Over six months after the launch of The Polite Type, it’s time to take stock of the project so far.
When we launched The Polite Type in August 2020, it was very much a conversation starter and a prototype for potential digital tools that could make the web safer for children, young people, and other vulnerable groups. It was intended first and foremost, an educational tool and as such, has been adopted and used by a number of schools internationally. But the project has been educational for us, too.
From the beginning, we made The Polite Type’s source code openly available and invited users to give us feedback and ideas on how to develop this further. We’re happy to say we received a number of suggestions from users around the world, from those working with language to people working in tech, interested in developing the tool forward. Our next steps for The Polite Type are largely based on the conversations we had with them.
Based on feedback from different interest groups we have a number of ideas for developing the font’s word library: with insight from different groups we are able to update some issues that have been pointed out and find new areas where to extend the vocabulary, such as gendered language.
Technical issues to iron out include the amount of word substitutions within the OpenType file, the extent of the word library, and understanding context around different words – some expressions can be harmless in one instance, and hurtful in another. Most of the limitations of the current solution come from the fact that the OpenType format is used in a way it was not designed to function. Future iterations of the font will hopefully have a better understanding of context and the ability to quickly pick up new words as language evolves.
Later this year, we’ll be unveiling the next language version of The Polite Type as a German version of the font will be launched. We are currently looking into options of expanding the project through relevant partnerships and, in the meantime hope to keep the conversation around online equality and safety going.