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Too Many Cooks Enhance the Taste of Broth!

20/05/2014 12:24 BST | Updated 19/07/2014 10:59 BST

Writing is often an intense expression. It's a deeply personal one, often tumultuous a journey with many sharp curves, and one-ways; most of the times, when thoughts and feelings transform into words, the writer often comes across challenges of wrapping emotions in the limited vocabulary of a language, any language. Writing is an exercise of attempting to arrange words that convey exactly what the author wants to say. And more often than not, what he says is not all that he wants to convey. It's just a tip of the iceberg. On the other hand, what the reader perceives could neither be what the writer has said, nor what he meant in actual sense. What a reader imbibes by reading the book is often a reflection of his own need to 'understand' through his own life's experiences.

Truly, writing is a gamble with big chances of losing the entire plot hanging everywhere. How does an author then manage to pass on his expressions to the reader? An average writer, one can guess, who writes generic stuff like a travelogue or essays or fiction, has no cap to his limit. But, another form of writer, who writes deeply introspective literature, like chronicling history or political analysis or non-fiction based on parts of his life, will need long gaps of breather to rejuvenate himself and start living his next work. An experience that's deeply personal, is hard labour too. It's never easy being a writer. The expressions never take the exact form in which they exist. For that matter, the inadequacy of a language, often tires the writer.

Writers attach great level of possessiveness to their works. They often draw clear boundaries around their works, and will probably only partially allow someone to sit in judgment of their work. Once it's published, their apprehension takes a different form. It's that of being 'judged'. Which is why, writing is often placed parallel to meditation. Only, calmness for a writer is elusive when mind is at work.

With this being the case, when a deeply personal expression takes shape of a word, a writer chooses it carefully after a lot of contemplation. Those who have worked in publishing houses, no matter how big or small those firms have been, will vouch by the rabid outbursts of writers over matters of editing.

However, it is interesting to note that not so much in an alternate universe, 'writings' are out to get so much sun that even a beach-fanatic would be astonished. Yes, a new phenomenon that has been emerging in the recent past, is that of 'crowd sourcing'.

Crowd, what? Did you say? You read it right. It's Crowdsourcing and looks like the trend has generated a lot of interest. It is a thread of sorts where people, though divided by geography, work together to create something, through imagination, discussion and sharing a common objective - of creating a piece of literature. Crowdsourcing is about leveraging the power of 'many' to accomplish feats that were some years ago, the responsibility of one person or two people.

Jeff Howe, one of the editors of Wired Magazine, along with his professional associate Mark Robinson coined the word 'crowdsourcing' nearly a decade ago in 2005 after participating in discussions about how the businesses were going to change in the future with the internet binding to create a virtual office.

The bug has bitten one and all. So much so that, the writer of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs' biography, Walter Isaacson also found this immensely benefiting and worth a shot! Few months ago, he posted a passage from his new book that deals with the origins of personal computing age on a website and asked people to respond to it. When he didn't get the expected kind of feedback from one site, he tried out several other internet platforms, so as to elicit a response. One of the most valued and lengthy responses came from Stewert Brand, a prominent name in Silicon Valley during the 1960s and 70s, who eventually turned into a renowned editor of The Whole Earth Catalog, making the 'impossible' a huge possibility. This was a medium of benefit, albeit mutual one too, in spirit!

Crowdsourcing and with that, sharing the expertise is a phenomenon that makes sense both on expertise and content. Publishing today is not as conventional and difficult-to-get-by as it was earlier. Publishing houses and editors have realized the value of some 'fresh' perspectives into literature and also the fact that there is a flood of new writers around the block. And that most of them cannot afford a professional editor. In such cases, editors who are generous enough to share their skill, come forward to help. And the book is e-published. On the flipside, it can get messy too, with too many opinions floating around on a single passage/book. But then, democracy always weighs equally on both sides, isn't it?

Revisionator, Soylent (on-demand human computation), LiveJournal, Buzzy Writing, Scribd, Medium are all mostly platforms to invite responses/edits to stories/articles. Some of these platforms have huge databases with regular participation from who's who in the publishing business. Targeted activities such as a crowdsourced book happen often on sites too. Grammarly recently ran a GrammoWriMo with nearly 300 writers across 27 countries participating to write a book. Experiments such as these can not only provide an indicator towards how the challenges in the phenomenon can be ironed out, but also a fair picture of what lies ahead with publishing. Future, clearly belongs to the crowds too, as much as it does to the individuals.