MixedInk: Collaborative Writing Tool For the Lazy (and Smart)

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Obama’s inaugural address sounded pretty familiar to frequent readers of Slate.com. Perhaps that’s because 455 of them wrote it.

Well, not quite “it,” but something surprisingly similar in many ways. There was no huge meeting; no conference of the politically-minded, Obama-loving Slate readers. Rather, there was a website, and a fairly new one at that. The site is MixedInk.com and the collaborative writing service it offers is powerful.

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Here’s how it works: decide what you’re going to write about and allow hundreds or even thousands of interested participants to submit their two cents and comment on others’ contributions. As content comes in, contributors vote for the best, build off one another and end up with a cohesive piece of writing that takes the collective good stuff and leaves the bad behind.

MixedInk’s two most impressive projects thus far — the Slate collaboration and nearly 200 online activists who used the service to create a democratic platform, a small part of which ended up on the actual platform — have been political. But the MixedInk method is also incredibly applicable to beatblogs with active and opinionated readerships.

“It’s not good for five, 10 people collaborating,” acknowledged co-founder David Stern. “But there can be some pretty big niches for beatblogs. As long as it’s a big enough group, I think MixedInk is relevant.”

So if your “beatblog” is you and your sister interviewing your best friends about relationships, MixedInk probably isn’t for you. But if you’re a member of a community — online or otherwise — looking for a way to harness the creativity of the group, it’s your one stop shop.

David called it “a way to process news and summarize what’s happened, analyze it and say what it all means, to opine and take a position as a community.” As far as beatblogs are concerned, MixedInk offers a means of bringing reader interaction beyond comments, forums and Twitter responses. It offers the possibility of a site moderator posing a question and readers’ responses coming together as more than a group of remarks largely isolated from one another.

The site has been up and running since April 2007, but the MixedInk team is currently working to make it more widely accessible. They’ll do this by turning MixedInk into a free widget for smaller sites and a white label service for larger companies who want it fully integrated into the look and functionality of their sites. The widget should be available within the next couple weeks and David says its best for small publishers “who just want to figure out where their community stands — do something more engaging.”

Check out a video demo of the site below. For more specific “how to” info, click here.

MixedInk Demo from MixedInk on Vimeo.

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