Musings on Collaborative Authoring

I’m reading new thinking from Adam Hyde, FLOSS Manuals founder, in a new book titled “A Webpage is a Book” at http://www.booki.cc/a-webpage-is-a-book/_edit/. I found the gem of a quote above in the section on collaboration. He is re-writing his book about book sprints in this new tome. I knew he had been refining his thinking after running 30 book sprints over the last five years, so I look forward to hearing his new perspectives as he shifts from “it’s editorial” to “it’s ease of production, collaboration, and reuse.”

The best motivation to collaborate on writing a book is a desire for the book to exist. To quote Antoine de Saint-Exupery:

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

My current thinking about how to get collaborative writers to long for the endless immensity of the sea, the journey from uncoupled thoughts and notes to a knowledge transfer device, is threefold:

  1. Make your writing events fun and relaxing, like a writer’s retreat. The tool should disappear into the background while you just write productively. They desire for the book to be a part of their lives.
  2. Give the writing group plenty of reputation building – teach them to long for the recognition that being an author on the deliverable will bring. They desire for their writing to be recognized.
  3. Recruit people who already practice reciprocity – they get a kick out of being helpful. They know others helped them. They want to help and have been helped. They desire for their writing to be helpful.

Of course it’s not really this simple, but it is calming and inspiring to think of riding ocean waves to explore collaborative authoring. Holding a seashell to my ear now… ahh.

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