Public Editing: Many Heads are Better than One

Timothy Ferriss, best-selling author of The Four Hour Work Week, has a great idea. He is engaging his readers as editors of the next edition of his book (due out in 2008 or 2009).

How is he doing it? He’s published a wiki where people can login and make suggestions for new content, updated information or new concepts. The incentive? He’ll pick the best contributor and acknowledge them in the book, AND give them a round trip plane ticket anywhere in the world, AND he’ll help you plan your getaway (Tim is the KING of the mini-retirement and how to make the most of adventure travel).

This strikes me as another way that a community can be powerful. Tim is working on the premise that “many heads are better than one.” It’s possible he’s suffering from the effects of having looked at his manuscript a few too many times, and can’t see the forest for the trees. I get that way with my video projects. It’s possible to be too close to a thing, and you need someone else’s perspective to make it better. Tim has taken this to the extreme, by enlisting his community of readers to help him edit his book via the web.

It’s easy enough to get involved. Just get yourself a copy of The Four Hour Work Week and read it. No, not just so you can show off your editing prowess and potentially get some free stuff, but because it’s actually a really great book! It totally changed my perspective on being a businessperson. It transformed me from being the “doer” to being the “creator” in my business and as a result I am much happier, content, and therefore successful in my business. And I take a lot more spa days, long lunches, and coming soon, mini-retirements than I used to!

Tim is not really looking for style suggestions (I’m sure he gets enough of those from his professional editors). He’s looking for the following, according to his wiki:

“I am particularly interested in additional resources, outdated or incorrect web addresses (URLs), and any errors or ways to clarify confusing parts. I’m not so much interested in stylistic changes, but all suggestions for improvement are valued. I want the book to be up-to-date and full of the latest resources and innovations. No spamming or affiliate URLs are permitted, and if you suggest a company you are involved with in any respect, please state so in brackets [ ] or it will be deleted. Be upfront.”

This form of community contribution is something I hope to see more of in the future. Maybe this concept can be expanded beyond the bestseller. Maybe my next TV script could be thrown up on a wiki for the masses to pick at? Or maybe just my next blog post? Or web design idea? I would be fascinated to see what people have to contribute to my creative processes.

What do you think? Would you consider making a contribution to someone else’s creative work? If so, how would you feel if your suggestions were used? Or not used?

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