Form will follow content in We Are Smarter Than Me, a book on social networks and business written by… a social network of business professors, students and professionals — on a wiki. They’re calling it a “network book”:
The central premise of We Are Smarter Than Me is that large groups of people (“We”) can, and should, take responsibility for traditional business functions that are currently performed by companies, industries and experts (“Me”).
A few books have recently been written on this topic, but they all fail to confront one central paradox. While they extol the power of communities, they were each written by only one person. We’re putting this paradox to the test by inviting hundreds of thousands of authors to contribute to this “network book” using today’s technologies.
The project is a collaboration between Wharton Business School, MIT Sloan School of Management and a company called Shared Insights. A print book will be published by Pearson in Fall ’07. The site reveals little about how the writing process will be organized, but it’s theoretically open to anyone. As of this writing, I see 983 members.
To get a sense of some of the legal strings that could enwrap future networked publishing deals, take a look at the terms of service for participating authors. You sign away most rights to your contributions, though you’re free to reproduce or rework them non-commercially under a CC license. All proceeds of the book will be given to a charity of the community’s collective choosing. And here’s an interesting new definition of the publisher: “community manager” and “provider of venues for interaction.”
I found this Hartford Courant article on slashdot.
Martin Benjamin heads up an eleven year old project to create an online Swahili dictionary called the Kamusi Project. Despite 80 million speakers, the current Swahili dictionary is over 30 years old. Setting this project apart from other online dictionaries, these entries are created by, not only academics, but also by volunteers ranging from former Peace Corp workers to African linguistic hobbyists. The site also includes a discussion board for the community of users and developers.
It is also important to mention that, like wikipedia, donations and volunteers support this collaborative project. Unlike wikipedia, it does not have the broad audience and publicity that wikipedia enjoys, which makes funding a continual issue.
Whatever one’s hesitations concerning the accuracy and reliability of Wikipedia, one has to admire their panache. Wikipedia applies the de-bugging ethic of programming to the production of knowledge, and this page is a wonderful cultural document – biting the collective thumb at print snobbism.
treasuremytext is a free British service that allows you to save text messages from your phone to the web on an anonymous, communal log, or “slog.” Recent messages appear in a column on the main site where they can be read by all and sundry, subscribed to by feed, and even loaded onto an iPod as plain text files. jill/txt has a transcript from about two weeks back:
trying to convince myself that there was nothing there but i still find myself thinking about you
night nimet . . . . i miss you
How about sorting that taxi out for next week? For real?
Ok smart arse when you are there then! And then i will fix your issues for you, all of them!
U have beautifull eyes
Dont ring ill b down bout halfpast babes
Me to hes just arrived txt u l8r baby
Nite nite xxx
Nite nite fat sexy bum.Txt u tomoz nite nite xxxx
Not exactly prize-winning stuff, but has a nice dreamy flow of chatter plucked out of the air. Reminds me a bit of a game I played in elementary school where you go around a circle and improvise a story in broken-off pieces. Reading the site today, the entries seem to have taken on a smuttier tone. And a good number aren’t in English. But an intriguing experiment nonetheless.
But it would be more interesting if the logs had some focus. Something like the City Chromosomes project, which is building a networked chronicle of the city of Antwerp, all by SMS.