Our next chapter

Hello, from James, Anna, Jono, Abby and Blaine.

We have some important news to share — Poetica’s technology has been acquired by Condé Nast, where our team will continue to develop our rich editorial tools as part of Condé Nast’s copilot platform. This does mean, however, that we’ll be discontinuing the public Poetica service.

Read on to learn more about what the future holds, why we’ve made this decision and how we’ll handle the shutdown. First, though:

  1. You will be able to download a complete archive of all of your drafts.
  2. Thank you to all of our loyal users and friends who have supported us along the way.

Our goal with Poetica has always been to support writers and editors in their work. There’s an immense well of creativity that was – and still is – held back by inferior tools. We’ve pushed the boundaries of what’s possible, and we’re proud of what we’ve built so far. Our technology and design enable the sort of collaboration that a few short years ago was only accessible to those who could climb the steep learning curve of arcane tools like git.

Up until now, though, we’ve been a small five-person team. We’ve tackled the dual problems of creating a humane, intuitive, and collaborative way to interact with text, on any device and any content platform; and the parallel challenge of creating a viable business model. Unfortunately, these goals were often at odds with each-other, competing for our limited time and attention.

That’s why we’re so excited to announce that we’re joining Ed Cudahy and the talented copilot team at Condé Nast. We’re eager for the opportunity to deliver the best possible editorial experience to Condé Nast’s unparalleled editorial teams, so that they can focus on doing what they’ve always done best – delivering great writing to nearly 150 million readers across the globe.

What will happen to Poetica?

  • We’ll keep the Poetica service running for the next three months. The service will be live until June 1st, 2016. After June 1st, poetica.com will be unavailable.
  • Any drafts that were created on Poetica will be downloadable in ODT format (compatible with Word, Google Docs, etc) until June 1st.
  • A full backup of your drafts, including all edits, and so on, will be available in a raw JSON format until June 1st.
  • We’re working on preparing those archives, and our users will receive an email in the coming weeks with details on how to download their drafts.
  • While Condé Nast has acquired the Poetica software, they have not acquired any of Poetica’s users’ data. No names, email addresses, drafts, or any other data will be transferred to Condé Nast, and we will carefully destroy any records and backups soon after Poetica is shut down.
  • It’s worth noting that we will not be maintaining a public archive of Poetica drafts. While we deeply value the preservation of the web’s history in the face of constant change, Poetica was never a publishing platform, and our users have an expectation of privacy around their drafts that would be broken by maintaining an archive.

Thank you!

Any project worth doing is rarely completed in a vacuum, and there are a lot of people who along the way helped us out in one way or another; some just a little, and some a lot. We’re grateful to everyone who’s been involved, but there are a few people we’d like to offer our deepest gratitude for their efforts:

Thank you to Maureen, Poetica’s muse. Ben, Andy, Aanand, Steffen, and Tom for helping us get started in style. Guy for his icons and Basil for the invaluable user experience insights. Bailey, Léa, Tasneem, and Sophie for the fantastic marketing and social media support. Jesse in particular deserves a special mention for the relentless support and advice he’s given us all the way through, even whilst getting Kaia’s and his startup off the ground. To all our investors, thank you for believing in us, offering advice when we needed it, and trusting us to create something brilliant and useful. And, of course, a huge thank you to all of our users for seeing the potential in what we’d made and taking a punt on us.

New feature release: full screen mode for WordPress drafts

Using Poetica can now reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, reduce stress and improve your writing all at the same time.

Why, you ask? Because you can now view your WordPress drafts in beautiful full-screen mode. Sit back, relax, and write from a reasonable distance! Let your mind expand along with the size of your writing area; be one with the white space and allow yourself to focus on the task in hand.

Give me the zen: how can I do it?

Directly above the writing pane is a button labelled ‘Distraction free mode’. This is the button that will bring you inner peace. Click here to be relieved of the cumbersome side panels and get a full-width writing pane.

