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?