Product Outlook: Write.as and WriteFreely
After taking a bit of a sabbatical in 2022, I’m back into Write.as and WriteFreely development. My views on the product naturally change over time, so I want to share where I’m at now.
The Musing Studio Suite
It was always my grand vision to have a set of standalone, but interconnected, tools for publishing on the web. There’s Write.as for words, Snap.as for photos, Submit.as for submissions, and Remark.as for socializing.
While I’m going to continue building in this direction as it makes sense for our hosted tools, I’m more focused on a new approach, particularly for WriteFreely as a product: having a unified platform.
The WriteFreely Platform
It’s become clear over time that in order to make WriteFreely (and Write.as) as useful as it can be, it needs to have a much more unified experience.
As a user, you shouldn’t need to go to a completely separate photo-hosting app just to add a photo to your blog post — you should be able to seamlessly upload it as you write. You shouldn’t need to switch to another site to interact with readers — their comments and discussions should be shown directly on your post.
This is especially true for our self-hosted, open source tool, WriteFreely. Today, it’s extremely easy for a sysadmin to spin up a single WriteFreely blog or multi-user community. All you need is a VPS and a domain name — there really isn’t much more to configure.
Until now, I’ve left complementing features like photo hosting out of WriteFreely entirely, as I figured out what the best approach is product-wise — e.g. do we want SnapFreely, SubmitFreely, etc? Or have it all in WriteFreely?
At this point, I don’t think it makes sense for our self-hosted product to be chopped up into multiple components like our hosted tools are. Instead, I want to bring all those tools into a single application in WriteFreely.
On one side, the WriteFreely / Write.as UX has been long-due for an overhaul. It’s still built around anonymous posts as the default product that results from using this tool. The UI assumes you’re mostly just hammering out an essay and sharing it as an anonymous post — not as a blog post, not to repeat readers, and not for the purpose of hearing feedback.
While that still works for many people, and we’re one of the few products out there that stick to this “less is more” idea, we also enable so many other things — and we need to support them as well.
New and Improved
To get there, I’ll need to develop some important and long-requested features. These are some of the ones that are top of my mind.
One part of this will involve full support for private drafts. Today, “drafts” are just anonymous posts — a hacky solution to a real problem. First-class support for drafts will help writers build up work over time and across devices, compose multiple posts at once, safely preview posts, schedule them for publishing, collaborate with their team before publishing, and ensure their writing is truly private throughout the process.
As a very far-off aside, this may evolve into another simple tool like Draft.as. But first and foremost, it’ll be baked into WriteFreely and Write.as.
Along with drafts will come better post management. Right now, you have to fumble through all the blog posts you’ve ever written, in their full form, just to manage them. There’s no way to search old posts on the platform itself, making it difficult to build up an interconnected archive over time. Instead of richly growing over the years, your blog becomes more difficult to manage, and ultimately less useful. This will be one of my first priorities to fix.
It’ll probably involve a dedicated section for managing posts.
After launching Remark.as early last year, I got some great feedback on what people want from a “social” side to the platform. Now, especially with the fediverse growing so rapidly after Twitter changed ownership, I’d like to help people socialize through their Write.as / WriteFreely publication on the open web.
For anyone using our hosted tools, this will start with Remark.as getting full support for replies directly from the fediverse. This will help more people interact with your writing from outside of Write.as.
Then WriteFreely will get the same ability, especially once adequate moderation tools are built out.
What do you think? What have I missed? Discuss...