Want more? Activate your computer’s own full-screen function and you’ll get the draft, the whole draft and nothing but the draft. No pesky emails or messengers to draw your eye or your mind.

You’ll notice that the distraction free button remains depressed for as long as you’re using it. Click it again to come back to reality.

Conclusion: distraction free + fullscreen = less squinting, less hunching, fewer furrows in the brow; in fact an all-round more pleasant editing experience.

Proof that using Poetica really does keep you looking young.

How to help your team communicate better… with emoji

The time was that a smiley face at the end of an email was the height of gauche unprofessionalism in the workplace, indicating overfamiliarity or lack of linguistic capacity.

In some arenas, no doubt it will never be ok – investment bankers, lawyers and funeral directors probably won’t be stepping into the warm fuzzy waters of emoji reactions any time soon. For the rest of us, rejoice, for now the emoji has been proven (yes, with actual science) to benefit our working lives.

To save your screenwipes before you begin snorting in incredulity, check out our carefully curated science facts about how emoji can change your life.

1. Emoji have the same effect on our brains as real-life facial expressions

Researchers have found that smileys can replace the missed non-verbal cues you get from face-to-face interaction. In a world increasingly reliant on digital communication, we’re going to need this.

Our brains are clever beasts and have adapted so quickly to the new language of the emoticon that it’s possible for us to respond to them in the same way as a real facial expression. For those who struggle with IRL expression and emotion, such as people on the autism spectrum, emoji could be a useful tool for both learning and communication of emotion.

Science also says that using emoji on social media can make you more popular. Therefore it stands to reason that appropriately executed emoji within your social media campaigns at work will increase your engagement and, well, make your organisation more popular.

2. Emoji make you happier

Humans are social creatures. If we can reintroduce social nuance in our remote, computer-centric working lives, it makes sense that not only will we all feel happier and more connected with one another, but we’ll express ourselves better, and get better results.

Email has long been known to foster negativity and increase the risk of miscommunication. Dubbed the ‘negativity effect’, the reader of an email is far more likely to interpret the contents negatively than the author. Studies have shown that simply adding an emoji can combat this effect by (as above) doing the job of tone and expression.

3. Emoji make for a kinder and more effective critique

When critiquing someone’s work it can be a tough job to deliver the goods without hurting any feelings.

This study found that the use of an emoji in delivering feedback helped the receiver feel that the giver’s intentions were well intentioned – regardless of whether a happy or sad emoji was used.

Recipients’ perceived good intention of the feedback provider will positively affect their acceptance of the negative feedback.

Ergo, using an emoji as part of your critique-technique not only creates a more positive experience for the recipient, but also increases their likelihood of taking your comments on board.

And guess what? Poetica has emoji too 😉

Because we’re all about great communication, you can use emoji throughout your Poetica experience: make someone feel good with a simple thumbs up, and maintain relationships by tempering constructive comments with a knowing wink.

New feature release: get email notifications about your WordPress content

When you don’t work in a bricks-n-mortar office, or have a remote team, keeping everyone up to date about the progress of your work is vital – but also time consuming.

Fortunately for you, Poetica is all about making life easier.

When changes are made to a WordPress post that you’ve either written or viewed using the Poetica plugin, you’ll now receive an email notification:

That big button in the middle that says ‘Open in Poetica’ – click here and your WordPress draft will be automagically opened so that you can view the changes that have been made.

Everyone who has viewed a draft will receive an email notification when changes are made. You’ll also be notified if there are new chat notifications or comments, as well as changes to the actual text. Perfect if you need to know what your team is up to without having to ask! Or if you’re wrestling with a full schedule and simply don’t have time to write that extra email asking for feedback, or an update on someone’s work.

No longer want to receive notifications? No problem! At the bottom of the email is a handy ‘unsubscribe’ button. This will stop any more emails about that particular draft.

