Proofreading App: How Peer Feedback Helped Me Improve My Writing & Why I Am Building a Sharing Economy Proofreading App
January 6, 2018
Why Am I Building a Sharing Economy Proofreading App?
The reason why I am building this proofreading app (software application) actually goes back to my days as a graduate student. I was repeated told that my writing could be improved. Even back in high school, I almost failed grade 10 English. That’s why I became an Engineer, I guess. I knew my writing could be improved, but I did not know how and where I can learn to improve my writing. However, over the years, my writing has improved a lot. It’s not perfect, but it has improved.
So, how did I improve my writing? I write a lot of research manuscripts. As an assistant professor – you have to write a lot. My job is to write a manuscript, submit it to a journal, and do that over and over again. During this process, you gain two essential things that have improved my own writing: (1) the habit and practice of writing, and (2) peer feedback.
If you would rather watch a video, rather than read this text, you can check it out here:
1. The habit and practice of writing.
Many people do not realize this, but writing scientific manuscripts is very iterative. It is also very hard! Researchers have to get in the daily routine of writing many pages every day. Writing every day is important in order to not only produce but manuscripts but also to create more novel ideas. However, what I realized with my own experience as a social scientist is that it is very iterative. I write a small amount of work and then I send it off to review or revision from someone else. And, you do this process, over and over. I thought wouldn’t it be cool if there was some writing/copyediting/proofreading software that could help facilitate this process. In other words, I was drawing a lot of influence for r3ciprocity.com by modeling after my own journey of writing like a madman to get tenure.
2. Peer feedback.
Each time I write something, I discovered that it is important to get peer feedback. I was actually told this repeatedly again during graduate school. Science is really a collaborative affair where people are giving feedback to other people. This battle ground of ideas occurs on a regular basis. What I learnt is that the peer feedback greatly improved my manuscripts and papers. Sometimes the peer feedback was minor (e.g. you have a spelling mistake) and sometimes it was major (e.g. this is terrible and you should pursue another idea). My grammar and syntax improved with each iteration of peer feedback. Not only that, but the more peer revision I received, the more my ideas improved.
The problem was that there is not a real good system to get peer feedback outside of the scientific review process. That is the last place where I want to try out new ideas and insights. Also, there is very little incentive for people to provide peer feedback unless they are being quite altruistic or basing it on the principle of reciprocity (Check out the video below). Thus, it gave me a spark of an idea. I thought, “well, I am a professor of innovation/entrepreneurship, why not just create a system that helps with peer feedback?”
I was inspired to create a software system for peer feedback between writers. I thought that there has to be more people out there that need this, than just me. It would be amazing if there was more than one person that could learn from the ability to get peer feedback from others. I know that there are many other people like me that need peer feedback, copy editing, or proofreading from someone else. For example, self-publishing writers or new authors likely will find this peer revision software useful. It is useful because it is not strictly grammar proofreading software–there are lots of other software that does this–but more of an app that helps with peer revision. If you are interested in finding an online proofreader for feedback, you can get more details here:
What Is The Sharing Economy?
When I refer to the sharing economy, I am broadly using the term to refer to information technology as an intermediary in a two-sided market. The goal with the sharing economy, and this proofreading app, is to decentralize decision-making, enabling individual voices to be heard and making feedback a little bit easier to get for those who want to get feedback. One thing that is very interesting about the sharing economy is that it gives people autonomy to give feedback, and as a consequence responsibility. One thing that is always taught in management is if you give people autonomy and responsibility, some people will rise to the challenge and surprise you. The goal then is to make it not only easier but to provide a different quality of services than what is available on the market.
How To Find Proofreading And Editing Jobs
As I mentioned, the goal is to create a website platform that connects editors / proofreaders with people that need a quick proofread, or those that need peer proofreading and writing help. You have to remember that in order to get jobs on this system, you have to first give to other people, either by helping out or purchasing credits so you can have your own work proofread. I am going to be honest, there are generally more people that are willing to help others out on the r3ciprocity proofreading software than there are people that are submitting work (at least currently). If you want to help out others, you might want to share some of your work on the system by buying credits – we have built in that you will get 20% off of credits when you first enter the site. Full disclosure – that means the system operates at less than cost. I might change this in the future, though, so sign up and submit your work before this changes.
Anyway, if you are interested in editing or proofreading jobs, I tried to make the software as simple as possible to sign up and use. FYI – The site is intended for potential copyeditors or writers who have a strong understanding of the english language – generally, I was aiming for graduate students. So, if you are still learning english, if you could not edit other people’s work, that would be awesome. Also, know that if you do poor proofreading on the system, you will loose the ability to interact on it.
