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chromatic (983)

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Journal of chromatic (983)

Tuesday August 03, 2004
01:45 PM

Make Small Things Easier

[ #20215 ]

I spend a lot of time sending and receiving versions of articles via e-mail. These tend to be small, generally on the order of 2000 words. I like to think of myself as a good editor, being able to improve the wording and organization of things. Still, several authors want to make changes, which is fine -- many phrasings are a matter of taste and some pieces of technology and code change for the better before final press time.

Then there are authors who make larger changes. It's easy to say "Can you change this sentence here and this word there?" It's a lot more difficult when the author moves paragraphs around and reformats the text.

Oddly, this problem almost disappears on larger projects, such as books. (See The Making of BSD Hacks .) My theory is that you'll go crazy trying to merge all of these little details on a project like this.

Why isn't a similar solution viable for articles? They're too small! The overhead of setting up a repository with authentication is too big to be useful for a maximum of three or four revisions of a 2000-word article.

Does the overhead have to be that great? I don't think so. The overhead of setting up a mailing list that lasts a week for a dozen people and two dozen posts used to be too high to be worthwhile, but Mail::SimpleList shows one way to avoid that.

This subject bears more thought. There may be a general principle here.

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  • Ingy gave me the hard sell on Kwiki, and a lot of the people who work on The Perl Review [www.theperlreview] want me to hurry up and make it work. The big problem (as you probably know) is tracking which version of an article is the canonical one.

    I'm not sure how it's going to work out, but it won't be the normal Wiki model. Authors will have accounts and they will be able to see and change their articles, but not see or edit others articles. Various levels of reviewers and editors can edit the articles. Behind the scene
  • I never really have this problem with my O'Reilly Network articles because I'm only smart enough to discover one or two minor edits. I'm sure there are more changes, but I can never find them.

    One option is to create an O'Reilly Network CVS repository and give authors accounts on the box. Then you can create one project for each article and let them edit away.

    I use CVS for most of my pieces, so I have to pull the piece from CVS anyway to send it as an e-mail attachment.