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Upwelling: Combining real-time collaboration with version control for writers

Karissa Rae McKelvey, Scott Jenson, Eileen Wagner, Blaine Cook, and Martin Kleppmann

Ink & Switch, March 2023.


Collaboration features of existing software do not sufficiently meet the needs of professional non-fiction writers. Real-time collaboration in cloud applications like Google Docs can create stress when writers feel watched by their co-authors, and file-based collaboration can introduce difficulty with versioning and merging edits from different co-authors. Further, in environments where accuracy is crucial, like newsrooms, existing tools make reviewing changes unnecessarily difficult.

In the Upwelling project we have built an experimental editor that aims to satisfy the needs of professional writers and editors. It allows co-authors to collaborate in real time when they wish to, but it also supports work on private drafts that can be shared and merged only when their authors are ready. By combining elements of real-time collaboration with ideas from version control systems, Upwelling supports writers in maintaining their creative privacy and editors in ensuring accurate results.