Starting early last year, we saw a new creative use for WriteFreely: internal blogging. At the time, we worked with a large client to modify our open source platform and let admins run their site completely privately. We included this new option in the core platform, and started using it ourselves (as we do with all of our software). Then we launched a new hosted service, called Write.as for Teams, that I imagined would be the next big thing for us.
After some time, it's clear that this is still the next big thing for us. But the execution will be a bit different from what we initially planned — and it's in progress now.
In creating this hosted service for WriteFreely, we encountered one major roadblock — or rather, a canyon. Since Write.as and each Teams instance runs on completely separate data, users would need to create a Write.as account, pay for the service, and then navigate to their instance and create another account. Then on that new site, there was no clear connection back to Write.as — it was just a plain WriteFreely instance. In short, whereas all of our other separate services connected and blended together nicely, there was nothing seamless about this.
I saw two routes to take: either hack some customization options into WriteFreely to support our use case, trying to make it fit a mold it was never meant for — or start building from scratch, with a seamless user experience in mind from the start.
We decided to go with the latter. Internally, I'm calling this “Write.as Organizations,” just to separate it from our past product idea. But when it's ready, it'll likely be called “Teams.”
Incubating better UX
Organizations on Write.as will form naturally from everyone's existing use. If you're a Submit.as user, you'll be able to add team members to review submissions together. If you have a publication on Write.as, you'll be able to add multiple authors for each blog, as requested by users the past. Essentially, organizations will be a natural extension to each tool in our suite — so Snap.as and the others will seamlessly support them, too.
Once we put this new feature into practice on Write.as, refine it with real-world use, and see how it fits with all of our tools, we'll generalize it for WriteFreely to enable multi-author publications there, as well. As WriteFreely focuses on becoming a writing platform for communities, this feature will be even more important for enabling collaborative work.
As with everything we build, we're releasing this functionality in the form of small, but complete, incremental updates.
Our Submit.as users will be the first to take advantage of Organizations on Write.as. By subscribing, you'll get room for two people, who can both review submissions and receive alerts when new ones come in. Then beyond that, you can add as many people as you need for a per-user price. This is largely driven by our work with Johnson County Library, who have helped immensely with their regular use and early product feedback.
After that, we'll work on multi-author publications. If you're interested in this, we'd love to get your input on the forum, so we can continue building these features around our real users.
For now, the best way to start an internal blogging space at your organization (our old “Teams” use case) is with our free and open source software, WriteFreely. Our latest release supports a completely private mode, plus login via Slack and GitLab, so it's easy to bring your whole team onto the platform. We'll continue using WF for this every day at our company, just as open source developers like the Linux kernel and Debian teams are publicly employing it for their writing.
Once we've worked out the user experience in other areas of our suite, we'll return to long-form internal blogging on Write.as — an important problem we hope to keep solving for organizations going forward.
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