Discuss documents with NowComment
NowComment is a web-based tool which lets you upload a file and invite people to discuss the text, sentence by sentence. Both documents and comments can be public or private. The product has been in “open beta” since early 2011 and accounts are free for now. NowComment features side-by-side panels for document text and comments. You can sort comments, skim summaries, hide comments, and reply privately. I tried it on my iPad and it worked well, although I did not test it systematically.
NowComment sponsored the recent ELI Fall Focus session, and during the event company president Dan Doernberg demonstrated his product. Doernberg, who founded Computer Literacy Bookshops in 1983, has recently been active in Fairness.com, a non-commercial informational site.
This is definitely not a collaborative editing tool. Use Google Docs for that, or use the “track changes” features of Microsoft Word. The closest relative I can think of is CommentPress, a WordPress plugin that allows readers to comment on paragraphs of a text.
NowComment is a great niche product for document-based discussion. Standing on its own, it seems too narrowly focused to appeal to a large number of instructors. This would be great functionality within a set of course tools. The company says that the University of Virginia has integrated NowComment with Sakai, but I have not been able to find details on what that involves.
In conclusion, although it might be considered a one-trick pony, NowComment does its trick very well. If you are an instructor who wants a group of students to share comments a document, this product is worth a serious look.
Another opinion: Edlab Review: NowComment.