document sharing/commenting on the web

Two document-centric sites came across my radar last week; some quick thoughts on each:

docstoc.com: sharing-focused document site- you upload, they publish to the world so that anyone can read it. Founded by law school students, so, among other things, has lots and lots of law school outlines, which is a nice resource. Has some very nice features for en masse document sharing:

  • rating/reviews: figure out what documents are better than others quickly when you don’t know the other people involved. Note, though, that this is of the entire document- which is different than co-ment.net below.
  • embedding: put it on your own website without hosting.
  • Creative Commons licensing of documents: allows you to share without licensing worries.
  • pretty nice UI for reading/browsing: if all you’re doing to interact with the document is to read it, this is a very slick UI.

co-ment.net: this site is collaboration oriented instead of sharing oriented; instead of one person uploading and lots of people reading, this is primarily focused on lots of people writing together or at least commenting so that others can edit later. Some key features:

  • comment on individual words or sentences: unlike docstoc, the comment function can go down to the individual word or sentence instead of commenting on the whole document. Will be very familiar to anyone who participated in the GPL review process.
  • group editing: the owner of the document can allow others to edit as well as comment; if you edit, it is much like a wiki- history is kept, you can view diffs between them, etc. Editing is with a web-based GUI. The text appears to be stored in HTML, but can be exported in other formats as well (pdf, odt, etc.) and you can import existing documents as well.
  • license: no support for CC-licensing the documents themselves (that I can find) but the server’s code is available under the Affero GPL.

Bottom line: while it seems like it could be very useful for some people, I admit I personally probably won’t be using docstoc- if I want to purely publish a document, I’ll do it on my own website. But co-ment seems to me like a truly useful tool that I can see myself using a lot, starting with reviewing some GNOME board documents.
disclaimers: docstoc.com emailed me and asked me to write about it, but didn’t give me anything for the writeup; I have met and respect the driving force behind co-ment, Philippe Aigrain.