Mid-August Edit Flow update: Email notifications and editorial comments

The whole goal of the Edit Flow Project was to build a bunch of different pieces in to WordPress that made the editorial workflow side of things a lot more seamless. Mo said he’s back in the game so we’re going to start working on some of the most requested features: email notifications and post-specific editorial comments.

In an email, Andrew Spittle said that, for the Whitman Pioneer:

The most important thing that I see from our end would be the ability to designate editors for specific sections/categories and have them sent email updates (single or digest) of the activity in their section. I think that of everything that would turn it into something that creates an online workflow for us instead of just an online place to do work (I hope that distinction kind of makes sense). Another thing that’d be great (perhaps you’ve already implemented this…I haven’t been keeping track of updates) would be the notes feature that we talked about at the beginning of the project. If this is done in a smooth and user-friendly way than I think that editors and reporters alike would be more inclined to use it. Also, if the notes are custom fields in the post then it would be kind of cool to be able to pull these out and display them.

Daniel Randolph wants to see “something like edit flow has where we have custom statuses that say ‘needs edited’ and things of that nature.” In addition, specific notifications to pre-defined people when a post hits a particular status is important.

In my mind, that’s exactly what we want out of the intersection of workflows and notifications. The workflow concept of Edit Flow is based around the idea that there are two or more people that have to work together in unison to get a piece of content published. The statuses serve as the steps along the way, which don’t necessarily have to happen in order or chronologically, and notifications happen at each point where an action is taken within the system. Max and I mapped it out a bit when he came down from Seattle:

Workflows sketch

Another thought is that we actually have two concepts in the system that make this happen. The first is the “workflow” which defines the number of steps within the editorial process, as well as the actions and permissions of each step. For instance, if I had a workflow titled “Sports department” that had the level “Pitch”, I could assign who should have permission to edit the post, who should have permission to move the post to the next level, who should be emailed, etc. when the post gets to that stage. One question associated with this, however, is whether the workflows should just be categories or whether categories exist independently of workflows.

The second is having “groups” define specific types of users. With the example above, there would be a “Sports department” group, a “Reporters” group, and a “Editors” group. When the post is first saved with the “Pitch” status, everyone in the “Sports department” would be emailed with the metadata associated with the pitch. Someone within the “Editors” group would then be able to assign it to another user within the system.

Users would be assigned to groups on each individual profile. Additionally, on the settings page for each specific group, the admin would be able to add or subtract users from that group.

Comments on specific posts are going to be more straightforward. At the moment, the holdup is figuring out the best way to store the comment data within WordPress. One thought is that we treat editorial comments less like comments and more like updates. Within this same dataset, we would also store the dates, times and users who changed the status of the post, when it was first published and then updated, etc. This specific information would then provide the backbone of the activity stream tk later.

Later: One last thought. Mo has a sketch where there are also “required actions” for the post. I’m not a terribly big fan of making this a part of the workflow, but maybe user-defined checkboxes would be a useful addition to the metadata (which would also record who checked the required action off)?

4 Responses to “Mid-August Edit Flow update: Email notifications and editorial comments”

  1. 1 Joey

    I’d be a huge fan of the “required actions” – as long as I could set them myself. Provide defaults, but ultimately allow them to be configured by the admin, and I think you’ve got a winner.

  2. 2 Andrew

    I also would be a huge fan of allowing for required actions. I think for a lot of people the hesitation to switching to an online-first workflow is that they feel like they’re losing a bit of the control.

    Creating a specific process that must be followed would restore some of that feeling of control (not that it’s the best thing, but it is reality I fear).

  3. 3 Lindsey

    Has the “required actions” feature been added to this plugin yet? Is this plugin available for download yet? We are looking for a way to track editorial flow of stories so that at anytime, on WordPress, any employee may see what stage the story is in (1st edit, 2nd edit, writer, etc.) We are a very big fan of this idea, and we look forward to find a solution to our editorial communication issue.

  4. 4 Daniel

    The “required actions” feature hasn’t been added to the plugin yet, although I agree that it would be great functionality to have. The first iteration of the plugin is available for download on the WordPress Codex and has a feature called “Custom Statuses” that would probably fit the need you describe. We should have another release out over the weekend that will add a few more features we identified previously.

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