It is often said that given enough time and a couple of typewriters a room full of monkeys would eventually come up with the complete works of Shakespeare. What about a group of penguins? Or more precisely, 1,500-odd Penguin books readers?

Penguin books have been working, in collaboration with De Montfort University in Leicester, on a Million Penguins, a collective, novel-writing project using a wiki. Over 1,500 people have contributed and editing on the book closed on Wednesday.

This is another example the way in which the Internet can be used to harness the power of the crowd to produce collective works. I think it’s interesting as an example of the idea moving into a new domain: novel writing, although I’m not sure how readable it is. I have to confess I didn’t get too far as there are well over fifty characters to keep track of.

The idea, though, of being able to see a list of the characters each with a wiki page of information may well catch on back in the real world of book publishing. How about an online version of a paper book with this kind of additional – dare we say meta – information?


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