Walter Isaacson crowdsources book

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To follow up his 2011 blockbuster biography of Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson is writing what he describes as a multipart history of the "innovators of the digital age."

In the spirit of his subject matter, the author has been taking to the web to crowdsource his early edits.

"Here’s a rough draft of a section that sets the scene in Silicon Valley in the 1970s. I would appreciate notes, comments, corrections," Isaacon wrote atop the 2,900-word passage, posted Wednesday on buzzed about longform platform Medium, which pegged it for a 12-minute read.

"I’ve actually done this on Scribd once and also on LiveJournal a week or so ago," Isaacson, the former managing editor of Time magazine and current C.E.O. of the Aspen Institute, told Capital when reached by phone after he put the section online.

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"My goal is two-fold," he said. "One is, I’d love to have people be able to comment and edit and make corrections on parts of the book as I’m drafting it. But also one of the things I learned is the original intention of the Internet was to allow collaboration on projects, and we got away from that, especially with the World Wide Web, which became a publishing medium where people just post stories as opposed to collaborating on them. I'm trying to find a good service that will allow people to collaborate or to crowdsource some ideas."

The forthcoming book will begin with the story of 19th-century mathematician Ada Lovelace, considered by many to be the world's first programmer, and continue through to the digital age.  

Though he said he has received a lot of email feedback, Isaacson had yet to gauge which service has worked best. (LiveJournal and Scribd each received different sections.)

Isaacson said the book is roughly half written and may be fit for print in a year or so. Like Steve Jobs, it will be published by Simon & Schuster.

By offering the drafts up publicly, Isaacson hopes to achieve a greater measure of accuracy because living subjects will have the chance to correct any mistakes that may appear. 

Isaacson said he had been in touch with Medium founder Evan Williams prior to publishing the draft and said he mentioned he was looking for a service suited for collaboration. Unsurprisingly, Williams recommended Medium. 

"I posted it this morning without telling him," Isaacson said.