My overall experience with Dave Winer's new tool has been verrrrry positive. I have now posted six messages using it and decided it might be a good idea to report about what I have found. I am also using this article as a way of gathering in one place what I know about using the MyWord editor, so the procedures I have learned are easily at my fingertips in the future, with this as a reference. :orange_book:
I'm fairly computer literate, as I'm a tax accountant in my 31st tax season and naturally we use computers a lot, very specialized tax software, plus Word, Excel and Internet research. I learned Fortran in college (in the last century), and built my first website in the mid 1990's by coding the html by hand in a text editor, but I am NOT a programmer, web designer or full-time nerd. I like to write and have blogged using Blogger, Posterous, Posthaven, Postach.io, Facebook, Twitter and Google+. I have been using Fargo for a long time as an outliner, starting in July 2013. I've blogged with it too, and also created my extensive Thailand Compendium (over 600 links for learning about Thailand) using it.
Of all these tools that I've tried over the years, I've enjoyed using MyWord.io the most. It is very easy to use and the results look great, especially with a good banner image at the top. I have many good photos I took of ancient murals on temple walls in Thailand and they look very nice with this tool. Overall, I find the output to look just as nice as Medium. I have written and posted a message using it for six days in a row, because it is so easy to use. I have never cranked out six blog posts in six days ever before. It was always just too much work with the other tools.
I approached it on a gradient, trying out new things gradually from essay to essay. In my very first message, I was shocked at how good it looked. The banner image looked fantastic, and I liked the size and choice of the fonts, which the update for v0.43 at GitHub suggests is Georgia for the body of the text and Ubuntu for the title font. I like them both a lot. It took about fifteen minutes to create the first version of my first posting, with the banner image and text below it. I was immediately very impressed, but then I had to work a while to get the text formatted better. On this very first message I used the Markdown method of linking, which I had zero experience in using. I looked it up at Wikipedia and followed what they showed there. The Markdown procedure to create a link was ridiculously easy, with square brackets around the words to link from and the URL in parentheses right after that. It is by far the fastest way to create a link of any method I've ever used and one of the things I like the most about this tool.
In my second message I zoomed along typing text and plopping in URL's as I went, to make links. I had put the image I used in the first message into the settings as my default image, so I didn't even bother with selecting a new image for this second essay. I began to use Markdown for bold and italics, although I used underline for italics (a habit from Google+). In later messages I switched to using a single asterick, as specified in the Wikipedia article. Both methods worked.
For my third message, I thought, "Enough of the easy stuff." I wanted to see whether I could get a video embedded into one of my essays. I was sure this was going to take some fiddling around and maybe a lot of trial and error. I already had the video I wanted to try in mind. So I went to YouTube and found it, clicked on Embed, copied the code they provided, plopped it into the MyWord editor, typed a few lines of text below that and then clicked on Publish, just so I could get started on fiddling with it. BAM! There it was, my video ready to be played right at the top of my essay, below the banner image. It had taken maybe three minutes to achieve that result, with it working perfectly on my first try. I was shocked once again! Well then I just HAD to do some fiddling, so I tried changed the numbers in the code for the video from 853 & 480 to 1280 & 720 to make it really big. That worked, but I didn't like it, TOO big, so I changed it back. That was the extent of the fiddling I had to do.
My fourth essay was just a fun one for me. I did some searching for a different image for this one and of course that took some time. Then it was typing a lot of text, with some links along the way. And I stumbled onto a perfect video to include, so that went in, this time in a few seconds after I found it. The banner image wasn't as beautiful as my Thai temple murals, but it was appropriate to the subject of my essay, so I was happy with it.
My fifth essay turned out to be the hardest and I'm not completely pleased with how it came out, the only one where that is the case. I had decided that I should try some numbered lists, using Markdown. I went to Wikipedia and it looked simple enough to make such a list, just space down a line, indent a bit, put in the first number and item, then repeat with the other numbered items below that. I just skipped the indenting at first, as the editor didn't seem to let me do a tab. So I just typed the numbered items down the left side of the editing window, and that's how they came out, with the numbered items jammed over on the left side under their headers, not nicely indented the way Wikipedia showed it. I tried adding three spaces before each numbered item, but that produced a worse result. In addition, the overall spacing didn't look nice to me. The successive items in a list were verrrry close together, and then the header for the next list would look too close to the bottom of the last item on the previous list.
