Keeping track of document updates, file versions, plus discussions and decision points made while writing can get pretty messy. Especially with multiple authors involved in the process.
I’m sitting at my desk, needing to write a press release to send to marketing. The team has worked hard on this set of features, and we are excited to see them go live. I know that I’ll need to run a few things past our department head – I tend to have a fairly eccentric writing style. She will pull me back in places. We work well together. There are also a few technical details that the engineers will need to supply – it’s not in anyone’s interests for me to guess at these specifics. I’ll need to run the release dates part the PM, we can’t risk publishing the wrong dates (or data) to our clients. I’ll also need an angle … I have vague memories of writing some notes that I could use. I look on Dropbox. I look on Drive. I search in Finder. I search through old emails, and Slack. Perhaps I made the notes on my iPhone last weekend …
This is a pretty standard scenario: the type of workplace collaboration that takes place every day, a process that is so familiar we all take it for granted. We take for granted that the words, or content, that we write live in one of many document formats. We take for granted that the conversations that shape the words in the document happen across so many channels, that we often lose track of who said what and when. We take for granted that the audit trail of how the document evolved fails to capture the conversations that describe reasons for why decisions were made. We take for granted that the document content, and the conversations about the content, inhabit separate universes.
We don’t often stop to think about the inherent inefficiencies in these common, everyday tasks. Well … you may not, at TinyMCE we actually do. In fact, this is the only thing that we do. Every day.
But wait, collaboration is a solved problem
Unarguably, there are some fantastic tools in the marketplace for collaboration. Google Docs, Quip, Dropbox Paper, and CKEditor 5 all have modern, beautifully styled tools that capture the conversations around content creation. If we look further back, we’ll find the beginnings of collaborative features, such as track changes, built into Microsoft Word. Even our (old) Java-based editor EditLive! was loaded with commenting and track changes capabilities.
So what is all the fuss about? From a UX perspective, the collaboration problem is largely solved. At the very least, user expectations have been reasonably anchored as to what a standard “chat” or “conversation” experience will be like, and what it means to “collaborate” on the writing of a document. Similarly, most users have fairly set expectations about what track changes means in an editing context.
The challenge that remains, and one that has not been addressed by end-to-end closed CMS solutions like Dropbox Paper or Google Docs, is how to add or integrate collaboration capabilities into your existing editing systems. Let’s say you use Slack, WordPress, and Gmail in your current job. Chances are that the conversations that define the context for any one of your documents will be spread across all these channels, making traceability and auditability problematic – and likely, keeping you locked into a legacy system which is tolerated and worked around. We have all drafted out documents in Google Docs and pasted into proprietary old-fashioned systems for “audit” reasons.
TinyMCE Collaboration will change all that. Our vision for the set of tools that we will be bringing to market in 2018 and beyond is very clear: we are committed to building a set of components to help you keep track of the conversation in context with the document. These components will be easily integrated into your applications through our cloud-based API’s.
What is in TinyMCE Collaboration
TinyMCE Collaboration will consist of components that can be used separately or integrated together:
- Tracking changes to the content: traditional track changes capability and real-time collaborative editing
- Tracking the conversation that shapes the content: commenting and notification system, both asynchronous and real-time
The components will be available for integration into your applications through a set of cloud-based API’s. As we build out the full Collaboration solution, we are actively seeking feedback and involvement from the community to help us develop API’s that are simple to understand and easy to integrate into your editing solutions.
Moving beyond our developer preview
We are looking to work with integrating developers to understand your technical requirements. We want to keep conversation history “attached” to its content context while making sure that people can engage in the conversation using the apps that make the most sense to them. We want to free you from having important details scattered across email, multiple documents, content management systems and messaging applications.
All collaboration starts with a shared objective and a conversation. We’d like to start that with you now. If you’d like to share your ideas about collaboration in TinyMCE please ping
labs [at] tiny [dot] cloud and our product team will be in touch.