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Archive for November 4th, 2013

In the article (it’s not really a review) “As we may type“, Paul Ford introduces a series of new “web-based tools” for collaborative writing. He writes:

Why are so many creative software developers building tools for composition? Because the Web is growing older, and its authoring tools seem increasingly unsatisfactory to larger numbers of people. Much of the writing on the early Web was short, ephemeral, weightless. Bloggers would write about where they went, who they saw, what they ate. Content creation tools evolved to support brevity, with Twitter and Facebook as the logical end point for that style of expression. In contrast, entrepreneurs like Winer, ­Williams, and Brown are building tools for reflective thought. They expect their users to contemplate, revise, collaborate—in short, to work more the way writers historically have written, and as the pioneers of the digital revolution expected people to continue to write. What all these new tools for thought must prove is that there are enough people willing to give up the quick pleasures of the tweet or Facebook post and return to the hard business of writing whole paragraphs that are themselves part of a larger structure of argument.

Editorially

Getting started with Editorially

Write in a New Way with Gingko” describes a different approach to outlining:

In Gingko […], you organize your document using cards arranged in “trees” of three or more columns, placing the most general points on the left, with increasingly specific cards in the columns to the right arranged as “branches” and “leaves” of each point. You can also create multiple cards as “branches” of a single card in your first column.

Is the web, or at least the way we write for the web, changing? It’s too soon to tell, but tools like Medium and Editorially are at least technically different: they use modern technologies to create good-looking, user-friendly applications in the browser, whether that browser is desktop-based or mobile. But is the core of their approach really that different from what Wikis are trying to do since twenty years? The fact that Markdown – a markup syntax designed in 2004 to facilitate the editing of blogs and Wikis – shows up in several of them (Editorially, Ghost, Gingko…) is a clear indication that the desire for such tools isn’t new.

It’s good to see that reflection and collaboration are encouraged when writing for the web, but is that enough to call these tools revolutionary? I don’t think so – but the tools mentioned may well signal the start  of a period with better writing and content management tools.

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