I did a LOT of fiddling with this one, trying to get the spacing to look better. I found nothing that would indent the items and I ended up using an html horizontal rule tag on the line before the header for the next list. I had stumbled onto this trick in an earlier essay for getting an extra blank line added. In html I guess it's supposed to add a horizontal rule, but in my Chrome browser (and Internet Explorer) it just adds a blank line, no horizontal rule. Probably not kosher, but good enough for me during this learning stage.
I gave up and accepted the fact that the successive items in a numbered list look too close together. I tried bulleted items, but they came out pretty much the same way. I figure I need to learn more about how to do this part of Markdown. Dave wrote a page on how to use Markdown with MyWord and it points to change notes that say, "Markdown is off by default, you can turn it on by including "flMarkdown": "true". I added those words above my first lists, but it just came out as additional text in the body of the message and the lists looked the same. In his example the list items are spaced nicely apart, though still not indented from the left as with the Wikipedia example. So there must be something I'm doing wrong with lists. I did learn that one can do a Header Four, using four pound signs, instead of three, which Wikipedia gives as the procedure for a Header Three. I will try this out soon. Dave has said that he would welcome help from those who are good with Markdown.
I posted this message in the support mail list for my-word editor and soon after I had messages from both Dave Winer and Todd McKinney, coming to my rescue about my difficulties with the Markdown numbered lists. Todd mentioned that he had the same problems with the formatting that I had at first, but then he consulted Jon Gruber's Markdown spec and discovered that it suggested separating each list item with a blank line. When he did that, he was happy with the three item numbered list in his resulting message. Dave did the same thing and linked to an example message, as well as showing the exact text he typed to get a nice five item numbered list.
In both cases a blank line between the items did the trick. Both of their examples look just fine to me. And in fact, I had tried that same approach to produce my numbered lists. But instead of having three or five items, some of my lists had as many as fourteen and twenty items! With that many items, the blank lines seemed to me to spread the numbered lists out over a HUGE amount of vertical space on the page.
For lists of a few items, I would probably just use the blank lines in the future, like Todd and Dave did. But I decided to try one other approach to get my lists looking more the way I wanted. I decided to scrap Markdown for this task and try using html instead. After much experimentation, I settled on using html tags for Description Lists, with the description of each item being an EM SPACE, so that no text at all would be seen in the description. What I found was that this description line with a blank space added a blank line with less vertical distance than the Markdown blank lines produce. I measured the vertical distance for five items and found that this html approach took up only 70% of the amount of vertical space that the Markdown blank lines were producing. That is, the html Description Lists were more compact than the Markdown Lists using blank lines, but not totally jammed together like the Markdown Lists using no blank lines.
That was what I had been trying to achieve, so I left my test message that way. But I had a new surprise. For some reason, when I took this approach, the list items came out in bold type. I liked the spacing, so I just changed everything connected with the lists into bold text, so that it looked uniform. I also changed the header above the lists from a header three to a header two, so the header would stand out a bit more.
But after making this change for provinces I've visited, I was getting worn out. So for the lists of provinces I've not yet visited, I took an entirely different approach, to simplify my life considerably. I didn't use Description Lists for those. I just listed them out alphabetically on one line, separated by commas, with a header four at the beginning of each of these lines and the count in parentheses at the end.
Much simpler to produce. I have left both methods and will see which I prefer over time. This fifth essay is now my most edited message by far!
For my sixth essay, I realized I had not yet put a picture into the body of the text for any of my postings. So it was time to try that out. I've been using images hosted in my Dropbox account for the banner images at the top. I learned how to do that when blogging with Fargo. Just pick the image I want at Dropbox, click on share, copy the URL it provides and drop that into the Image URL field near the top of the editor. Ohhhh, and change the www in the URL to dl. Easy.
