Different Approaches to Editing Documents

There are different approaches to sharing documents, where a group of people want to be able to make comments on a document and alter it.

One approach is Track-Changes, which we're all familiar with in MS Word. This is very useful. But then, after three or four sets of changes, it gets too confusing. The Track-Changes approach is best between two people; it does a reasonable job of letting you see what changes have been made.

Another approach is one we've just been looking at, that of SharedDoc, from SharedBook. Here, someone owns/controls a document. Other people can post responses at arbitrary points to comment on the content. Subresponses of arbitrary depth are allowed. Here, comments aren't applied, unless the owner specifically decides to allow them. Reviewers must be specifically selected by the owner. This is another approach valuable in a variety of contexts where one seeks reviewer input, such as proposals, legal services, business documents, and publishing. SharedDoc is in beta, by the way, and is currently free.

Some other approaches to editing shared documents include:

  • Wikis, where people can go in and make changes directly, with an audit trail of the changes. You find this approach in Google Wave.
  • Content management-style versioning. You also find this in SharePoint, for example.

... David Ferris, with thanks to SharedBooks' Caroline Vanderlip for her interesting insights

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