Collaborative writing has been one of the many things the web was supposed to simplify, and yet it’s still as broken as it’s ever been. Live co-editing like Google Docs offers only works for a very few niche scenarios, and newer tools like Draft and Editorially only work great for one writer and one editor giving feedback on a finished work. And the old style of emailing documents back and forth — or the slightly updated version of saving them to a shared Dropbox — is still far from ideal.
There’s one tech tool that’s seemed promising recently, though: git. The geeky version control system used most famously by GitHub is designed to let software developers collaborate on code, and is the very reason people around the globe can contribute to open source projects. Code is just text, of course, so earlier this year two dozen mathematicians wrote The HoTT Book collaboratively using GitHub. That was quite an undertaking, both for its unprecedented collaboration and for using git for writing even when it wasn’t exactly designed for it.
But what if GitHub was reinvented around writing? That’s what Penflip, a new git-powered writing app, aims to find out.
I’m a huge Dropbox junkie. I’ve got 19 GB of free space that I’ve managed to secure over the years (being a student and inviting friends used to help, especially before Dropbox really exploded over the past few years). But cloud storage is tricky, and I’m the paranoid type who believes you should never rely on only one storage solution — even if it is “in the cloud.”
I was intrigued when I heard about another cloud-solution that claimed to offer a few advantages to the Dropbox setup. It’s called NTI MiST. NTI has been in the software game for a long time, and have seen tremendous success in the industry. Read on to find out whether MiST continues to improve on their sterling reputation, or if it can replace or work alongside Dropbox.
Paginated publishing is back. When we originally turned away from print in favour of the digital world, web formats ruled the roost. But sales of touchscreen devices have boomed in recent years, and the knock-on effect has been to return the most natural format for reading to the ascendancy.
This arrival at full circle has triggered a brand new kind of platform — the e-publishing CMS. We may be just three years into the tablet revolution, but there are already numerous options for the journalist or novelist wanting to self-publish digitally. Apple’s introduction of iBooks was followed by the launch of near-frictionless services such as Origami Engine, ReadyMag and Type Engine, and many more have arrived since. It is a seriously competitive market.
Yet, I think the outlook for Creatavist, a new “web-based storytelling platform,” is actually quite good. A mammoth array of content options awaits potential users of this beta offering, and it also has the backing of Nicholas Thompson, the editor of The New Yorker’s website — he co-founded the developing company, in fact. So, can this new kid on the block make a meaningful impression?
Twitter is fast emerging as the go-to news source, with 1 in 10 Americans getting their news through the microblogging network, according to a survey. And the biggest news organisation on Twitter is undoubtedly Breaking News. Well, what started as a Twitter-only outfit has grown into a giant. And recently, they rolled out a whole new Web app, along with mobile apps for iOS and Android.
The new Breaking News 3.0 Web app has been completely redesigned and comes with a bunch of new features, like muting and saving topics, and a social element through ‘Whoa’. The iPhone app also has a cool Alerts feature to be notified of certain topics, which hasn’t yet been rolled out on the Web app. But the Web has the Maps interface for a look at the trending topics across the world. Let’s dive in…
The human brain really isn’t very good at processing masses of abstract data…well, I know mine isn’t, anyway. Brains can usually cope with a few things at one time (“must reply to that email once I get back from picking up the milk”), but when faced with a torrent of information, such as the web bombards us with, most brains start to struggle.
It is for this very reason that virtual dashboards have gained popularity. Developers recognize that even the most basic of web-apps, like a blog, can churn out a mass of data, which can only be seen with clarity if it is delivered in a human-friendly, visual format. Yet the idea of a personal dashboard, possibly the most useful matrix of this kind imaginable, still hasn’t really taken off, despite the traction that services such as iGoogle, My Yahoo and Netvibes gained in their early days.
Perhaps the smartphone has shoved the dashboard into outdatedness and redundancy. Or perhaps the desktop dashboard format just needs some reinvigoration. If the latter scenario is the more accurate, then Dash wants to be that reinvigoration. It is pretty, well connected and dynamic — but is it good enough to be your new homepage?
Parents with young children (or those expecting) may consider creating a scrapbook for their children. Many document important life events, holidays and family gatherings, to give to their son or daughter on their 18th or 21st birthday. Doing this preserves the memories, the trials and the triumphs experienced during their formative years.
However, I doubt that in 1995, many new parents thought that their child’s 18th birthday party would be organized on Facebook, uploaded to Youtube and checked into on Foursquare.
Limetree offers parents the digital solution. You can upload your pictures, videos, sound files or letters to your account. On your child’s birthday (or any other time you select), the limetree is released. Hard copies fade with age; the cloud preserves indefinitely.
Keeping a diary is a great way to make sure you remember all the things that are going on in your life for years to come — and yet, it’s incredibly hard to make yourself regularly journal. It’s easier to write something funny on Facebook or Twitter and watch the comments and likes roll in. That’s somehow more rewarding right now. And yet, a private journal where you keep track of your deepest thoughts and fears, hopes and dreams — or just the mundane stuff that happens every day — can be far more rewarding in the long run.
You just need a private space to write that makes it easy to jot your daily thoughts down — and that’s exactly what the new web app Hermit is designed for. It’s just about your daily writing, and that’s it.
Scribd started out as a place to share class notes, fledgling short stories or a political manifesto —or pretty much any PDF document you might want to share online. Recently, its taken a new direction.
Scribd has launched an eBook subscription service that’s best described as a ‘Netflix for books’. A monthly subscription offers unlimited novels, non-fiction and user generated content through a browser or smartphone app for just $8.99.
The CEO of Scribd, Trip Adler, recently inked a deal with Harper Collins US, allowing them to distribute their books as part of a subscription model, in addition to the books that were already in Scribd’s library for sale, giving Scribd the content they needed to build a huge online library.
Is this biggest change in the publishing industry since the Kindle arrived?
Last year, a survey by ratings agency Nielsen found that YouTube is the go-to platform for teenagers looking to listen to or discover new music. Indeed, online music streaming is so convenient that it’s easiest to just search for a song and play it online—and especially on YouTube.
Two other popular destinations to search for music are SoundCloud, which has a huge collection of user-uploaded tracks, and DailyMotion, which is a fantastic repository of music videos. Combine these with YouTube and you will probably be able to track down any song you want to listen to.
That’s the aim of Solayo—to make a cool online music player for regular users and let them tap into the resources of these three portals. And on top of that, it wants to build a mini social network for you to discover friends with similar tastes.
Self-hosted web apps are a great option if you’re worried about your favorite service going offline. Google Reader’s shutdown has made that potential painfully obvious, and yet, most of the best alternate RSS services are still hosted apps that could be shutdown on a whim. Or, if they’re hosted on Amazon S3 like so many services are these days, they’ll go offline along with a significant portion of your apps if Amazon has a bad day.
JellyReader is a new, simple RSS reader app that, while not self-hosted yet, is designed to make sure you can never lose your RSS reader data. Instead of trusting someone else’s cloud with your data, it stores your feeds and saved articles in your Dropbox or Google Drive account.