So I picked an image I wanted in the body of the text for my new essay, got its URL, dropped it into the editor, changed the www to dl and clicked on Publish. Yuuuck! All I had was the text of the URL in the body of my essay.
I tried dragging and dropping an image into the body of the editor window. That produced no result at all. There was no button to upload an image, so forget that. I was stumped.
And then it came to me (DUH!), from my experience in blogging with Fargo. Maybe I could use some html! So I went to W3schools.com like I always do every time I want to use some html, to get the tag for adding an image. I found it and pasted it into the editor, replaced url with the dl version of my dropbox image URL, replaced *some_text* with some clever text, and clicked on Publish.
Success! A nice image appeared, exactly the same width as the text, in the body of my essay. So I filled out the rest of the text I wanted, using Markdown third level headers this time (really easy and they look nice), then added the video I wanted (less than one minute to do that again) and I had a nice looking essay.
I looked at five other pages created with the MyWord editor by others to see if anyone had done something I had not tried. I found nothing major that I had not tried. KenSmith had used the Description field in a clever way that had not occurred to me, so I might be able to do that too at some point. And Todd McKinney had what looked like a Markdown created numbered list with beautiful spacing, much better than my own! I looked at the page source to see if I could figure out what he was doing differently from me, but no joy, even after poring over some very tiny text and comparing it to similarly tiny text in the source file of my own attempt. I gave up again, for the time being.
I decided I had tried all the basic functions that I wanted working and it was time to report back to the creator of this tool, Dave Winer. He let me try it out ahead of the public release, so I figured I should at least give him some feedback about how it went. And so I started typing out this message, which took a LONG time, because it's a loooong message. At first I was thinking I would post it as a message in the support mail list for my-word editor, but I know Dave hates it when people write a blog article in comments, so I decided maybe this better just be a blog article, which I can link to from a message in the support mail list.
So now I gotta go back over this text, which I've been typing in Notepad, adding the Markdown formatting and links I want and then plop it into the MyWord editor. Okay, that won't be hard.
Which I have now done! As promised, I used the Header Four above the last paragraph in the essay, which worked fine. In addition, the image I chose for the wat was a bit narrower than I wanted, so I resized it in Paint by 118%, which filled up the width of the text. I used the Header Four again for the title of the image, but centered using html center tags. In the alt attribute for the image, I attributed the image to the photographer, konlungkao, and included the URL to the page where I found it. And at the very end, I added a thumbs up, to confirm that emojis work in MyWord.
Fast and easy to use, with a gorgeous end result, especially with my lovely Thai mural pictures. My favorite feature is the Markdown method of preparing links, followed by the dead simple way of embedding a video.
The Markdown method for creating numbered and bullet lists does not produce a result as nicely formatted as all the rest. But both Todd McKinney and Dave Winer produced nice lists of three and five items using blank lines between list items and I would now do the same for short lists.
Early users always have to list all the things they want the developer to add, as soon as possible, right? So how can I resist?
I would use this for my personal blog if it could be configured with the domain name that I own. Right now each message has its own URL, but they are not gathered together as messages are on a blog. I hope this will be possible with what Dave has said he will offer starting next week. Even better would be to be able to use the Liveblog software Dave has developed for short messages and the MyWord editor for longer essays! That would be incredible.
Dave has already given an outline of some unfinished steps with the MyWord editor, which says he will host it for six months, but re-evaluate after that. I would certainly be willing to pay Dave what I'm already paying Posthaven, which allows me to create up to ten different blogs with separate domain names for each one.
There is a way to connect from Fargo to MyWord, but I haven't tried to do that yet and it may be above my level of competence. I will certainly continue to use Fargo for my Thailand Compendium, which requires information to be organized in an outline, with the levels able to be easily expanded and collapsed with the click of a mouse.
