Sunday, February 04, 2007

Pick up a Penguin

I recently watched TV programme which showed a colony of penguins ritually landing on an obscure Antarctica bay. They were driven ashore in hostile waters bouncing against the rocks and then finally scrambling on land before they waddled upwards to the safety of their breeding grounds. Could they not find an easier route with less danger?

This week Penguin launched their “million penguins” collaborative novel. An experiment aimed at enabling anyone to contribute to the writing of a new novel on the Internet. This collaborative effort is based on the successful “wiki” technology that spawned the co-operative wikipedia which we covered in “Brave New World”. The experiment, which Penguin says is the first "wiki novel" to be started from scratch by a major publishing house, will be online for at least six weeks.

"This is an experiment. It may end up like reading a bowl of alphabet spaghetti," Jeremy Ettinghausen, head of digital publishing at Penguin UK said, adding there were no plans as yet to publish the completed work. "We are not making any predictions. It would be utterly fantastic if we could at the end create a print remix."

Penguin states the work is not a talent search.

The “wiki” format works well when the subject matter is factual and the entries are short and their number is many but will it work when there is one story, input is open to all and the subject is pure fiction? Logic says it will fail and editors and authors will be rubbing their hands as their value becomes even more obvious. What is certain is the real winner will be Penguin. They will get publicity whether it fails or succeeds and will get input even if the contributors are not recognized.

Personally, my mind goes back to visualizing those millions of penguins in Antarctica and asking why they put themselves through significant peril just to come ashore in this one place?