Have your say on what we build next at Poetica

This week, we’re introducing our brand new Trello board for upcoming Poetica features!

We want to share what we’re working on at the moment and what we’re thinking about next, so you can have your say on what we should be building.

Here’s what’s on there:

  1. Shipped: Features that are in the live product
  2. In progress: Features we’re actively working on in our current two-week sprint
  3. To prioritise: Features that we’d like to start work on in the next four weeks
  4. Ideas: Features that are four weeks or more away from being actively worked on

Here’s how you can get involved:

  1. Upvote a feature if you think we should be prioritising it
  2. Subscribe to a feature to keep track of its progress
  3. Comment on a feature and give us some feedback or ask a question

And if you’d like to chat to the team, or you have a bug to report, you can find us on Twitter or email us, any time!

The real reason contentEditable doesn’t have a future

Text editing remains one of the most important but least improved features in modern software.

Users’ expectations of software for writing on the web are still defined by Microsoft Word, a 30-year-old juggernaut that was designed in an era when the ‘paperless office’ was still a fantasy.

From a technical perspective, things aren’t much better. Current solutions for writing on the web remain dominated by ContentEditable: the HTML attribute that lets users edit the content of an element. ContentEditable forms the basis of most web-based text editors.

Fundamentally, though, ContentEditable isn’t fit for purpose. It was designed to turn browsers into WYSIWYG HTML editors, but it turns out that this is not a job for the browser.

The problem with ContentEditable 101

The good news is that there are many smart people chipping away at this problem. There are some brilliant explanations of why ContentEditable is no longer fit for purpose. Here’s the simple version:

Different browsers generate HTML in ContentEditable elements differently. The WYSIWYG view might look the same to the end user, but the underlying HTML is different.

Take this example: the HTML which displays “Bold and italic” could be represented in the following different ways:

<strong><em>Bold and italic</em></strong>

<em><strong>Bold and italic</strong></em>

<em><strong>Bold and</strong><strong>italic</strong></em>

<b><i>Bold and italic</i></b>

<b><em>Bold and italic</em></b>

And so on and so forth. This is the simplest possible case – real world scenarios are often much more complicated.

From a users’ perspective, if you’ve ever copied and pasted text from one editor to another and found the resulting formatting to be unexpectedly different, you have ContentEditable to thank.

However, despite more discussion about the failings of ContentEditable, there is a fundamental problem that is still being over-looked: the problem of how you support collaboration on text.

Why collaboration matters far more than you think

The ability to work in realtime with another person on anything on the web will become a basic user expectation of all web-based software – and that change is going to happen soon.

We will look back to 2015 as the days when it was still just about acceptable to email a *file* around in order for someone to make a contribution to it and send it back as a hilarious dark age where we all wasted our time shouting past one another. Google Docs is the Nokia 3310 of collaborative productivity tools.

The ability for two or more people to access, discuss and make changes to content simultaneously will become as normal and expected by users as the ability to add a string of smilie-faced emoji to a text message is right now.

Not only will users *come to expect* this behaviour, but this is a Good Thing. We’ll waste less time, be less annoying to our colleagues, express ourselves more clearly and be more transparent about our creative – and not so creative – processes.

As we’re thinking about the future of writing on the web, if we neglect the need for people to collaborate together, we’re missing a huge trick.

We can’t let that happen.

Why ContentEditable and collaboration are incompatible

At its core, the problem of managing user collaboration is one of version control: we need to know who changed what and when. We also need to display those changes to the user in a simple, understandable way. The problem of collaboration is one that can only be solved by carefully balancing technology and design.

Let’s go back to our simple example:

<strong><em>Bold and italic</em></strong>

Say you wanted to add the letters ‘er’ after ‘Bold’. But your colleague wants to replace the word ‘and’ with ‘or’ at the same time.

How software manages the above scenario – merging those changes without conflicts and producing the outcome expected by both users i.e. “Bolder or italic” – is the basic problem collaborative software has to solve.

