, and as someone who knows a lot of web designers, I can see how helpful layers.com could be for the creative process, too. You could provide direct feedback on top of the content you’re editing, including mock-ups via your own image files, screenshots of other sites for comparison, and/or video and audio feedback for that added personal touch, or if you’re more comfortable formulating your thoughts that way than in writing.

Layers of the Everyday

And then there’s the applicability on an everyday basis for sharing links among your network of colleagues, coworkers, and peers. You can share a Layered link via Twitter or any other social network, so that if you’re inclined to do so, you can provide more than just 140 characters worth of contextual explanation with something you’ve flagged as interesting. You could even provide additional related content as a Layer, like a video interview from YouTube from a few months back atop a print piece that’s just been released. In your textual comment, you could point out the apparent contradictions between the two.

Layers.com represents a new, more interactive way of browsing the web. Best of all, it encourages people to do more than just read and accept web content in a passive way. Instead, it actively seeks out your opinion, your perspective on things. It’s sort of like the idea behind CNN’s iReport, but more democratized and without the implicit patronization. Obviously, writing an essay to accompany every link you share isn’t practical, but having the ability to do so is a welcome development.

I’ve outlined a few possible uses of Layers.com in this post, but what would you use it for?

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  1. Layers – Annotate the Web – UsefulTools.com Thursday, October 15, 2009

    [...] without these features, however, the service is definitely useful. Over on Web Worker Daily, Darrell Etherington has made an excellent list of ways to use Layers for both fun and business [...]

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