As a follow-up to his biography of Steve Jobs, author Walter Isaacson is writing about the origins and emergence of our modern digital era — and he's using online collaborators to make it the best book it can be. As pointed out by Capital and TechCrunch, Isaacson has posted excerpts from his new novel across a variety of different online publishing platforms, including Medium, Scribd, and LiveJournal, asking interested parties to read the passages and contribute any notes or corrections. "Online collaboration is why the internet was originally built," Isaacson writes at the beginning of one excerpt, "and I'm interested in any comments or corrections readers might want to make before I publish in a year."
Crowdsourcing feedback isn't a novel concept in and of itself, but Isaacson's experiment is notable not only because of his stature as an author, but because of the subject matter itself. The very people he's writing about are some of the same individuals that are most likely to participate in the online editing process, with Stewart Brand — editor of the Whole Earth Catalog and creator of The WELL — already having stepped in to correct passages about his own background.
The finished book will tell the story of digital innovation starting with 19th century computing pioneer Ada Lovelace, and by working with people of all kinds online, Isaacson says he hopes to return to the spirit of innovation and collaboration that the book's subjects embody. "One of the things I learned is the original intention of the internet was to allow collaboration on projects, and we got away from that, especially with the World Wide Web," he tells Capital. "I'm trying to find a good service that will allow people to collaborate or to crowdsource some ideas."