post_locking

Sometimes the smallest changes have the largest impact. Choosing a comma over a semicolon can improve a sentence’s flow, a single note can alter a guitar solo, and swapping a horrendous lime flavor for a much-improved “green apple” flavor can improve a rainbow-colored candy’s taste tenfold. WordPress has rolled out one of these small changes today with “Post Locking,” a new feature shipping as part of WordPress 3.6 that won’t matter much to lone bloggers but could make WordPress much less painful to use for newsrooms and other “multi-author environment[s].”

Post Locking allows WordPress users to see when someone else is editing a post without having to enter it themselves, cutting down on some of the back-and-forth I described in a previous post:

Collaborating on a post via WordPress requires constant communication to ensure that someone’s changes aren’t being overwritten by someone else (“Are you in the post? It says you’re in the post.” “Nope, WordPress is lying,” or “Okay, I’m going to publish this,” “No, wait, I’m still making changes” are common in hell Chatter) and is likely to have shaved a few years off of our collective lifespans.

Post Locking goes beyond communicating who is editing a post — it also makes it easier to avoid the versioning clusterfuck that can occur when more than one user is working on something. Instead of accidentally saving over someone else’s edits, which was all too easy just yesterday, Post Locking requires users to “Take Over” a post if they want to edit it and someone else is already working on it.

This makes it easier to deal with a post if, say, a distracted writer or editor leaves a post open in their browser without realizing it. (I said I was sorry, guys.) I actually like WordPress’ implementation of this feature more than that of Editorially, a Web-based writing tool I dubbed the “collaborative writing tool we’ve been waiting for” in March, as WordPress allows me to force someone out of a post instead of merely requesting that they cede control.

“This is one of the things that people wanted for a long time. The problem was that not enough people really wanted it,” says Andrew Ozz, an Automattic employee who worked on the feature. Recently, however, that’s changed, as “more and more people needed the feature,” Ozz says.

Given the reaction to Editorially and other collaborative writing services, that’s hardly a surprise, and while it’s easy enough to write in another app or service and then bring the text into WordPress once it’s ready for publication, being able to take care of the whole shebang within WordPress is much more convenient.

As I mentioned above, and as Ozz points out, Post Locking is a relatively small feature that will probably go unnoticed by many of WordPress’ users. It is, however, a step towards a more user-aware WordPress, a writing and publishing tool that allows writers and editors to work together without worrying about niggling technological issues that plagued the service just yesterday.