In my short time at SoMedia, I was thrown back into a curious place that I hadn’t been to an a long, long time—people needed to review and edit my posts before they went live. I’m not saying that my writing is flawless (ha!) nor that it never needs a little polish, but in this case the rounds of edits meant that I needed a system for people to read, edit, and comment on my posts. I then had to take those edits, comments, etc and re-incorporate them back into my work and send that revised post back for final approval. It wasn’t the “what do you mean you need to approve my posts?!?” that was onerous, it was that we still don’t have a great way to pull it off without lots of hoops, apps, and frustration.
No, just logging into WordPress doesn’t do it.
Your first thought might (should) be that, “well, why don’t you save the post as a draft, give people a link, and have them review it there?” Couple problems with this. First, is the business world’s ongoing love affair with getting documents via email. Second is that WordPress isn’t really great for this task. Sure people can have logins and review work, but as much as I hate using Pages or Word for writing, track changes is a handy feature and WP doesn’t have little bit. Without track changes and the ability to place inline comments, it’s hard to accept some changes while ignoring/rejecting others. Comments help reviewers pose questions or suggest additional content for a post without messing up the post itself.
I like Markdown, they like Word, I lose my mind
For well over the past year I’ve been writing my posts in a Markdown-aware editor. Right now I’m using Ulysses III (though MultiMarkdown Composer is close at hand), I love it’s Scrivener-esque layout and easy export options. But while all the files are just text, I wasn’t too keen on the idea of having to work text files into people’s workflows (ironic, no?). Oh I did try, but the “can you just send it to me in Word…” won out. Oh and the old track changes, in line comments thing reared its head here as well.
So, just sending Markdown-based text files is out.
So, what’s wrong with Word?
Part of the problem with Word is the whole process of getting Markdown formatted text into a Word file and preserve links and images. Yes, Markedis awesome, and I highly recommend it, but Brett Terpstra told me in an email exchange that dealing with Word is problematic. Links aren’t always preserved, images…nope. So To keep things in people’s beloved Word I had to do some multi-app juggling so links and images would still be in the document. Not fun.
PDF is pretty good, but for those times I needed (or wanted) to keep editing in Word, it isn’t a good option. Since I’m generally just transcribing changes…PDF works, but still a kludge (though links and images are preserved!).
So this is what we need an editing, reviewing, and posting tool.
Here’s what I’d like to see:
- Web-based tool where I can create projects and invite users
- I can upload text with Markdown, Word docs, Pages, or really any kind of text file into the system for review.
- I invite people to review the document. The best solution would be a system where the document went in sequence from one person to another, but if I could just assign one person at a time to review the work, that would be enough (for now)
- Reviewers can review the document, tracking changes and adding comments viewing it either as a Markdown document or a rendered, styled view. Either way, the Markdown (or HTML) isn’t borked in the process.
- Once reviews are done I can go in and accept or reject changes, add comments of my own, etc. Yes, I even want my own changes tracked too.
- Have a tracking system for who reviewed the post and who ultimately approved the post to go live.
- Finally, and I think this is one of the key features, be able to post to my blog(s) right from the tool. Yes, a web-based blog post editor. Why not? We have XML-RPC to handle it, there shouldn’t be any problem with also having a list of blogs that can be published to and when the post is ready, prepare it to go live and post. Sure the “going live” view can’t have comments or all the changes attached, but…if the Markdown has been preserved throughout the process, it shouldn’t be hard.
Why do we still need this?
Reading this you might think I’m just laser-focused on blog posts, which is an easy conclusion to draw, but in truth because more and more the content we’re producing is entirely for the web, we need a better set of tools to create, edit, review, approve, and post content for the web. Before I was getting posts approved I was working on content for the website. After rounds and rounds of edits, I had to cringe emailing a Word doc to the dev team to copy and paste into the site. This post on editorials calendars reviews Divvy HQ, which I tried, but sadly Divvy doesn’t manage the creation, editing, review, and approval process to the degree that we really need. Fine, posting right from the app is a pipe dream, but it would be cool wouldn’t it?
Maybe I’ve missed a great app/tool/service that does all these things, and if it exists I’d love to know about it, but I don’t think it’s out there. Now getting it built…that’s a horse of a different color.