On Wednesday, May 6 we updated the site. One of the major changes is the introduction of a new version of the site editor and some related changes under the covers. The editor is used when you add an article, create a leapfrog, or add or edit bio information. The main impetus for the change is to address the difficulties some people were having with managing links in the article text.

Changes to the editor
We’ve upgraded to the latest version of the editor we’ve been using for the last few years. The most significant improvement is improved linking in the article article. The most significant addition to the editor is the ‘Paste from Word’ feature. We’ve also changed the article preview a little.

Adding links to your articles
The way you link and unlink text when creating an article hasn’t changed. The link and unlink tools look like this on the toolbar:

Tiny MCE Link and Unlink buttons

You highlight the text you want to link, and use the ‘link’ tool from the toolbar to add link information. To remove the link, you should be able to place your cursor anywhere in the linked text and select the ‘unlink’ tool from the toolbar. You can also select any portion of the link text and use the unlink tool. You will see improved accuracy with the link picking up exactly what you want to link, and staying that way.

Pasting content into the editor
There is a new, easy way to get your content onto Helium: use the “Paste from Word” button atop the text editor window in the Write flow.

Please use Paste from Word by default. If you experiment with regular paste and it works, fine. If not, clear out everything you’ve done and try Paste from Word.   The Paste from Word button looks like this on the toolbar (and the words “Paste from Word” show up when you scroll over it):

TinyMCE Paste from Word button

You can paste any content – just not content from various versions of Microsoft Word – into the window that pops up when you click the Paste from Word button. When you click on the ‘Insert’ button, the editor will strip out all the extra “hidden” formatting that can cause problems later and insert your text into the main editor window. You should then check the formatting of your article and add or fix links in the main editor window before publishing the article.  The same applies to your bio text.

Article preview
Article preview has changed slightly. It’s been simplified a little and should now more accurately reflect the formatting and links in your article.

Always preview your article before hitting the publish or submit button.

Changes in article formatting
We have changed the way we store article and bio text, and have performed an automatic conversion from the old to the new storage format. Most people won’t see a difference.

(There was a snafu yesterday with the release:  If you see odd formatting, i.e., no paragraph breaks,  in rating, please bear with us while we find and fix the problems.)

A hint (especially for you poets): Use ‘Shift-Enter’ to force a line break – not a paragraph break – into your article or bio text in the Helium text box.

A little more technical explanation …

We are now storing your articles (and your bio text) as full HTML. We remove all extraneous HTML formatting before saving your content. We currently only preserve links, line and paragraph breaks.

Why the restriction? This is actually the first stage on the way to supporting full article formatting in the future. We can’t get there in one step – there are simply too many technical and business issues to address.

There are lots of examples. You might consider how we handle pagination of a longer article – we take care to move the complete link to one side or the other of the page break (today). What’s the correct way to handle a header for an article section when the header but not the following text ends up just before a page break (future)?

In closing
We’ve improved the functioning of the editor and corrected some long-standing issues with links in articles. We’ve also laid the groundwork for future features such as full article formatting. On the way, we’ll undoubtedly run into problems and face challenges. Work with us, and we can all contribute to improving the experience for you when creating and editing content at Helium.

Read more about linking in the new, searchable Help section.

Believe it or not I visit the boards pretty regularly – as much as a dozen times a day.  You wouldn’t know it because I don’t comment on posts as much as I used to, I tend to lurk more than anything.

I did come across this post though and wanted to expand on it here, so we have some sort of “sticky” area for it – since I’ve answered it at least a half dozen times in the past.  The question is:

Why do we have only 10 skips?

We introduced skips awhile back – over a year now I think – to solve a simple problem.  People were not rating as much as we would like and one of the main feedbacks that we got was it was because they were presented with pairs that they had no knowledge and/or interest in, and had no way to get by them.  Once they saw two or three in a row, they gave up – some for extended periods of time.

We wanted a way to allow users to pass by these pairs they were simply not interested in and to allow them to move on to ones they were interested in.  It was a mutually beneficial situation – users get to avoid these pairs they really don’t want to rate and, because of that, rate more – which is what we wanted.

However, allowing users to pick and choose the pairs they want is not ideal – it opens up the chance of users gaming the system.  It’s a very small chance, but we had to consider the possibility.  So we limit you to 10 skips per session – i.e. if you log out and then back in, this resets.

Would this limit ever change?  Possibly.  But we’ve seen that in most cases 10 is sufficient.

I hope this helps.