June 6th, 2012
Widbook: A tool for collaborative journalism
By David Sheets
As the market for freelance journalism grows, so too has interest in the evolving tools for that job.
That interest is acute where collaborative journalism is concerned, because simply pitching PDFs of Word documents back and forth via email tends to be a clunky way of doing business in this demanding age of digital interactivity. Now, no matter the distance or purpose, teams of people with shared goals all want to work together as if sitting in the same room.
A relatively new website called Widbook tries to provide that goal-oriented environment and foster a social network to supplement it. Widbook is a writing and editing space that lets people alone or in groups craft book-length projects and shorter stories; insert resources such as photos, videos and animations; and add to or augment contributions by other writers.
Widbook also invites writers and readers to share and tweak favorite developing works, and create libraries of published works whether self-written or from other authors.
Early reports on Widbook, still in beta, call it a “YouTube for books” because of its heavy emphasis on interactivity. The central theme and interface are better suited for collaboration on projects. Writers who prefer to work alone can use Widbook as well, but they’ll miss out on many of its features.
And Widbook is free of charge to register for and use — surely the most attractive feature to freelance writers and hopeful novelists working with meager budgets. The only things that first-time visitors to Widbook need to get started is to create a user name and password. Options include creating a personal profile, linking with Facebook, and selecting favorite literary genres from which to build a library. Members also can send messages and “follow” one another through the site.
Because it’s in beta, Widbook has limitations and quirks. For one thing, it’s not possible to export a finished project to another platform, though that’s expected to come later as the site matures, and it’s not obvious to early users how the social media aspect will supplement the collaboration tools. The interface is also a tad balky with projects of more than a few chapters.
Still, for collaborative writers and editors, Widbook presents an intriguing new way for journalists to exchange ideas and bring far-flung talent together in the same room.
David Sheets is a sports content editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and STLtoday.com, and past-president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter at @DKSheets, or on Facebook and LinkedIn.