Thursday, September 04, 2008

Scribd: Great Document Sharing Site (that breaks with OpenOffice Calc files)

Scribd is an AJAX-y site that has been around for a while. Scribd's bailiwick is document sharing. Whatever document you upload, it converts it to pdf, txt, and Scribd's own format, iPaper (like pdf optimized for viewing in browsers).

There are some other pdf sharing sites, like Issuu (maybe Google Docs counts too, though that's more focused on document creation, something Scribd has no tools for). but Scribd has some strong pluses: iPaper lets you stream longer PDFs, social searching features help you find similar documents and connect with similar publishers, and Scribd supports a wide variety of formats, helping out MS and users. One of my favorite features is the ability to quickly and easily slap a creative commons license on your files.

While a lot of media hosting services are playing the game of rights grabbing* (claiming they own anything you post using their service now and forever, and don't owe you a dime if they sell it to the highest bidder over your protests), it's refreshing to see a site so committed to the communal content model that really drives the web.

So far, I've only had one major problem with Scribd, which was immediately eclipsed by their nonexistent customer support. When I uploaded an .ods file (an OpenOffice spreadsheet, one of the many "supported" formats), the internal document system labeled it in one place as a Microsoft Word document and refused to make it available for download in its original format. As far as I can tell, no one has been able to upload a spreadsheet from OpenOffice that others can download. This strikes me as a bit odd, since we're not talking about any conversion going on, just the ability to download the same files others uploaded.

This is a bit of an odd thing to post on Theory Bloc, but I couldn't find any other information online about this, so I felt obligated to say something somewhere. I asked Scribd if this was a known issue a few days ago, but haven't received a response. I'm probably spoiled on the instant feedback I get from so many other free webapps, but it just feels creepy when I don't get that automated "We've received your question and will respond shortly" email from customer service.

*Google was going to get an honorable mention as a rights grabber up there, but they fixed Chrome's rights grabbing EULA in a matter of hours. Oh, btw, Google has a new browser. It's called Chrome. Lifehacker says it's not faster than firefox, and just duplicates the features from a bunch of firefox extensions, but it still has a captivating aesthetic. It might deserve it's own post...