i’ll be frank: i’m a big fan of Automattic. you might even call me an Automattic fan boy. i keep up on matt mullenweg’s blog, and when he links to something, i jump. when Automattic acquired intense debate, guess who was downloading it and installing it on his blog?
on one hand, i’m always suspicious of companies that go around buying smaller companies. but Automattic doesn’t just do it to merge them into a part of the greater WordPress horde, they do it to make sure that development on these great projects isn’t abandoned due to lack of capital or lack of interest, as well as giving their wordpress.com service an edge over the other guys. all the projects they’ve acquired (and it’s an increasing number) maintain their own autonomy, which is the way it should be.
so matt posted to his blog of the recent assimilation of After the Deadline. ever the die hard, i hurried over there to see what the fuss was about. a grammar and spellchecker replacement doesn’t sound all that cool, but something about how he described it made it sound completely irresistable. maybe it was the “amazingly smart” part, or maybe it was the catching errors the New York Times misses part. whatever it was, like a new thneed, i needed AtD.
here’s why you need AtD, too: it’s contextual. seriously, it’s like a little gnome that lives in your monitor and conveniently has an english lit degree. you just click the updated, AtD spellcheck button (that replaces the TinyMCE version you have on your normal WP toolbar) and your post copy comes alive with crazy bold underlines in different hues. it tells you when you make a splelling spelling error. it tells you when you are using passive voice. it tells you when you are using complex phrases or jargon. in fact, if you go to your new and improved profile page, there’s a whole kitchen sink of style techniques it will watch your back for, above and beyond normal spelling and grammar. if Word ’97 did this, i would have had some kickass papers in college.
thanks to AtD, i’ve learned that i tend to lean on the use of passive voice, and — fairly unsurprisingly — i often get dings for “complex expressions” (that makes sense, having done quite a bit of essay writing in college and being a geek). when you do make one of these cardinal sins, there’s a little Explain… option in your right-click menu that gives you helpful examples of what you’re doing wrong and how you can make your writing better. seriously, what blogger doesn’t want to make their writing better? and it’s a hell of a lot easier (and less embarrassing) than having your buddy the grad student proofread everything you write. gnome, lit major, in your monitor.
after taking one look at AtD ripping apart my last post, i knew that this was something that i could use. even if i am just talking to dead air, at least i can be doing will do it with style, thanks to the awesome After the Deadline gnomes. thanks, little guys!