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February 2021 Product Update

A few things we crossed off our to-do list in February

Published onFeb 24, 2021
February 2021 Product Update
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Hi all,

Welcome to our first dedicated Product Update! As we noted in our last Community newsletter, we'll now be closing out each month with a digest of platform updates, enhancements, and tips. We hope this helps you brainstorm ways to implement our features in your own work and, as always, we're eager to hear what you think.

Sincerely,
Your PubPub Team



01.  Improved alt text options and caption structure for screen readers

In response to helpful comments from screenreader users on Twitter, we made a number of structural changes to improve the way most screen readers announce captions for video, images, embeds, and other types of media on PubPub. We also added an optional, manual alt text field to image blocks for scenarios where screenreader users would benefit from additional detail than what's provided in a caption (for example, data visualizations). We also included instructions on using the alt text field to make sure writers on PubPub don’t accidentally make life worse for SR users by duplicating caption content.


02.  Image drag and drop

You can now add an image to a Pub by dragging it directly into the Pub body.


03.  Released Pubs load 50% faster

A screenshot we captured on February 3, 2021, showing a sudden and marked decrease in the time required to serve Releases after moving away from Firebase.

We recently completed some work to make creating and viewing Releases faster and more reliable. Under the hood, we now store Release content in our main Postgres database instead of Firebase. While Firebase has real-time communication features that help power our collaborative editor, it has relatively poor performance when retrieving static content like Releases. Firebase also has opaque rate-limiting rules that sometimes caused instability on PubPub. And furthermore, is owned by Google, so we are excited to have reduced our dependence on it.


04.  LaTeX Import Process Improvements

Converting LaTeX to HTML is a notoriously difficult challenge because the schemas of the two languages are so different, with different target output environments (paged media vs. the browser). To help users transform their LaTeX documents, PubPub now displays information about what functions our LaTeX importer had to skip or work around when you import a LaTeX document. We also created help documentation that describes PubPub’s LaTeX support in-depth, with detailed workarounds and best practices for importing LaTeX into PubPub. Many thanks to those of you (especially the HDSR team) that offered us feedback for this improvement. 


05.  Preprint Review Documentation

We’re increasingly excited and inspired by the innovative groups experimenting with preprint review and evaluation, so we wrote a guide to starting a preprint review community on PubPub. Anyone can take advantage of the features we built for communities like Rapid Reviews: COVID-19. It's easy and free, no technical expertise needed.


06.  PubPub Forum and Public Roadmap

We started the year by launching two new spaces to help support the growing PubPub community. Our high-level roadmap is now publicly available as a GitHub project, giving everyone more insight into our development plans. We also launched a new PubPub Forum on GitHub, where you can connect with other PubPub users, share ideas, tips and best practices, and get technical support and help.


07.  Enhancements

--> Improved scrolling on Pubs with long tables of contents
--> Made small Google Scholar/Highwire metadata improvements


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