We’ve been super busy developing, releasing, and doing initial bug fixes and enhancements to WriteShare. Now that the dust is starting to settle, it’s time to take a breath and look at the plugin to explain how you can use it to host your own writing community and host an archive of multi-user writing on your own WordPress site.

As a writing Professor for 17 years, I have always been keenly interested in online writing communities. I developed over 30 online courses in several disciplines, and each had writing components. While I was working on the dissertation for my doctorate (Instructional Technology and Distance Education), I became interested in fans writing their own stories about characters that were on their favorite TV shows, movies, books, and more.  Writing was my interest, and online writing communities fascinated me.

I fell in love with WordPress from the first time I used it. Several writers on one site would contribute news articles on the WordPress portion of my site. But I was frustrated. There were so many limitations to blogging. Sure, WordPress accommodates multiple bloggers on one site, but everything was restricted by date, categories, and tags. It was confining. I couldn’t organize writing in any other way, and I sure as heck couldn’t create a book of writings with chapters.

This led to the development of our first writing platform plugin that we still use on LesFan.com and Fanfic.me. It was a good first effort, but that plugin took years to develop, in part because three different developers worked on it, and it was a trial and error effort. There is much duct tape holding it together, and the plugin doesn’t scale well for larger sites.

So, it was back to the drawing board. This time, I worked with one of the smartest WordPress minds I have met to date. Gennady Kovshenin is an independent web developer and CTO at Pressjitsu. When no other host could handle the complexity of LesFan, I needed to find another host. I found Gennady on a Facebook group for serious WordPress users. He cleaned up the plugin as best as possible and hosted us on the smallest server we ever had, which greatly reduced our hosting costs. It was clear he knew what was wrong with the previous plugin and how it clobbered the server, so our conversation began about how to write the plugin from scratch to be far smarter and more efficient.

The goal was clear. The plugin had to be:

  • super flexible for ALL writing communities – and video and graphics communities, too
  • very lightweight so it wouldn’t slow down sites, especially when scaled
  • adaptable so that site admins had the ability to customize taxonomy, which is what the plugin is all about
  • easy to use for site admins – the dashboard is clean and simple
  • super easy for writers – using front end posting and editing

We released it on February 17, and we’ve made a series of changes and fixes in that time. The plugin is in the repository, and we’re starting to get good feedback and requests.

In addition to seeking more feedback, my hopes for the next few months for WriteShare:

  • One or more of the WordPress LMS companies will use WriteShare to build online courses. It’s perfect. It was designed for academic use in any discipline.
  • Graphic and Video communities will use WriteShare to allow their membership to share their creative works.
  • News/magazine/journalism sites will go beyond blogging and use WriteShare as a complete writing platform.
  • Active online writing communities will utilize WriteShare to invite their site members to create an archive of their writings on their sites.
  • Site admins will use WriteShare as a writing platform for self-hosted sites – allowing any site to be a Medium.com

We are going to keep asking for feedback, prioritizing requests, and pushing more updates. Please sign up for email updates. You’ll find we send probably fewer than we should – we don’t even announce each update. Let us know what you’re looking for from WriteShare, and please do also keep up with the forum in the repository, as well.

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