Like YouTube, but useful

YouTube is oneLogo of the cornerstones of the modern web. It combines some of the best things about the internet – it’s participatory, uses rich media, and has a variety of entry levels. It’s also completely free, a key element of anything that’s going to be influential online today (as the Times learned last year).

But it’s also earned somewhat of a reputation for being everything negative about the modern web – it’s seen as a time-waster, and those who argue against user-generated content need point no further than the popularity of videos of cats playing the piano while skateboarding (okay – I can’t find one to combine these, but it must exist).

Enter DocStoc. I’ve described it to many of my collegues as “YouTube for business,” meaning you can find a memo about a cat playing a piano while skateboarding it’s a place where users can share and peruse documents they find useful. It’s not entertaining (Oooo… invoice templates!), but it is a great example of the power of a participatory internet. While once a brand-new non-profit would have to go to a small business incubator or book to find a sample NDA, this allows them to go online to browse 23 pages of options.

I bring this up because we so often are looking for an example of a site where user-generated content doesn’t turn into a flame war or endless string of banalities, but rather something that other users can really value. Wikipedia’s another great example here, but because of a few minor but much-trumpeted inaccuracies, some still look at it skeptically (even though it’s been shown to be as accurate as Encyclopedia Britannica).

So if you’re looking to start a small non-profit or business, or want an official-looking document, or just need to point to a user-generated content site your boss will approve of, give DocStoc a try. I can’t promise that it’s be kitten-free, but I can say that it’s at least intended to be useful.

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