If you are interested in why I created r3ciprocity.com and how I think this editing software could be beneficial for those looking to find proofreading jobs, check out:
Progress On The Proofreading App
While I know that the proofreading app needs work–software is always a work in progress–I will continue to build out this app because I really want to help others. I will continue to design and this sharing economy editing/proofreading app as it becomes viable and I get more feedback on it. (Yes, you can apply the same principle of peer feedback to the app).
Tinkering And Hobbies
This sort of slow progress “on the side” on what I normally do in my full-time job (I write paper) on this proofreading software reminds me of Eric von Hippel’s new book “Free Innovation.”
What I love about his book and the idea behind it is that tinkering and hobbies are often the basis for many new businesses. I am a fan of Eric von Hippel, not just because of his ideas, but because of the simplicity and practicality of the ideas. Much of the research on business strategy is largely focused on ‘big business’ and a considerable focus of entrepreneurship is on building high-growth startups. However, in his book, Eric von Hippel and his colleagues (which there are many!) focused on how people do everyday innovation and entrepreneurship. The research actually points out that many new innovations comes from people tinkering in their garage. They often do not focus on profitability of their efforts, but rather focus on doing something just for the heck of it. They find these efforts fun, they like to learn, and to help others. I also think that the implications of his research is quite nice – if you have an idea, you should share it by blogging or talking about it freely (as I am doing here).
Yes, building a proofreading app, then YouTubing, and writing about it on this blog does take time. A more time than I would have imagined. 🙂 However, I truly think the benefit of this activity, and the long-run potential of having a website that makes a positive contribution both scientifically and to society far outweighs the costs.
Frustrations on Building The Software
I wanted to add what it is like to build software. From my perspective, as an academic that studies management and organization, I find the whole process quite interesting. Building the proofreading software is not interesting in the sense that it is “amazing” everyday, but it really presents many of the problems that I would research or teach about. For example, we often talk about trade-offs that you have to make. These trade-offs in management might be things like should you invest in the software or the marketing of the software. Should you publish something before it is done? How much money should you invest in a project that does not make money before you quit the project? As you can imagine, most of the answers to these questions are incomplete and unsolvable. These problems are often faced by managers in most organizations, but they seem a lot more real to me now that I have begun to build this proofreading app.
What this does do is create a lot of stress and anxiety that I would have never thought would occur when I began this journey. It is fairly odd because I am creating something new that I think lots of people would like, but I am afraid of what other people will think about the proofreading software. I also want the software to be much better than what it currently is. There is so much more to do with it, but I have to budget and slowly build it out. It is such a strange feeling. (In the entrepreneurship literature, this is called bricolage).
The key feelings that one might experience when they create a new application like this is uncertainty, self-doubt, and feeling rather alone. From my experience in building other things like this in the past, and my knowledge about entrepreneurship, these feelings are key to being an academic / entrepreneur / innovator. Because no one else has built something similar to what you have built, you really do not know what you are doing, and you have to learn how to do it as you go.
While these anxieties happen on a daily basis, I do have a video on some of these frustrations at one moment in the recent past:
The Future Of This Proofreading App
Of course, I plan to keep working on this project, and to continue to build out the software. I have a fantastic but small development team that I have been leaning on, so that is very helpful. I have many ideas that I would like to build into this app, and many of these ideas are on the way in development. We just finished rolling out the ability to compare documents on the platform. There are some issues with MS Word track-changes documents, but will likely be in future stages of development. Before we added this functionality to the proofreading platform, we worked out issues with the email notification system. I think we will be adding a bit more to this email notification system in the future. What we are working on right now is speeding up the time it takes to get the document reviewed. I would like to get this down to less than a week, maybe even a few days.
I wanted to give you a bit of an update in May 2018 on how it is going. My development team and I have been able to make some more progress on r3ciprocity.com. We have fixed some issues with the email notification system, and now everyone is getting the emails. We also built in that you can select the documents you want to select straight from the email! I think this is a cool feature. I have been using the proofreading system from time-to-time, and it seems to go much faster now. The last few documents have been proofread by a total stranger within a few days. We also fixed some design issues with email notifications. Development might slow through the summer months as my funding as a professor gets cut in the summer, however my wife and I will still be building this proofreading app out. In the short future, I plan to make some changes to ensure better confidentially and quality on the system. I hope by the end of the summer to also add some features to allow for better communication and community between the writer and the editor, but stay tuned for that. This sharing economy proofreading software is a work in progress.
By the way, if you want to help out with this project, be sure that you go try it out. I have found that people are so nice and amazing – my plan to spread good in this world is working.
But, oh, there is still so much to do.
Anyway, got to go do my own writing. Take care!