Peer production of a book

Fri 18 October 2013
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="300"]Savoy Theatre account book, pages showing cost... Book (credit photo: Wikipedia)[/caption]

Once upon a time, I helped writing a "livre collaboratif" as we say in french (Yes, I'm french, and this was written in my mother tong) (I think the english for that expression is "peer producted book"). Here is how we decided to made it. Just remember it was in 2012 (about on year ago) so the version of software used may be outdated.

Workload distribution between authors

We decided that the most important thing was the story itself and not how it is written. All the organizational work was about how to make a story. To be immersive:

  • each author can only make live a few set of characters
  • the basic brick of the story is an event composed of
    • a place
    • a date
    • a set of characters present in this place on this date
  • each author can do what he wants with its character(s) to model the events it is involved in (as in real life)
  • each author can create an event by making something with its characters (e.g. he goes to the station, et voilà there's an event at the station) and complete places where event take place

In case of conflict, the administrator and webmaster (including me) have all (divine) power on this world to solve it as they want.

Tool choice and use

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="180"]English: MediaWiki logo. Русский: Логотип Medi... MediaWiki logo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)[/caption]

As we didn't find user-friendly tools to make that, we decided to customize a well know peer work tool to  fit our requirements. As you can imagine, we choose a wiki, namely mediawiki, because of multiple functionalities offered by plugins.
each character had a page for itself where all "public" data where presented.
Because we didn't want to spend many time in developing a new mediawiki-plugin, we decided to norm page name. It must begin with the date, then the place. If this requirement were not achieved, we renamed the pages. We made all that stuff by hand, because we thought it would by too time consuming to developpe quick and dirty scripts for automation.
We dedicated a website for this work. maybe I will put it again online one day. I still don't know.
To install it, just follow the standard mediawiki installation process (no great difficulty here, just take care of your configuration)
The plugins we used were
  • access control to control what is visible by who
  • link title because many places and characters have complicated names that should be refreshed (and because it's  fun)
  • maybe other I don't rememeber (a new post may complete this one if necessary)

There is no difficulty here, the standard instructions for each plugin installation work fine.

Story building

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300"]English: New building above Ashen Plains Wood ... Another brick in the story (Photo credit: Wikipedia)[/caption]

To ease mental representation and avoid (almost all) obvious geographical conflicts (like high speed event, e.i. a character doing something in one place and something in another place nearly at the same time, or traveling at irealistic speed), we made up maps and charts describing normal travel behaviors. I remember an almost hand drawn map of the solar sytem that was quite fun
We also grow up family trees, political systems, geopolitical conflicts,...
As explained in the beginning of the article, each author was responsible for a character (or a set of few characters). The instructions were:
  • enhance the character you have (created by us or by the author when joining us)
  • put him in a place at a specific time
    • if the corresponding event exists, make your character evolve in it (i.e. modify the event)
    • otherwise create the event, and if you want someone else to be there, tell the administrator/webmasters. If its compatible with its schedule, he/she will be advised that he/she is required at this event
  • take into account the messages of the administrators/webmasters when they advise you that one of your character should be at an event (by creating the event if needed)

Yes, it looks like role-playing.


This way, we created a complicated universe. Once the story done, we should have write the book itself. Unfortunately, all the authors focused on extend, enhance and enrich the universe. The result was a very very complicated stuff with no event. It's okay for static arts like painting, but we wanted a fiction, e.i. action.
Maybe we should have present the universe at a different development step to avoid it. We would have like authors to  appropriate the universe, so we include new authors when there was only few places and no event. Authors enlarge what they have, and didn't create event.
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Related articles (or not):

Category: tools Tagged: Author Book Games MediaWiki peer production Roleplaying Writing