I don't play the lottery, but sometimes I daydream about what I would do if I were able to suddenly have a large amount of discetionary spending money -- millions of dollars worth.
Most of those daydreams have been about rebooting the computer/information industry with better information encoding schemes, better programming languages, better processors, better operating systems, better network protocols, etc.
Lately, my dreams have been a little less extravagant and a little more concrete.
Facebook has evolved, but it's still unstable. It works for a lot of social purposes, and a lot of marketing purposes, but lacks support for the sort of interactions authors helping each other need.
There are several authoring platforms available, but most tend toward rich text, meaning formatting.
When you're in working in the deep internals of a fiction, you don't want to be distracted by formatting. All you want to focus on is constructed of undecorated text -- typing text in, saving it in units of chapters and sections, reading what you've written, comparing what you have with what you had.
Raw text and version control.
Linux and BSD OSses provide raw text tools of various usability. Gedit is what I usually use, but friends tell me Geany is better. In a pinch, there is always vi (vim), and some prefer emacs. Lots of choices.
They also provide version control systems that work quite well with raw text. Git is popular now, and it's my current tool of choice.
Decorated text, by the way, gets in the way of version control. Someday I'll write a post in one of my programming blogs to explain why.
Someday I'll write the tools needed to wrap raw text with proper style definitions. CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) and HTML are not those tools, they just add more fragile layers of fragile decoration. I only hope I'll have the time to write those tools in this life.
In the meantime, text decorated with TEX or markdown gets close to the level of integration with version control that I would like.
So, if I had ten million or so dollars, I'd set up
- a public repository like github.com or sourceforge.net or osdn.net,
- mashed up with social interaction functions like Facebook's -- or, more likely, slashdot.org,
- with a publishing platform like Wordpress or Blogger (but better).
And git being as it is, authors could keep local copies of all their versions on their own computer systems.
I'd integrate version control with the publishing platform so that authors and their critique groups would be able to select specific points in the rewrite process to read in context.
And, open source being what it is, authors would be able to replicate the publishing on their own computer systems.
Of course I'd set up domain name services so authors could have novels published as subdomains of their authoring domain name without too much fuss.
For instance, instead of
- reiisi.blogspot.jp/search/label/book review and
- joelrees-novels.blogspot.com/search/label/Marriage%20of%20Inconvenience and
- book-review.joelrees.reiisi.net and
I'd set up an interface to the access control mechanisms to make it easy to give read/write and read-only access for specific works to the author's choice of critique groups, writers' communities, and ad-hoc groups.
And I'd include tools to help bundle up specific versions of a work in formats acceptable by the copyright offices of the various countries.
Back to work. I need to finish six novels -- or is it seven, now? -- while teaching English and working other jobs to put food on the table. C'est la vie.