Can a Novel Be Written Wikipedia Style? The Results Are In.

The wis­dom of crowds con­cept works for writ­ing soft­ware. (Think open source.) But does it work for writ­ing nov­els? That’s what Pen­guin and De Mon­fort Uni­ver­si­ty (in the UK) want­ed to fig­ure out when they launched an exper­i­ment in Feb­ru­ary 2007 called “A Mil­lion Lit­tle Pen­guins.” Over the course of five weeks, rough­ly 1500 writ­ers draft­ed a col­lab­o­ra­tive nov­el using wiki soft­ware (the same one used by Wikipedia), and you can now view the com­plet­ed man­u­script here. So far the reviews are not over­whelm­ing. Accord­ing to one observ­er, “it’s inco­her­ent. You might get some­thing sim­i­lar if you took a stack of super­mar­ket check­out line pot­boil­ers and some Mad Libs and threw them in a blender.” And then there’s this pithy ver­dict by the snarky blog, Gawk­er: “The text itself is ter­ri­ble.” Ouch. But maybe some­one who is less reflex­ive­ly dis­mis­sive will have a dif­fer­ent view, though I would­n’t bet on it. Have a read here. Also see De Mont­fort’s post mortem of the project here.

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