Collaborative Book Writing over 800+ miles
Last fall I agreed to co-author a book on blogging in libraries with Jason Griffey. It is a project that both of us really are interested but when we committed to doing it I don’t think either of us had thought much about the logistics of working on a book when the co-authors are 800+ miles apart. One of the first things we discovered immediately was that we needed some way to share documents with one another so we could both look at and edit them. This came up when we were working on the proposal. Lucky for us Google Docs exists and we began using that. Another snag we hit was with screenshots. Since we are both writing chapters we both have some. But how to get them to one another considering that they are 300 dpi TIFFs and we have many of them. Jason suggested a private group in Flickr and what a lifesaver that has been. We also use email of course and chat to communicate with one another about various issues. On the whole it is working out well so far. Other than both of us have had a crazy busy spring semester.
This whole experience has gotten me thinking about a number of things.
- How much smaller of a world we live in
I’m not sure if technology and the internet were not as powerful as it is if I would even consider working on a book with a person at another institution
- How dependent I am on social networking tools to do my job
Whether it is chat, email, GoogleDocs, Flickr, blogs or del.ico.us, social networking tools are an important part of the way I do my work. My blog is my code diary and though I document things elsewhere I often will refer back to blog posts about projects to revisit my workflow or processes. I use del.cio.us to mark stuff I think will be useful in the future to myself or colleagues.
The whole experience thus far as made me really happy that I’m fairly adept with social networking tools. Otherwise, I’m not sure how we would get anything done. Yet there are some things that are still hurdles. Sending big files back and forth is a huge obstacle we haven’t overcome yet. Maybe this is because we haven’t found the right tool yet. Another issue ironically is the time difference. One hour makes a difference because often I work on this stuff at the end of the day when Jason has already gone home. So it is hard to get time to just chat about book stuff and bounce ideas around. However, I think this has to do more with our busy schedules then the physical distance. Thus far the experience has been a positive one and taught me a great deal about working collaboratively over a distance, teamwork, and setting clear expectations when you communicate.
I’m sure there will be lots more lessons learned between now and October when the book is due. For now, I’m just focused on writing like crazy in every spare moment I have.