My other big wish is to use a stable platform that I can count on going forward for many years. I have already used two that either shut down (Posterous) or changed the rules midstream (Postach.io), so that I had to go searching for a new platform. I'm tired of doing that. To achieve real long-term independence may require my learning how to run my own server, which I have not yet been willing to tackle. Experienced programmers and sys admins likely view such a task as easy, but it seems a lot harder for old folks like me, and I suppose that's why some give up on that idea and take refuge in one of the many silos these days. But I believe that it is still possible to have an open web and not just give in to all the moneyed interests.
On Thursday Dave Winer announced his intention to "make MyWord Editor silo-free from the start. 'Silo-free' means you can host your blog, and its editor, on your domain. I may offer a service that runs the software, but there will be no monopoly, and it will be entirely open source, before anything ships publicly. . . I want MyWord Editor to make a very strong anti-silo statement. . . Silos are not user-friendly. We don't want them. Not even for one version." Besides pointing to an image of the Berlin Wall coming down, he also uses the great Gandhi quote, "You must be the change you wish to see in the world."
YES, exactly what I have been hoping would be the path Dave would decide to take!
In his Thursday message, Dave expressed a "hope to have a first public release early next week." I am very much looking forward to that release! :eyes:
After using MWE for three weeks, I'm more pleased than ever with its ease of use and beautiful output. And now Dave has stated that silo-free is not enough. This was in connection with a discussion of WordPress, which Dave agreed is also silo-free. At least five times I have started a website or a blog. When I built my first website, WordPress did not exist. For every time after that, WordPress was a platform I considered using, but every time I chose some other approach. Meanwhile it has become the most used blogging platform by a country mile. But every time I've looked into it, it seemed very complex; very powerful and flexible, but with a million choices and settings to configure. I spent many hours looking into all the options to decide what I wanted. Meanwhile I was not writing a single page of text. Then I would choose a simpler option and would start writing. This has happened again with MWE and this time the writing is easier than ever and the output on the page more pleasing than ever.
In his 28 March 2015 article, Dave wrote, "It looks to me like there's been no effort made to factor the user interface, to simplify and group functionality so the first-time user isn't confronted with the full feature set, left on his or her own to figure out where to go to create a new post or edit an existing one. Blogging platforms can be both easier and more powerful, I know because I've made blogging platforms that were." Exactly! "Confronted with the full feature set, left on his own to figure out where to go. . . " describes perfectly where I found myself every time I considered WordPress. Of course there are armies of WordPress experts ready and willing to get me and anyone else going with WordPress. But I just want to write. I'm not doing this to make a living. It's not a business for me. Why should I need to spend hundreds of dollars to get an easy platform for writing professional looking essays? With Dave's tool I've found that I don't need to.
But having written my first seven articles with MWE, I realized I needed a way to point to all these articles and to jump from one to another. I needed more than a great editor, I needed a blogging system. My own solution was to prepare a Table of Contents posting in MWE, listing and linking to all my previous articles. I was pleased with my solution that was easily produced with MWE on 26 March 2015.
The very same day Dave came out with version 0.55 of MWE which added a sidebar on the left side of the article viewer. Click on the hamburger and it slides open to see a listing of all the articles, so you can click on any and read it instead of the current one. The next day, he released version 0.58 which added the History menu in the editor, which also shows all the articles in reverse chronological order. Select any one you want to edit it and publish it again. Both were elegant solutions to the problem I was solving with my Table of Contents posting, simpler and easier to use.
I'm sure there will be much more to come. Dave has been at this for more than twenty years, writing his own blogging tools and blogging continously with them all along. I'm already pleased with what he has created, but I think he has much more to come. If he can keep it as easy as it is to use now and add more features, I will enjoy the ride, I'm sure.
When I started using the Internet with Bob Dylan and Grateful Dead Usenet groups (late 1989?) the World Wide Web had not yet been invented and money was completely off the table. It wasn't a beautiful interface but hyperlinks (which blew my mind) were beginning to appear outside of Usenet and tons of information was being freely exchanged between people all over the world. Now money seems to be taking over, a revolting development. My inclination is to fight back to keep at least some corners of the web open and free. :free:
Final note: I've now created seven essays in seven days using the MyWord editor! :thumbsup:
Text & banner image :copyright: 2014-15 by Ron Chester
13 March 2015