Reimagining the Publishing Industry's Project Development

Version control is important with any sufficiently complicate project. Once I started learning Git, I slowly realized how powerful it was. I had the "aha" moment for why repository hosts like GitHub and Bitbucket are so useful for software developers. The ability to clone, branch, fork, and otherwise work with complex projects is invaluable. Thanks Linus!

Not too long ago, I watched a TED talk where Clay Shirky discussed using version control for lawmaking and government. I really liked that concept. He talks about version control around 6 minutes into the video.

So I started thinking... what other areas could benefit from granular version control?

The most obvious one that came to mind (since I'm married to an author) was the publishing industry.

Imagine if publishers had a complete log of project changes, the ability to branch, rewind, fast-forward, and have departments, authors, agents submit pull requests for all project changes - everything from the initial proposal received from the author to all edits and variations of the manuscript. And why stop at just manuscript changes? Why not all changes associated with the project, across multiple departments including cover variations, type setting, and advertising creative. Sound too complicated? Consider the complexity of enormous projects like the Linux Kernel, spread across the world with thousands of contributors. It's kept manageable and efficient by version control.

If you work for a publishing company, you have a vested interest in "staying relevant." Your survival is at stake. Want a competitive edge? Want to stay nimble? In the age of social media, you'll need to continue to offer new authors more than industry connections. You'll need to be more efficient and more effective at project development than what authors could reasonably accomplish without you. I'd suggest that a great place to start would be to fundamentally shift how you view the importance of the littlest things; the incremental changes to each of your projects.

Why not incorporate the technologies that provide efficiency to some of the largest and most complex content publishing projects in existence: software applications? These are projects that can't afford a single typo without major consequences.

Imagine increasing the quality of communication between departments, agents, and authors while simultaneously speeding up the entire publishing chain, lowering the rate of errors and logging every important change ever made to any part of the project. That's the kind of shift in process we're talking about here.

If you're in publishing and want to learn more about the areas in software development I think could help your industry, here's a list of things to start considering:

So what do you think? Would version control be good for publishing?

Three Incredible Apps I take for Granted

This list is not exhaustive. I take just about all tech for granted about 3 months after it's released. I could list all of Google's apps/services here. Also, though two of the three listed here aren't just for iOS, but I'm mostly thinking about using the apps on an iPad as I write this.  What makes these apps incredible is not just their user friendly UI, but the service behind them. A well designed interface plus a well designed service equals an instant take-for-granted app.

1) Songza

Songza is what Pandora hopes to be someday. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed Pandora in its day, but it'll need a ground-up re-code, and whatever the corporate equivalent of soul searching is, before it'll compete with the usefulness of Songza. In addition to the context/daypart music concierge, one of the best parts of Songza is that little "HQ" button next to the volume control. Touching this is the 21st century version of sliding the "bass boost" switch on my late '90s CD player. It uses tech from Audyssey to re-shape the audio for specific headphone brand/model, presumably to make the audio sound more like the original producer's intent, compensating for specific headphones' idiosyncrasies.

2) Garageband

Garageband is just for iOS. This is the app that sold me on the iPad. In fact, if all the iPad  could do was Garageband, it would be worth the purchase price. If you have any interest in music creation and any musical ability at all, this app will both impress and depress you. I got a decent feel for the interface, the smart instruments, the multi-track recorder and the midi editor in about a half hour. It's amazingly easy to create songs and get ideas down. After using Garageband, you may ask yourself "why did I spend all that time learning an instrument and honing my music skilz?" Don't worry, it built character. Also, there are plenty of instruments not yet available in Garageband for iOS... like the accordion.

3) Nest

Last year, we had to replace our HVAC. I decided, that along with our new heat and air, I'd spend the $260 for the Nest thermostat. I haven't regretted it. The intelligent "learning your schedule" feature isn't as important to me as the simplicity of using the thermostat while simultaneously having all the bells and whistles, like remote accessibility. Is it bad that I somehow feel MORE comfortable when a new device in my house has the ability to connect to the internet and download updates? I'm also a fan of the monthly energy use reports it emails me and the little leaves I get, when I'm saving energy. At least, that's what it's telling me. Couple that with the ability to tell it I'm "away" or "home" from anywhere I have an internet connection and have it adjust the temperature in my house accordingly and it's the instant winner of the "I now take you for granted" app award.

6 Futuristic Things That Exist Today

As a kid in the '80s - '90s I enjoyed watching Beyond 2000, a documentary style syndicated TV show about the kinds of gadgets that would be part of everyday life in the near future. (Usually "5-10 years..." )

We've long since passed the millennium marker and I'm slightly disappointed we don't have ubiquitous flying cars. Instead, our technological revolution has been more the availability, organization, and accessibility of information. You know, tubes of internet data.

But all is not lost. The gadgets are coming, and some are already here.

1) Tesla Model S
long range electric car

2) Google Glass
wearable HUD for everyday life

3) 3D Printing
upload design, get product

4) Lytro Camera
light field camera that lets you focus later

5) Bionic Eye
FDA approved sight prosthetic 

6) MYO
muscle triggered gesture control

So the "future" we're living in may not be exactly as envisioned by '80s television, but it's an exciting time nonetheless. Thanks to Josh for inspiring this article with a post about a few of these cool gadgets on Google+.

Are there any gadgets you'd add to the list?