I took a first look at Quip, the newly launched social document editor, but it just doesn’t go far enough to really consider it social or to adopt it.
The user experience is minimal, basically limited to two views: a folder and document view, and a document editor view.
Here’s the folder view. At the left is an activity stream, here showing file and document events, like doc editing.
To the right is the folder and document display. Clicking on folders drops down into their contents, while clicking on a document opens the editor view.
Here’s the editor view.
I used the editing features, which are minimal. I created a table, a checklist, and a heading, for example. And the box with ‘”Other” in it is a mention of another user (“Other Boyd”) that I share the document with, which is where we start to see the start of social interaction.
The checklists are intended to be used for tasks, but they aren’t social. I added a mention to one — which is I guess the best that can be done to represent that a task should be accomplished by someone — but that was a kludge. And once again, I would really have the task outside the document, so I could indicate something like “@jane please update this section by Tuesday’s meeting” with an explicit link to a section of the document. (As a corollary, it would be nice if the documents had named sections.)
Over in the document’s activity stream, you see that “Other Boyd” created the doc and shared it with me.
But what is missing is real social interaction around the document’s purpose and content. There is no way to create anything like a Word comment, or to direct a question to another user about the document. Yes, you can mention someone, but only in the text contents, not as metadata.
Update: I discovered after initially publishing this review that the text box I thought was only for attachments allows comments — with mentions — to be added to the activity stream. This changes things considerably, and I have rewritten the conclusion to reflect that. As you see below, comments can be added, but not associated with sections of the document, and not supporting threads (“replies”).
I haven’t used the tool on iPad or other devices, just on my Mac, but my hunch is that it works more or less the same everywhere.
I also wonder about these documents. Quip allows me to print them and export them as PDFs, but there is no way to sync them as externally editable files to Dropbox or Google Drive, for example. Nor is there a way to import existing documents. And the documents aren’t based on an existing markup language, like markdown. It’s just a closed document format.
The bottom line
Quip is an interesting framework for social editing and sharing documents, but it does not go far enough for me to imagine adopting it. I would like to see comment threads, linking of comments to sections of the documents, and real tasks. That would be a compelling product.
The founders of Quip — Bret Taylor and Kevin Gibbs — have made an interesting start with Quip, and I expect that they will be pushing ahead to make it a formidable social editing tool. It’s not quite there yet.
[Original conclusion is now invalid, but I retain it here for completeness.]
Quip is an interesting framework for socially editing and sharing documents, but falls far too short in the social dimension to make it a real productivity tool, one that would lead people away from Google Drive, or sharing files via Dropbox. The founders of Quip have great backgrounds — Bret Taylor was CTO of Facebook and a founder of FriendFeed, and Kevin Gibbs worked at Google — but I think they let this app out of the lab before it has the minimum viable social capabilities it needs to solve a real problem. But with just a few additional features — most obviously comments and tasks outside the text, in the Quip activity stream — then I would be writing a different review.]