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Farewell, old Chorus

Our old editor goes quietly into the night

The Chorus logo, with multiple threads overlapping and intersecting.

This morning, our Vox Product Executive Director of Publishing, Mandy Brown, sent this note to our team and to everyone who uses Chorus. Three years ago Mandy and her partners at Editorially joined our team to help lead an ambitious effort. We formed a talented team up around them. Projects of this scale often don’t ship at all. Even more rarely are products like this made so effectively with the people who use them and then received so well. Most importantly, these tools are effective and easy for the people who use them everyday — I’m using the new Chorus editor now and it’s a delight. I’m extremely proud of our team and this note exemplifies how they work with Mandy’s leadership.

Farewell, old Chorus

This week, we quietly retired the legacy Chorus story editor. With two deploys, we made it impossible to create new legacy stories or to convert stories to the legacy format. All new stories—whether article, review, feature, or mapstack—must now be created in the new Chorus format.

With those deploys, we have also ended the long-running beta period for the new story editor. The beta editor is now simply the editor.

We set a number of goals for this project along the way, but one of them was especially ambitious: we asked the team to build up a new editor parallel to the old one and make it so much easier and delightful to use that people would flock to it. The end goal was to disable the old editor only after it had been abandoned—like turning off the lights in a bar only after the last customer had shuffled out. Anyone who has worked at a media company when they’ve switched platforms is familiar with the dramatic late night deploys and overwhelmed support staff common to those kinds of transitions. None of us were interested in following that pattern, nor did we think it was fair to put our hard-working editorial users through that kind of experience.

I am delighted to report that after disabling the legacy editor in the middle of the workday (in the middle of a busy news week, in the middle of an impossibly busy news year), we received exactly zero feedback from users. Not one Slack message or email. Not a single complaint. Nothing.

It took 24 hours for the first user to notice that something had changed.

This project has had a lot of milestones, many of which we’ve celebrated: a delightful and easy-to-use design framework worthy of the hours our editorial teams would spend using and looking at it; a real-time version-controlled editor that could meet the demands of fast-moving news teams; a robust and stable autosave layer that has made it perfectly reasonable to write in the CMS; much more efficient workflows for embedding social media into stories, and for creating dynamic layouts without engineering or design skills; plus cross-platform and device previews; not to mention thousands of iterative changes informed by user feedback. But it’s this milestone I’m most proud of, because it demonstrates that we can successfully make ambitious changes without disrupting anyone’s day.

Smart product teams prioritize regular small changes over infrequent big ones, because big changes impose a burden on users and increase the risk that a product will fail. But sometimes small changes aren’t enough to keep up with changing technology or new markets. In addition to being a great new product in its own right, the new editor is also proof of a process by which we can introduce more ambitious changes when we need to, while still maintaining a release cycle that our users can trust.

Those who were around when we kicked off the Anthem project three years ago may remember we had even bigger plans: we set out to support not only a dramatically improved story editor, but also to make video a first-class citizen on Chorus, to support planning workflows as well as processes for analyzing traffic, to provide notifications, and more. So while last week’s milestone is a big one, it’s hardly the conclusion of our work. We are already well underway with massive improvements to the editorial dashboard designed to make it easier for teams to plan and collaborate together, plus we’re working on exciting new storytelling formats, and a whole lot more. I’ll have even more to say about our future plans very soon, so stay tuned.

But today, please join me in a round of applause for the entire publishing team who brought us to this point: David Yee, Blake Thomson, Holly Gressley, Marie Connelly, Katie O’Dowd, Gregg Bernstein, Katie Kovalcin, Ramla Mahmood, Miriam Nadler, Dan Chilton, Nozlee Samadzadeh, Nicole Zhu, Billy Ceskavich, and Shaun McIlroy. Some of this crew have been on the Anthem project since the beginning, some joined us later, but all have been instrumental in achieving this milestone. I want to especially call out the contributions of Marie here, who has almost single-handedly developed the kind of close relationship between the product team and our editorial users that should be the envy of any media company. That relationship has been critical to our success and is a model for how we will continue to be successful in the future.