April 12, 2009

Emend Lets You Play Copy Editor for the Entire Web

This evening, I got an odd alert from Twitter saying I had made an error with yesterday's story about optimizing headlines. Amusingly, in that story about headlines, I had made a simple copy mistake, confusing "you" with "your". The alert came from an application called "Emend", which, since its start in November of last year, has suggested almost 70 edits Web-wide, regardless of their source.

The service, which is hosted on Google's App Engine, lets you log in with your Google credentials, and report copy mistakes for any Web site or blog out there, from mine, as was the case today, to Wired, FiveThirtyEight.com, ArsTechnica, TechCrunch, the New York Times, or practically anything.

The process is fairly straight forward.

Once logged in, to make "a new edit", just enter the offending URL, show the original copy that needs to be changed, and offer a proposal. When you hit submit, the proposed edit is added to the service's open items list and sent to their Twitter stream.

You can't post edits to Emend anonymously, which is good, and you can see your own list of submitted items (see mine here). From this list, you can choose an open edit and Tweet it from your own account, declare it "fixed", or if you're more daring, you can send a Trackback or pingback to the page - which would be more "in your face."

Anybody who has been on the Web for a good amount of time knows there is a secret army of grammarians waiting for you to slip up, mixing there and their or it's and its. Now, with Emend, you can make the process official and glory in your grasp of the language (or just openly mock those who don't get it right). A list of most edited sites is kept, including the status on proposed changes.

For fun, and just to see if I could tweak my cranky Canadian friend Steven Hodson, I suggested an its vs. it's problem from his own blog, using Emend, and blasting the edit out via Twitter. (see here)

If he doesn't change this post, I'll leave it open, but if he finds the time to make an edit, I'll declare it closed. It's essentially quality assurance for the Web. And if you tweet a proposed edit using Emend, I'll see it and do the best I can to fix things.

See if you can annoy your favorite blogger or journalist today at http://emend.appspot.com.