Content Platforms: Authorea vs Medium vs Scalar

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes —

Photo of Twitter co-founder Evan Williams in a grey sweater with arms outstretched as he addresses an audience.

Evan Williams of Twitter, Blogger, and now Medium

Avatar Blogger Month seems like the ideal time to think about the platforms we use to express our ideas. What are the benefits and tradeoffs when we choose a platform? Great stuff! But I thought I wouldn’t make this post about WordPress vs Blogger vs Tumblr. They’re all great, of course. I’ve become a self-hosted WordPress fangirl and while I do love WP.com, Blogger, and Tumblr it’s definitely my platform of choice today.

But what about tomorrow?

I’ve just signed up for 3 interesting new platforms: Authorea, Medium, and Scalar.

Medium

Medium is the closest to the blogs of today. It’s easy and interactive and gorgeous. The only catch is that after being creeped out by Posterous deleting all the content their users have spent years posting (just like so many “successful” web2.0 platforms before them have done) Medium represents going back to your content on somebody else’s web servers. Your content under somebody else’s TOS. I’m not fond of either of those ideas. Still, Medium looks so great. And while it’s still in beta, it hopes to create a community of ideas and interactions that could be really compelling. After all, nobody puts their life on Facebook because they like the color choice of blue or blue, they use FB because that’s where their friends and family are. So if Medium is easy, elegant, and interactive, well, that’s pretty compelling.

Authorea

Authorea is the least like a blog. It’s actually a new tool for creating scholarly papers. It’s great for multiple authors and version control. WordPress is great for multiple authors in that iRez can have about 3 dozen authors, but not so great in that there’s no way for Kathleen and Katie to be co-authors on a post. Without creating a custom “co-author” taxonomy (which is actually not hard to do) WP doesn’t understand multiple authors on a single work. Authorea is really different in kind, but it is interesting and powerful in spite of being mostly focused on spitting out journal articles.

Scalar

Scalar is in many ways the most ambitious project. I’m overwhelmed and excited by Scalar’s vision, but also nervous that Scalar’s great vision could turn out to be the next Google Wave. Like Authorea, Scalar is interested in scholarly work. But unlike Authorea, Scalar isn’t about “spitting out journal articles,” it’s about creating complex, semantic, metadata rich flows of path options through elaborate, complex media rich bodies of content.

I can’t say too much more since I’ve just started to poke at all 3. I think they’re all in beta. But Authorea and Scalar are both open, you can just go sign up and use either one today. Medium you have to put your name on the list for an invite, but it only took about 2 days for my invite to come, so they’re almost at open sign-up too. If you’re interested in peeking at any of these spaces, for sure sign up and ping me over there and let’s “author” a piece or just a little play/test piece together.

In art we’ve long spoken about Form & Content. In art we’ve long spoken about Figure & Ground. The content, or the figure, of our ideas are essential and may seem immutable by the frosting or the framing or the messenger. But I think it’s clear that the Form or the Ground of the platform or media we choose is enormously influential.

Like sharks that must move to live, we keep swimming in the waters of new platforms and exploring their possibilities.

L I N K Y . L I N K Y
Authorea / Vaneeesa Blaylock
Medium / Vaneeesa Blaylock
Scalar / Vaneeesa Blaylock

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4 Responses to “Content Platforms: Authorea vs Medium vs Scalar”

  1. Andrew Neal
    2013/06/30 at 23:22 #

    Interesting new platforms! Thanks for sharing.

    • Vanessa Blaylock
      2013/06/30 at 23:31 #

      Hey Andrew, thanks for visiting! These 3 are pretty different and in a sense don’t even belong in a “vs” comparison. But I wanted to put them together just to think about how the platform landscape is evolving. WordPress today is pretty awesome for me, but these are various thoughts about future directions. I hope the future will find an open source path. I’m not too crazy about posting so many hours of work on somebody else’s “real estate.” 🙂

      • Andrew Neal
        2013/06/30 at 23:36 #

        I’m in agreement when looking at the future of open source platforms. After trying out Medium, I was intrigued by how it focuses more on content than the average design of it all. Have you seen the upcoming blogging platform, Ghost?

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