Writers, particularly new ones, are often encouraged and bouyed up by physical writer’s groups, in which people co-critique works in progress. Some writing workshops/groups also include lectures from established authors and related well-known people in publishing. In SF/Fantasy, the Clarion SF&F Writers’ Workshop is well known and has graduated a number of folk who have gone on to great success.
So, can this model work online? I’m dubious. One of the things that makes a good writers’ group, and that makes Clarion the success it has been, is a rigorous screening process. You get into these things not just by having good intentions or a lot to say but by having valuable experience and insights to contribute. It’s unclear to me how one filters the mass audience of the Web into something resembling useful wisdom.
This is not a trivial question. Already, it’s all Ken can do to keep a handle on the various feedback loops spinning through the site. Separating the wheat from the chaff requires a great amount of time and attention on top of that. If we had unlimited time and resources, it would be interesting to play with some sort of collaborative filtering system for comments. What if readers had a way of advancing through a series of levels (appropriate to the game theme), gaining credibility as a respondent with each new level attained (like karma in Slashdot). These “advanced” readers would then have more authority to moderate other discussions, sharing some of the burden with the author.
On the other hand, perhaps a workshop is the wrong model. Maybe this is more like the writing of a massive wikipedia entry on games and game theory. One person writes most of it, but the audience participates in the edit and refinement process? It seems like that model might produce something more useful.
This is not headed for anything encyclopedic. Ken is still an individual voice and this book ultimately an expression of his unique critical view (the idea of writing any work of criticism collaboratively, the way one writes a Wikipedia aticle, is a little odd). But Ken is getting useful work out of his readers (who, among other things, are good at spotting typos). There’s definitely some of that wiki work ethic at play.
Another thing he’s after is good testimonials about what it feels like to play these games. We already got a fabulous little description of the experience of Katamari Damacy. Hopefully the first of many. So this is also another way of doing interviews for the book, in the setting most familiar to gamers talking about gaming: an online discussion forum.