After the Deadline Open-Sources

Raffi, a co-worker of mine at Automattic, mentioned today that his project, After the Deadline, is now open-source.

It might help to explain what After the Deadline is.

What is After the Deadline?

After the Deadline it is a TinyMCE editor plugin for grammar, style and spell checking.

The statement above is factually correct but also completely boring.

Let’s face it, the last time I had fun with most spell checking programs was twenty years ago when I used to type in the names of my friends to see the suggestions and invent “spell check names” for all my friends.

Instead let me channel my inner Mudge and explain why After the Deadline rocks and then why open-sourcing it is cool.

The reason it’s rocks is that most spell checkers and grammar editors suck.

How After the Deadline is different

Most spell checking works by finding if a word is in the dictionary. If you’re really lucky, it might highlight the word “it’s” every time it sees it, for when you really meant “its.” But here we are, with the wealth of Google to build on, and my Mac OS X spellchecker still suggests that “the written wrd” should be written “the written wry” or “the written ward” before “the written word.”

That’s bullshit.

Mac OS X spellchecker
The Mac OS X built-in spellchecker guesses wrong twice.

So one thing After the Deadline does is sort the suggested misspelling based on rules generated by a neural network based on real data. This means, it, unlike my Mac suggests “the written word” first because it knows that that phrase is used much more often than “the written wry.”

Similarly, if you new the write word, but use the wrong one, it might highlight the one you knew to be right. In the last sentence, Mac OS X only caught one of the two misused words, but AtD catches both. Finding misused but correctly-spelled words is important because (there is a bloody difference between sanguine and sanguinary!

AtD spellchecker
AtD gets it right much more often and finds more errors.

Finally, it has an optional rule-based style-grammar checker, which, now that it is open-sourced, Raffe is hoping to add foreign language support to based on integrating other open-source projects into.

Open sourcing

Now that AtD is part of Automattic, open-sourcing simply makes sense. But more than that, it has uses far beyond some text editor box in for your WordPress.

I hear our Happiness Engineers find AtD so nice, they sometimes paste their replies into WordPress just to use the spellchecker. Now that sucks, but with the jQuery API, it’d now be possible to spellcheck-enable any website out there. In fact, people have already written a GreaseMonkey script to make it available in any text box—now if only someone would give me it! :-)

Imagine harnessing the power of the intertubes to do spelling and grammar checking right in your desktop application or AIR app. Imagine having that support on your website under your control or in the language of your choice. Imagine generating your own statistical dataset of suggestions for your own needs—even feeding the engine Cheezburgers so it can rly spake in propur kitteh! Or a Mark Cuban version where its okay to mix up your “it’s.” ;-)

Beginning to see it’s value?

So go to their open source site download the code and start hacking.

And please, someone replace its use of Sleep with PHP… or at least Python. ;-)

Muphries Law

So use AtD as early and as often as possible. That way, next time you criticize us with a: “I wonder if this is you’re companies way of providing support,” you won’t be caught, as Andy pointed out, proving Muphry’s Law:

If you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written.

In summary

After the Deadline rocks because all other spell checkers suck and open-sourcing After the Deadline is cool because it empowers you to use it in ways we haven’t thought of.

Find your inner check. Download and play with AtD today.

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