I wrote a plugin called Byline that lets a WordPress content manager assign multiple authors to a post without having to give them a username/password and modifying the theme to allow for an advanced co-author function.
Ideally, WordPress would have native co-author and guest-contributor functionality built-in, especially if it is intended to be a platform for community and collaboration.
For now, what my plugin proposes is that the User who creates a post entry and ensures it appears on the site is a distinct taxonomy from who wrote or contributed to the content. The notion of “author” in the WordPress admin is suited for blogs, but not a CMS that might handle a 1,000 different one-time contributors, like a community newspaper or student-run publication.
WordPress’ tagline preaches, “Code is poetry.” Therefore, poetry is code.
Writers need to take written language as seriously as a programmer takes code. English (and any other language, written or otherwise) is a programming language. It encodes meaning. Language has rules of syntax, grammar and logic; then there are matters of style. All are features of programming as well.
A poorly formed expression won’t function, whether it’s PHP or English. An errant comma or misspelled word can destroy a well intentioned sentence. Trouble is, most readers already know how to debug on the fly: we can instantly turn “their” into “there” if the conditions are right. A proofreader must turn off this feature and compile meaning word by word, clause by clause.
Learning to code, and observing good code, has deepened my appreciation for writing well and reading good writing.
I spoke too soon. Somebody already wrote a plugin that lets you export a single post into an InDesign-friendly format: tagged text, no less.
So, of course, when I came across it my immediate desire was to hack it up and see what I could make it do.
First was to see how I could manipulate the InDesign tags to fit the stylesheets we have in place at The Daily Cougar. Easily accomplished by exporting a complete story (headline, cutline, etc., included) into tagged-text and looking at the guts of it.
This got to be pretty interesting, so I went on a tangent, and realized I could access all of the WordPress functions available through the loop. That meant I could export the headline (the_title) and category (get_the_category) fairly easily. The trick would be writing some simple functions to fetch our custom-field driven subheadline and bylines. And the icing on the cake would be to grab the cutline from the first image attachment of the article.
So, long story short, I’ve got a workable web-to-print workflow piece, customized for our environment and ready for testing in the wild.
Next up: hack the plugin’s “Print post” function to generate a clean XML document that could be imported into any page layout program. If it seems worthwhile, maybe I’ll offer it up to the plugin authors as a new feature.
Man, I’m a huge nerd.
I want to be able to hit a button inside the WordPress post editor that says “Get post XML” and download just that post’s XML for importing into InDesign. Or hell, give me the ability to export Doc, RTF, PDF and any other basic text format. Give me data portability, WordPress!
Do that and you’ll have a free, open-source alternative to Google Docs.
If I were a competent programmer, I’d do it myself.