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Five hundred to write a book?

The MIT in USA invites thousands of contributors from leading institutions to participate in a revolutionary publishing project, reports Samrat Choudhury.

india Updated: Oct 19, 2006 04:36 IST

How many people does it take to write a book? The answer, if you are at the cutting edge of literary and management thinking, is: At least five hundred.

On October 13, the Massachusetts Institute of technology (MIT) in USA launched its "Center for Collective Intelligence". Among its first initiatives is a project to write a management book with the title "We Are Smarter Than Me".

The project’s website says "We Are Smarter Than Me" is a business community formed by business professionals to research and discuss the impact of social networks on traditional business functions.”

Though contributors from two leading institutions in the US – Wharton and MIT – have been invited, the community is open to all. The aim is to gather contributions in a 'wiki', a type of open website like the Wikipedia that allows people to easily add or edit content. Anyone can sign up at www.wearesmarter.org and write or edit the book-in-progress. Pearson will publish the resulting ‘network book’ in 2007.

The network book has already progressed to 13 chapters. It begins with a ‘Narrator’s Introduction’ in the following words: “What you are reading is the true state of the art in books on management science.  It is the answer to the question:  How can we get current thinking into one book, when all the current thinking on a subject is dispersed among the leading practitioners?”

By October 18, there were already 625 people toiling away at the chapters. All of them, and the many who are likely to contribute to the book in the future, will be listed as authors, and will have a vote in deciding which charities should receive the royalty.

This will, however, not be the first network book. There is already a book, called “YRUHN: Why Are You Here Right Now”, that released earlier this month. It is now selling online for $ 19.95 and was written by 1,000 people using the Amazon service Mechanical Turk.

These efforts are based on the thinking that ‘crowdsourcing’ is the future. Proponents say “outsourcing is so 2003”.