Last week Editorially shut down. I kept using it until the bittersweet end, working on an article for A List Apart. A day before the shutdown I flipped that document’s status to “Final”, exported my data, and debated whether to delete my account or not. I left it alone, with the small hope that everything could be resuscitated in the future.
I started using Editorially just before it came out of beta. I made a comment on Twitter about writing with Markdown, and shortly after that I got a message from Mandy Brown wondering if I wanted to try out her team’s new project. At first I wasn’t sure where it fit into my writing process—I had been writing using nvALT and Byword, and both of those are pretty good tools. I appreciated Editorially’s versioning features, but I don’t think I really started to use Editorially regularly until it gained support for reviewers, editors, and discussions.
Rob Brackett, who helped build Editorially, wrote a bit about how they implemented features as a team, and how that often meant taking the slower road to a better product:
Sometimes I worried that we were too slow. But I knew, very surely, that the product was dramatically better for the time and effort we took to work together.
As a user I felt the results of that care and obsessive attention to detail. It’s probably the wrong word to use for an app you couldn’t physically touch, but Editorially’s haptics were excellent. Perhaps features took longer to arrive, but what was there felt right, like someone had truly agonized over the details. I enjoyed logging in and seeing small changes, the kind that smoothed out friction that would probably have gone unnoticed unless you used the app day-in and day-out. Editorially felt extravagant, like a meticulously hand-crafted gift made even more valuable for being so unexpected. After all, who sets out to build a Markdown-centric collaborative writing tool in the first place?
I should pause here and say that I’ve always loved writing, but somewhere along the way it got harder and harder to do. I suffer from absolutely terrible writer’s block. One of the things Editorially did was make it easier to share my writing with friends and get feedback. I found myself writing more pieces, and finishing more of those. Just the knowledge that someone was looking over my writing was a powerful motivator. Whenever I described Editorially to other folks, the word in my head was liquid, simply because that’s what it felt like to write there—the words flowing with minimal resistance.
Marc Drummond wrote a heartfelt farewell to Editorially after they announced they were shutting down, and he said this:
So that’s what I loved about Editorially. Quite simply, Editorially helped me to write again. The interface gave me confidence, helped me along, and then just let me write.
That was my experience, too. I’m writing again, and Editorially played a big role in making that happen. It breaks my heart that love and care and thoughtfulness resulted in a great product, but somehow that wasn’t enough. All I can say is thank you to Mandy and her team, for crafting something that had such an unexpected, lasting impact in my life.