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Firstly: If it works for open source projects why not books?

Collaborative writing is not something new. What is rare however, is this in the field of programming.

The Important Aspects that need your valuable Inputs:

  • Investment: Would there be need for investment of any sort, other than Time during the development stages?
  • Existing Platforms: Are there any existing Platforms that best manage this? Such as online integrated version control, wiki, CMS?
  • Existing Projects: Where can we find such projects to contribute to? (Assumes there many existing already)
  • Popularity: Why don’t we see much or any such works? (Referring specifically to the aspect of online collaborative programming book development. It’s a given that in writing any book a lot of effort is involved with many indirect or credited contributors references editors etc.) ( I actually couldn’t find much .WEBOOK doesn’t do programming)
  • Programming Hurdles: What are the hurdles when speaking about programming aspects that make this hard to achieve?
  • Extension to SE/SO: Can something like this be added as an extension to SE/SO?The participants of the community already post their valuable answers to questions .Here they would be following more streamlined set of posts keeping with the style/vision.
  • Publicity: Is it safe to assume SO/SE could best serve as a driving force bringing the correct light, interest of seasoned professionals who can contribute their wealth of knowledge?
  • Marketing: Other than SO/SE what would be the best way to get publicity and talented people to contribute to this? Would GIT/source forge work as this is basically book writing?

Lastly: How do you think such a book would be received?

Points of Interest

  1. General Hurdles: A great set of pitfalls, hurdles in general collaborative writing (Besides the technical ones mentioned in the wiki) Not wishing to discuss or mention those here I link directly to the answer.
  2. Trends: Online Collaborative Writing: How Blogs and Wikis Are Changing the Academic Publishing Process
  3. Success steps: Keys to a Successful Collaborative Writing Project
  4. Tips: Useful Tips for Collaborative Writing with Google Docs and Google Sites

My Interest on This:

Recently after my exposure to head first design patterns, I was hard pressed to find a head first type of book for Data structures and Algorithms and I had even looked up their forums (O’Riley) and not much light was given to this topic despite many people asking for this.

My only Bad Guess is no one was man (programmer /knowledgeable) enough to write on this in their style (no offence to any one). Which lead me to find this idea of collaborative writing and to my surprise I had found or hadn’t found much in the area of programming.

I believe such an Endeavour would only increase the value of a book published as great things can be achieved keeping in line with the imagery, speech, context, delivery method of the original book style from which this was inspired. I have read somewhere that the true depth of a person’s knowledge lies in how he explains a complex concept in layman’s terms.

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closed as not constructive by ChrisF Jan 30 '12 at 22:52

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Please make this community wiki :-) –  James Crook Mar 27 '11 at 21:37
Wikibooks does this. Example: en.wikibooks.org/wiki/F_Sharp_Programming. Although, to be fair, I believe this book has only one author. –  Robert Harvey Mar 27 '11 at 22:59
Interesting that you mention this. I have noticed for example no streamlined rules for development ,not very user friendly in terms of navigation or discussion to facilitate proper collaboration.IMHO it Seems To Lack popularity and appears more like an anonymous wiki edit.One might lack motivation to contribute to this due to no proper credit's feature and monetary motivation aspect?. –  Aditya P Mar 28 '11 at 5:14

2 Answers 2

I think the major challenge you are going to face is readability. Even a reference book must have a clear and readable style. With open book writing you risk lose that.

Having said that you have exactly the same issue in the open source world for code. Style and paradigms need to be protected. This is done by simply allowing only a few people to commit, but anyone can submit patches. These patches are generally restyled and only then committed.

So I would suggest that you go that route. Pick a topic, get 2 or 3 authors to start writing the book in an open forum ( hell why not use SVN / GIT they work well with text ). Blog about it, twitter about it etc. Then accept patches to the book.

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Even a collaborative translation project of an opensourced book is a challenge.

I have tried it as a participant once. There are no real "committers", only peers, and there are no releases. The thing is either completely done or not done.

The people/translators are too diverse. They don't deliver what they promised to do. Difficult terms or certain jargon expressions will come up and resolving them by voting is infeasible.

(I'm not saying that it is impossible, it's just different.)

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