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A Git-for-Prose Experiment

A Git-for-Prose Experiment

TL;DR: I'll edit (almost) whatever prose you throw at me, provided you agree to use git for the entire process.

If you're reading this, you're probably familiar with git. But if you're not: git is an amazingly nimble "distributed revision control" system. Or -- in plain English -- it's what might happen if track-changes, a time machine, and a collage artist had a beautiful baby.

Software development is git's nearly universal use-case, and with good reason. Its branching and merging features let developers easily collaborate and experiment with new, crazy features without having to worry about wrecking a project or taking it in the wrong direction.

But there is, I think, a huge and largely untapped potential in using git for prose. The same branching and merging features could encourage writers and editors to take risks with a piece's style or structure that might otherwise seem too daunting. At the very least, git provides a way to track changes to a document without ever having to face Clippy.

A few recent examples encourage me. Wired published an article in February about GitHub on GitHub, where contributors have fixed typos and added translations to eight other languages. Addy Osmani has been publishing open-source programming books as GitHub repositories. And Aaron Bycoffe is writing a developer's guide to Federal Election Commission data.

I want to learn more about using git for prose, and the way I learn best is by doing. So here's a humble offer: I will edit (almost) any prose you send me, provided we handle the whole editing process via git. You push, I pull; I branch, tweak, commit, and then push; and so on. Maybe we even do some crazy rebases.

I won't edit your homework. But pretty much anything else is fair game -- short stories, long stories, blog posts, birthday party invitations, letters to the editor... you name it.

Ideally, you already know and use git. But if not, I'd be happy to point you toward some helpful introductions.

Interested? Email me at jsvine@gmail.com

Update, Apr. 19, 2012: I have my first "assignment", contributing edits to the learn.jquery.com repository. Fun!

Resources

I've been searching online for tips and tricks re. using git for prose. Here's what I've found so far:

  • A Stack Overflow question on the topic, first posted on Oct. 11, 2011. Poster asks about how best to use git for prose, or whether there are any version-control alternatives. Responders point out the git diff --word-diff and git diff --color-words commands, which seem handy.

  • Scott Chacon's git-scribe "is a simple command line toolset to help you use Git, GitHub and Asciidoc to write e-books. This provides tools for setting up the structure, collaborating with co-authors, doing technical and copy-editing, handling translations, taking errata, as well as publishing online, pdf, mobi (Kindle) and epub (iBooks, Nook) versions."

Know of any other resources? If so, let me know at jsvine@gmail.com. Thanks.

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