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robin sloan

Betaworks Launches Tapestry, A Way To Author Beautiful Smartphone Essays

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About half a year ago, futurist, novelist and former Twitter media manager Robin Sloan meditated on what the future of storytelling might look like on smartphones.

The product of that was ‘Fish,’ an essay about the difference between liking and loving something on the Internet. It was a beautiful, simple story that you could tap through with elegantly laid out type. Unlike web pages, which are littered with links that let you choose your own adventure, there was only one way to go in ‘Fish’ — forward. It constrained choice, and forced you to pay attention and look closely at the essay’s titular object, a fish.

New York-based Betaworks got inspired by the project. The incubator, which does a fair bit of experimentation with media through projects like Bit.ly and Chartbeat, wanted to make it easy to create more tap essays like ‘Fish.’

So they’ve created Tapestry, a WordPress-like way of generating these ‘tap essays.’

“Robin spent hours and hours learning how to code in order to get the written,” said Betaworks CEO John Borthwick. “We thought what if we could create a platform to author these?”

The editing environment is pretty simple as you can see below. It resembles Tumblr or WordPress where you can edit the size and color of the font. You can pull in images externally. If you want to preview a story, there’s a mode for that. And when you’re done, Tapestry gives you a URL that you can share with friends.

“I love the idea of a native authoring platform for iOS, because there is so much creativity that’s already happening on iOS,” Borthwick said. “We want it to mimic web-based authoring.”

There are already a few examples up, including one from “How to be Black” author Baratunde Thurston on voting and one from the Oatmeal about inventor Nikola Tesla.