The problem for ContentEditable is that in order to know who’s changed what and when, the browsers have to have the same understanding of what’s being changed:

<strong><em>Bold and italic</em></strong>

<b><i>Bold and italic</i></b>

Without getting into too much detail, building a collaborative system that can reliably understand that the abstract meaning of the two strings above are the same is an immense problem. It might be impossible in practice, since what we’re talking about is really interpreting different browsers’ models for text. Instead, the best approach is to deal simply with text, and treat any formatting separately.

This circle can’t be squared: ContentEditable’s approach to editing text makes building collaborative products harder than it would be otherwise. We can’t mix an abstract HTML representation of text and the text itself; they need to be separate.

Building sustainable standards

At Poetica, we care about these problems immensely. We care about building great products users love and we care about the future of the web.

We’re really excited that there are more and more smart people recognising the huge opportunity in re-thinking the most fundamental of our freedoms that the web has afforded us – the ability to write and publish whatever’s on our minds.

But if we miss the role of realtime collaboration in this future, we’ll not only be having this conversation again far sooner than we’d like, but we’ll be building poor-quality tools for users who will demand more.

Further reading:

The road to HTML 5: contentEditable

Why ContentEditable is Terrible

ContentEditable: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Fixing ContentEditable

An introduction to Prose Mirror

My top 10 tips for using Poetica!

skygarden

Poetica has a shiny new #getpoetica hashtag, which we’re using to share our top tips and features over the coming weeks.

I’m Poetica’s upstart blogger, Sophie (hello!). I must say it did take me a while to #getpoetica – but now I’m enraged when I have to use something else!

I want those features to be everywhere – in my email, in my spreadsheets, form building, etc. Believe me that when it clicks, you won’t want to write with anything else.
Here are my favourite features for a better writing experience:

1. Get more eyes on your work

Collaboration is the number one way to improve your writing. Click ‘share’ and invite whoever you like to come and critique, make suggestions, or just have a chat about your text.

Sharing

 

2. Check your activity panel

All comments and suggestions appear here, eliminating squinty eyes at the screen working out who’s written what. Pro tip: click a comment or suggestion in the activity panel to find it in the draft.

Chat in realtime
 

3. Streamline your feedback by replying directly to comments

Editing can get messy, so tidy up with this feature whilst taking ‘wait, which bit are you talking about?’ out of the equation.

Emoji replies

 

4. Integrate with Slack

I just wrote about this one. Let your Slack-mates know when you’re working on a piece in WordPress. (What’s Slack? The fabulous future of team communication.)

slack_poetica_small

 

5. Switch between writing and suggesting mode

Click the keyboard/highlighter symbols at the bottom of the screen to switch (Poetica ninjas use Ctrl-J). Perfect for annotating someone else’s piece without losing the original text, or stepping on any toes.
Switching between writing and editing

 

6. Undo any change at any time

Instead of deleting suggestions or comments, Poetica archives everything. You can see these archived annotations in the activity panel by selecting the ‘show archived’ option, and reverse any accepted changes if you’ve changed your mind.
Undo

 

7. Get a full version history

Using the two features described above, it’s possible to see a full history of who did what, and when. Pro tip: If you’ve integrated Slack, your Poetica feed becomes archived and searchable too.

History
 

8. Be speedy with keyboard shortcuts

Click the ‘Alt’ button at the bottom of the screen for a full list of Poetica-compatible keyboard shortcuts.

Keyboard shortcuts

 

9. Chat

Sometimes you need an opinion that doesn’t revolve around a specific syntactical dilemma. Chatting in the activity panel lets you do this, and earburn whoever you need. Pro tip: Slack integration beams your bat signal even further.


 

10. Use emojis!

You can add emoji reactions in chat and in comment replies. Seriously, it’s good for you and your team.

Emoji in chat example

Want more? Search Twitter with #getpoetica!