Web Tools

FidusWriter – could a web-based writing tool become the first real CMS for collaborative science after Wordpress?

Good news everyone!

as many of you have figured out at their own expenses, there's a gap in the offer of web based writing tools targetting the academic community.

Many of us use Google Docs for their collaborative writings. For instance here at Leukippos Institute we use Google Docs for writing our papers. Unfortunately this tool is not open, extendable and thereof satifying. In particular, Google Docs doesn't allow you to manage reference with the common reference managers like Mendeley, Papers etc. The build-in reference tool named "Tools>Research" allow you to add reference but in customizable way. It create a footnote and not endnotes. Also, it doesn't allow to add personalized reference syles. You can see this here.

In my opinion we absolutely need something that works with an embedded Mendeley plug-in. The good thing of Google Docs is that allow live multiple writings: for instance, I'm writing a part and John another, so we should be able to work on the same paper at the same time.

A few days ago, while I was struggling to find the best solution, Daniel Frebel, the community manager of FidusWriter asked on HackYourPhD Facebook Page for volounteers in translating the GUI in other languages, and I offered to translate it in Italian. So I had an flash Hangout with him and we've discuss his project and the main issues they're challenging.

I then told him what are the fetaures I'd add if it were my choice.

  • First, it has to be open and let people hack in to it. In this way you eventually end with a growing and dynamic community like WordPress.org community which provide custom solutions for the various needs at a zero cost.  In fact, as a biologist I don't need equations manager so much and other things, but I know that other people in other fields does. Plus, every fields have their own need. Of course this will depends on the business model they want to run. 
  • Second, it has to give the option to work live at same project like Google Docs does.
  • Third, and most important, it has to provide a scalable and modular interaction with the major ref managers otherwise it's useless for me.
  • Fourth, it can start as a web based writing tool... and became only God knows what... In Force11 we know that from annotations, to project management, from quantification of contributions to authorships, from data-mining to data-wrangling everything does matter... In my view, this can be the base for a WP.org like community targeting academics.

But I'll be down to earth now since we could add the idea of novel methods of peer-review as well... BUT: working live with others, and an open API for ref managers are critical fetaures to add in my opinion.

As I said we all have our necessities and for this I'll invite you to join an hangout for asking to the developers of FidusWriter your questions and to give your suggestions. They're looking exactly for your help.  In order to get organized I set this doodle here.

Pick here your dates/hours available to discuss.

I suggest you all to play with the test mock-up here and to comments either here on the bottom of this page or on their FAQ page.

The next step I suggest will be an Hackathon, but maybe it's too early for this now.. Just I'm so excited about this project! :)


Welcome to Force11, FidusWriting!


Eugenio Battaglia