Introducing Pen

This post is a bit late.  Pen.io launched a few days ago but I’ve only just managed to get around to writing this due to the usual post launch tweaks, emails, questions, press etc that needed to be done.

Pen is the fastest way to publish content online.  It takes just seconds to setup a page and start adding content.   The focus is purely on the content.

Other site builders, blogging platforms and even html, forces the user to concentrate more on design, layout and formatting.  I liked one of the emails I got from a Teacher who came across Pen:

Pen is really plain, but that’s a good thing.  Students will worry less about formatting and more about content.

But don’t be fooled into thinking Pen only supports plain text.  The beauty of Pen, is at its very basic form, a user only needs to enter plain text to create a page.  But as they get used to the app, they can experiment and expand using HTML and the specially designed PenUp Markup language.  Furthermore, special features like drag and drop image uploads are hidden away and only become visible when the user actually needs them.

Why Publish on Pen?

A lot of the content that’s currently being published to Pen is poems and short stories.    But why put a short story, ebook, manifesto or poem on Pen?

When you publish to Pen, you’re giving that piece of content its very own home.  Its not a shared home.  That one piece of content, be it a poem or any other piece of text, has its own site.   That site is free from distractions - no navigation menu for users to click out to, no flashy banner ads to draw away attention.    There is also no date to devalue your content if its months or years old.  There’s little design for the visitor to critique.  Basically, when a visitor hits your content on Pen.io, its just them and your creation.

Pen isn’t designed to replace blogs, but rather create a permanent home for special pieces of text.

PenUp Markup Language

PenUp is a markup language that I’ve been designing for a little while.  Its designed specially for Pen.  Users who want to add videos, images, headings and more can make use of a very simple and logical set of tags.  Unlike other Markup languages, PenUp is designed to make use of third party services such as YouTube and Google Maps.  Its not just a txt to html language.  Think of it as a really simple way to make use of third party API’s.

For example, to embed a YouTube video, simply write:

:video http://youtubeURLGoesHere

PenUp also helps with formatting.  For example, to add a new page, a user just adds the page tag when they want a page break:

:page

Currently Pen only supports a few tags (:page, :image, :video, :h1,2,3) but more tags will be released when I finish the spec for PenUp.

If you want to discover some of the amazing things people are doing with Pen, make sure you follow the Twitter account where I showcase some of the best creations.

p.s - Special thanks to the Hacker News community.  Not only did the momentum behind Pen begin there, I also received some valuable (and essential) feedback.

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