Working

So long, Editorially. It was good while it lasted.

Old typewriter

For the last year or so, I’ve been using an online writing tool called Editorially.

When it launched in early 2013, Editorially promised a new way for writers to work and collaborate with editors, contributors and — in my case — clients.

Simple and fast

Compared to bloated tools like Microsoft Word, Editorially is stripped back and super speedy, with an uncluttered appearance that encourages you to focus on what you’re writing.

Unlike Word, it doesn’t impose print standards like A4 on your work. That means Editorially makes a lot of sense for digital writing where the idea of a physical, printed page is irrelevant.

Better collaboration

But for me, the real power of Editorially comes from two things:

  • It relies on markdown to format text. Once you learn a few shortcuts (like # for a main headline or stars *for italics*), you can add formatting without needing a full WYSIWYG editor. It exports clean HTML and can publish straight to WordPress, too.
  • It offers well thought out collaboration functions. These make it pretty easy to send work out for review and gather comments, without relinquishing control altogether or ending up in a painful writing-by-committee-using-tracked-changes situation.

It took a while, but Editorially has become a valuable weapon in my writer’s armoury.

So, it’s a real shame that it’s shutting down.

The end of Editorially

The company announced the end of its short-lived service last week, in an articulate and honest blog post.

“Editorially has failed to attract enough users to be sustainable, and we cannot honestly say we have reason to expect that to change.”

In some ways, this is a stark illustration of the economics of online tools. Editorially has no sponsorship and charges no fees to its users (although it had planned to introduce charges and I would have happily paid).

It seems to have followed a fairly typical digital business model: attract lots of users, and work out how to make money from them later.

But it sounds as though disappointing user numbers have eliminated any hope of Editorially becoming a sustainable business. I wonder if that’s because Editorially is a good idea that the world isn’t ready for.

We all default to Microsoft Word

The big challenge Editorially faces is that we’re all pretty much hard-wired in to using Microsoft Word. When you need to write something, you reach for the big ‘W’ on your desktop.

It’s hard to break away from this pattern. And believe me, I’ve tried.

Although I’ve been using Editorially a lot to work up ideas and write draft content, often I end up exporting it to Microsoft Word in order to share it with clients.

It’s just easier that way. Although it’s not the best tool for the job, people are comfortable with Microsoft Word. If I send them a .docx file, they can just open it.

But if I send them a link to Editorially, they have to enter their details to register, then figure out the best way to view my content and add comments.

It’s hardly an enormous barrier, but it’s big enough.

What now for Editorially users?

Editorially is one of the quickest and tidiest ways I’ve found to work on digital content. It’s the first purpose-built tool for content creation that I’ve tried and stuck with.

But now I have to find something else.

I’ve dabbled with IAWriter and Scrivener. I’ve heard good things about Penflip. I’m sure I’ll keep using Microsoft Word out of necessity, but there’s definitely an Editorially-sized gap in my professional life that needs filling.

Image from Alan Turkus on Flickr under Creative Commons.

How to edit your own writing

No matter whether you’re a professional web copywriter (like me) or a professional something-else (maybe that’s you), we all have to edit our own work from time-to-time.

We do it when we read through an email before sending it, when we put the finishing touches to a new business proposal or when we dash off a press release. (You probably don’t do it when writing the weekly shopping list, but that’s ok.)

Editing isn’t easy

It’s not easy to edit your own text. Because you wrote it, you’re less likely to spot mistakes. Trust me – I once wrote a blog post promoting an event which got a the date of the event totally wrong. I wrote “14 November” instead of “14 January”. And I didn’t realise until a reader pointed it out.

That happened because I was in a rush. I wanted to get the information out there as soon as possible. Want to avoid this sort of embarrassing mistake? I’ve put together a few tips for you:

(more…)

The six perils of writing in public

You might have spotted from my previous posts that I like to work out and about. Cafes, pubs, bars … they’re all fair game for me and my little laptop.

I enjoy working on the move, but this very modern way of getting stuff done isn’t without its pitfalls.

Here are six situations to watch out for when it’s just you and your laptop:

  1. The lunchtime rush. At 10.30am, the cafe you’re in is nice and quiet. But at 11.30, something happens. The door doesn’t stop opening. People pile in, ordering take out or grabbing the last spare chairs. Nursing a small coffee while the world passes through, you feel conspicuous and in the way. Especially when some noisy office workers elbow their way to the table next to yours. Productive? You might as well give up now.
  2. The noisy children. These normally appear mid to late afternoon, though you can encounter babies and toddlers at any time of day. I’m undecided which is worse: the hyperactive ones who run about and push bits of furniture around, or the well-behaved, over-inquisitive ones who sit near you with their mum or dad and just won’t stop asking questions. Often about what the strange man with the computer is doing.
  3. The power crisis. Less than one cup of coffee into a stop at a café and my old laptop was gasping for juice. I constantly had my eye on the location of power sockets in the room, ready to shift tables when a prime spot became free. No matter what precautions I took, the machine would inevitably die during a highly productive spell. And have you ever had that awkward conversation when a member of café staff spots your unofficial power hook-up?
  4. The ergonomic nightmare. Starbucks chairs weren’t designed with the prevention of carpal tunnel syndrome in mind. In fact, they were probably designed to be uncomfortable to sit in for long periods, thus encouraging a fast customer turnover. (Ok, so maybe that’s just me being particularly cynical. But pay attention to what your body’s telling you. Wrists aching? Back sore? Time to find a proper desk.)
  5. The beer-on-tap temptation. One of my favourite spots to work is a bar/cafe just round the corner from my flat. The thing is, they have beer on tap. Good beer. A pint is ever-so-appealing, especially if I’m struggling with a tricky bit of work. I can usually resist the temptation, or postpone it by promising myself a glass when the job’s done, but every now and then (usually on a Friday afternoon) the pull is too strong.
  6. The toilet dilemma. Some cafés make you feel bad if you’re not constantly sipping while you work. With that much fluid intake, the inevitable tends to happen sooner rather than later. And that can lead to a difficult choice: do you pack everything up to guard against theft (in which case you might as well move venues), or trust the slightly shifty bloke on the next table to watch the laptop and papers you’ve spread out?

What obstacles have you faced when working out and about? Leave a comment and let me know.