Eureka: We’re editors Jason 21 Mar 2006

22 comments Latest by Helpful Partners

I was having lunch today with some editors of a local weekly. After listening to them talk about what they do I realized that we do it too. We’re editors.

They edit articles, we edit software.

We prune it. We clip off the extra features like they clip off the extra words. We trim the interface like they trim a sentence. We chop products in half like they ask for 5000 words instead of 10,000.

The editing process is what makes a great product. Editing the feature list, editing customer requests, editing the interface, editing the code, editing the marketing, editing the copywriting. It’s not about designing or writing or coding, it’s about trimming those weeds back before they ruin the lawn.

So keep that in mind when you write, design, code, or promote. Good editors build great software.

22 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Kendall 21 Mar 06

It seems that editing (both in writing words and writing code) is about making many small decisions based on the facts in front of you. The combination of those small decisions will lead to a succinct product.

pixel boy 21 Mar 06

yep, it’s easy to have a book, anybody can write a book, but editors is one of the main keys to a good book, nowdays anybody can write a software, but how you present it to people is the key of its success, you can either ruin it or make a masterpiece out of it .
A colored well organized book does not feel like a black and white book, AJAX apps do not feel like typical app, IPODS are not categorized with MP3’s anymore … Basecamp is not a project mgnt app..
Basecamp got me my dream job, on my interview, when I said that I’m familiar with basecamp, they stoped asking me questions, and from the look on their face I knew that I was hired.
thanks 37s

Ryan Ripley 21 Mar 06

“I lost 37 pounds using basecamp… Thanks 37Signals!”
**Cut to me giving a big thumbs up**

Sorry, could not help it…

*ducks a troll cap*


FredS 22 Mar 06

“…and I have J2EE experience, and JDBC…”

“Fuck all that. Are you familiar with Basecamp?”

“Yes, I…”


Don Wilson 22 Mar 06

I like the analogy.

--Josh 22 Mar 06

Eureka is right - that’s a great insight. Thanks for sharing.

Spike 22 Mar 06

“The editing process is what make a great product.”

what makeS a great product?

Also on the footer:

Agree with the analogy.

RyanA 22 Mar 06

That is a great analogy. Eureka indeed!

Editors are practising your ‘less is more’ mantra every day.

Nice one.

Rabbit 22 Mar 06

A book entitled “Content Critical” also relates web developers as editors. They called web sites “publications.” Make sense when you think about it. :)

Piotr Usewicz 22 Mar 06

So does it mean that I can get hired on every newspaper or magazine all over the world? Because I know Rails? :]

brad 22 Mar 06

The analogy works to an extent, but omitting needless words is about 1/8 of an editor’s job, not typically the main focus unless the publication is seriously constrained for space. Even in those cases copyfitting can get out of hand: editors must be careful to avoid trimming so much that sentences don’t make sense anymore or lose their music.

As with every mantra, “less is more” is better used as a guiding principle than an inflexible law. Overzealous editors can cut the life out of good writing; the best editors know when to break the rules and leave a few weeds in the lawn.

Anonymous Coward 22 Mar 06

Brad OF COURSE there are exceptions and more to the job than what JF wrote in a few short paragraphs.

We’re all reasonable enough to understand that. You don’t need to make “the exception” post that points out that not everything applies all the time.

Let it go man, let it go.

Wyatt 22 Mar 06

Um, you guys seem to be having some issues with your blog. On the the main blog page, there is “SJ81KSB8UQ” highlighted in yellow at the top of the page and within each post there is something like “” printed at the bottom

Wyatt 22 Mar 06

…between those empty quatation marks should be:
<!— mmc mmid:25864 mmdate:20060322T011038 mmauthor:—Josh —>

I'm With Stupid 22 Mar 06

“It�s not about designing or writing or coding, it�s about trimming those weeds back before they ruin the lawn.”

I hope my lawn guys don’t read SvN, because I really, really, really don’t want them hitting me up for a raise because “We aren’t lawn guys, we’re ‘editors’.”

Nick 22 Mar 06

@anonymous coward

You should let go of Jason’s balls.

Josh 22 Mar 06

There’s another parallel: writers can be editors, but it’s awfully hard to edit your own writing. Similarly, developers can be designers, but it’s awfully difficult to see problems in your own design when you are responsible for the construction.

This is why it’s often helpful to separate the design and construction roles.

Although the two activities are closely linked, they are not the same, and require two different types of thinking.

Um, yeah. 22 Mar 06

At best, you’re self-editors, which is sooooo not the same thing as having a good editor.

Hire someone to do nothing but edit the code other people on your team write, and then this metaphor will have some teeth.

Shane 22 Mar 06

Thanks for not using the word ‘refactor,’ which in the Java world is similar to your concept of editing. Its another word I despise, along with ‘enterprise.’ I don’t despise the concept, I just don’t like how the Java community invents new words to sell books.

Kesava Mallela 22 Mar 06

Its the same guys who sometimes put crappy news items on the front page and push more interesting ones into inner ones. Its the same guys who use fillers if the volume of news doesnt sufffice their expectations for a particular day.

Helpful Partners 28 Mar 06

As Antoine de St Exupery said: ‘Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.’

We write and edit communications material (web and print) and spend our lives cutting down the words especially on the web. Our clients constantly add more - I cannot remember a client who decided to reduce the content.

Reducing your word count is much harder work.