TL;DR: LessWrong now has similar features to Google Docs. Warning! Still rough around the edges. To enable the collaborative editor, you must check "Opt into experimental features" in your account settings and then press the green "Share" button that appears when editing your post.
You can experiment with commenting and suggesting on this post with this link.
It's been a loooong time coming but at last, we are ready to unveil collaborative editing features for the LessWrong text editor. These features will be familiar to those used to working in Google Docs:
- Multiple users can edit a document at once
- Fine-grained permissions for viewing/commenting/editing by link or username
- Inline comments (only viewable while in edit mode)
- Making and accepting suggested edits
- Automatic saving
- Version history viewer
Some advantages of using LW-Docs with collaborative editing:
- LW-Docs supports LaTeX, unlike Google Docs.
- If you use entirely LW-Docs, you won't have broken footnotes, unlike with copying from G-Docs.
- While writing your post, you'll know what the end result will look like (same font and line width) which helps you optimize paragraphs and layout for looking good when published.
- You can continue to get inline feedback and suggestions on your post even after you've copied it over to LessWrong.
- These can then be seamlessly integrated into your live post.
How to enable collaborative editing on your post
Step 1: Opt in to experimental features in your account settings.
Step 2: While editing your post, click the green "Share" button in the top right. Enable permissions for some other users. Boom! Your post is now in collaborative mode.
Step 3: Users explicitly shared on your post will receive a notification. Send the url to anyone else you want to grant access.
Step 4: When in collaborative mode, the text of your post is automatically saved. To view how your post will look when published, press the Preview button. To make the current state of your document live, press the Publish button.
The collaborative editor allows you (and others) to continue editing and commenting on a post even once it's been published. Edits aren't automatically published to the live version. To update the published version to the current state of the document in editing, press "Publish".
Step 5: Leave comments and suggestions.
To enable track changes, use the track changes button in the popup menu (third icon from the right) or set your Mode to Commenting in the header bar.
Step 6: Leave feedback about the feature!
This feature is still under development. Any feedback from early-adopters is hugely helpful. Just leave a comment on this post or message us on Intercom.
Warning! Rough around the edges
We're releasing this feature in beta mode because it still requires a few more finishing touches and might be a little confusing to use in places. As above, any feedback is greatly appreciated.
Why collaborative editing?
When developing features, there's always a question of "does anyone want this?" In the case of collaborative editing features, there's good evidence of demand from Google Docs. There's a common workflow that goes: (1) write a draft in Google Docs, (2) invite some close friends or collaborators to give feedback, (3) incorporate feedback, (4) copy to LessWrong, (5) publish.
Drawbacks of this workflow are (a) overhead of copying and reformatting the post, (b) enforcing a hard break between the feedback stage and the publication stage, (c) Google Docs does not support LaTeX, (d) valuable comments left in the feedback stage never get published to the wider world.
By introducing collaborative editing to LessWrong, we address (a), (b), and (c). We haven't yet made it so in-line comments in editing mode can be published in the final version, but we'll look into ways to allow for that. I also expect that we'll add additional features to our editor that Google Docs doesn't have, such that users will benefit from the possibility of doing all their writing on LessWrong.
Having collaborative editing features on LessWrong also lets us start to build programs that rely on easy ways to give people feedback on their drafts. For example, I'd like to run a writing and research workshop for students that involves peer and mentor feedback. With collaborative editing on LessWrong, that will now be much more convenient to do.
What's your writing workflow?
If you're an author, I'd love to hear how collaborative editing features do or don't help you with your workflow, or what you'd really like to see us build. Feel free to comment on this post or message us on Intercom.
Thanks and good luck!
It's been ~18 months since the first steps towards this were taken.
One feature I'm particularly excited about is "link-searching". In the same way that one can @-mention people on Facebook, I'd like to make it so you can easily link to post and wiki-tags by typing @ or # and then using a few letters to search for the resource you want to link to.