Subject: Re: Open Source in E-Commerce
From: Rich Morin <rdm@cfcl.com>
Date: Mon, 13 Mar 2000 22:19:10 -0800

An interesting discussion.  Not sure what it has to do with FSB, but
maybe I can permute it into something acceptable to the listmeisters...

My inquiry was at the behest of my contact at Addison Wesley.  I am a
"Consulting Advisor" for them, which means that I get to help evaluate
(and solicit, occasionally) book proposals, look over manuscripts as
they develop, etc.

AW makes heavy use of reviewers in its editorial process.  I assume it
works, as their books are generally of decent quality.  You might think
of this as a "cathedral" approach; reviewers are supposed to be experts
in the area under discussion and not very many reviewers are involved.

Inspired by ESR's writings, we used a rather different approach with
"MacPerl: Power and Ease".  The developing chapters were put up on the
web; a series of notes to the MacPerl mailing list gave status reports
and invited folks to help out.

The results were all that we could have desired.  Over several months,
we received well over a hundred responses, involving some 50 reviewers.
The email ranged from incredibly nit-picking copy editing to discussions
on pedagogical style.  We didn't make every suggested change, but we did
make quite a few changes and the book was far better because of them.

There may have been some academics or even experts (:-) involved in the
review process, but we didn't select for them going in.  We just put out
a broadcast and looked at the responses...  We paid no honoraria, either,
but we did make sure to acknowledge the help we received.

I plan to use the same approach, where possible, on future book projects.
It has a number of benefits, many of which are quite predictable from
ESR's writings:

   *  improving quality control
   *  garnering novel ideas
   *  gaining community "buy-in"

I'm not sure if I totally buy RMS's position that free software needs
free documentation and that, consequently, proprietary books on free
software are "part of the problem".  I can see his point, to be sure,
but I think there is room for more than one book on any given subject,
so the presence of proprietary books does not necessarily preclude an
interested party from writing a free one.  It is also debatable whether
books and software are strictly equivalent in their development needs.

OTOH, like Sun and some other quasi-converts to Open Source, I can see
the benefits of the bazaar even if I don't want to free my own works.
So, I ask for help from reviewers, offering only the chance to help
create a better book and a small amount of egoboo.  It seems to work
quite well at my end; if the reviewers can get some mileage out of it
(e.g., as an entry in their c.v.), so much the better...

-r
--
Rich Morin:          rdm@cfcl.com, +1 650-873-7841, http://www.ptf.com/~rdm
Prime Time Freeware: info@ptf.com, +1 408-433-9662, http://www.ptf.com
MacPerl: http://www.macperl.com,       http://www.ptf.com/ptf/products/MPPE
MkLinux: http://www.mklinux.apple.com, http://www.ptf.com/ptf/products/MKLP