Paperpile for Collaborative Online Writing

My grandfather once told me that there are two kinds of people: those who work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be in the first group; there was less competition there.
Indira Gandhi

Andreas from “Paperpile” ( ) send me a link to their service, asking me to have a look at it. Essentially, Paperpile is a reference manager that strongly builds upon Google Drive. For example, it stores your PDFs online. This makes it especially suited to collaborative writing. Andreas writes:

Paperpile is a reference manager that comes as a Google Chrome extension and integrates nicely into the Google ecosystem storing the PDF files of the papers in Google Drive and allowing easy one-click citation of papers in Google Docs.

You can find their promotional video on their site, or below embedded from YouTube:

And yup, it’s a bit … idealistic marketing-view on the world. And personally, I cannot test the app, as this way of dealing with data completely conflicts with my work philosophy. I want to have my data available offline and I rather trust my backups than a large company. Sure, Google might have (had?) “Don’t be evil” as motto, but the problem is never solely the current guy or gal at the top. It’s also the next one. And the one after that. And everyone down to the assembly line and sweeping the floors. So, no thanks. I want a local storage and local (but physically separated) backups.

This being said, the service does look very interesting — for collaborative writing. The times where I had to write papers within a short period of time but with multiple people involved was a pain in the ass. Especially as we had to use Word, as there is always someone who does not use Scrivener. But even then, using Google Docs helped us in the beginning to create some structure and work together at the same time.

So, while I cannot say whether Paperpile is a good service, or whether it works for online collaboration, I think it’s worth a look if it matches your work style. If you use it collaboratively, I would strongly suggest discussing first what the paper it about, it’s central point(s), and how you structure it (outline!). But yup, it might be helpful. Sure, the video shows you the best it can offer, an ideal case, but perhaps reality is not that far off.

If you try it out, I’d be interested in a comment.