CMS for book project
January 22, 2013 2:14 AM   Subscribe

I'm considering writing a technical book, mostly a labour of love. I want to do the writing process online, like Bruce Eckel did for his excellent Thinking in Java years ago. In order to facilitate user feedback, Eckel had a very fine-grained commenting system, which he developed himself and called TalkBack. At the end of each paragraph there was a "comment" link that let users comment on that particular paragraph. Are there any other CMS that offers fine-grained feedback like that? I'm aware of an older (2003-2004?) Zope TalkBack implementation, but would like something more current. And if you think I'm looking for the wrong thing and should go about writing a book on the web differently, please chime in!
posted by Harald74 to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
You should be able to do this fairly easily with Dave Winer's outliner that he uses to run It's open source, can live on an Amazon instance, and operates as an outliner so, if you write that way, it's ideal.
posted by Gilgongo at 2:35 AM on January 22, 2013

Best answer: The Shakespeare Quarterly did an experimental crowd-sourced (sorta) peer review of one issue like this. I blogged about it here. They used Media Commons Press and it worked really well. The Center for History and New Media has some digital publishing tools that might work as well.
posted by LarryC at 3:20 AM on January 22, 2013

Here's an interesting blog post about "annotations as the new comments". It may have some useful information for you.
posted by dfriedman at 3:43 AM on January 22, 2013

Best answer: Check out CommentPress: "an open source theme and plugin for the WordPress blogging engine that allows readers to comment paragraph-by-paragraph, line-by-line or block-by-block in the margins of a text." Its website includes a list of examples of projects using it.

I don't know whether this is the best way to work on a technical book, but I do remember that the online version of The Django Book also had this kind of commenting feature for a while.
posted by dreamyshade at 3:50 AM on January 22, 2013

Best answer: Over the years I've collected a few annotation-related links. Some are examples of texts that allow detailed annotation, and some are tools to do similar yourself.

A guess at those that might be most useful to you: Annotator (easyily-added JavaScript and a hosted service for storing the annotations); MCEngine (a WordPress plugin); (another WordPress plugin; looks a bit complicated); CommentPress (yet another WordPress plugin).
posted by fabius at 3:59 AM on January 22, 2013

I believe it's only available to their authors, but you might look at O'Reilly's Open Feedback Publishing System as an implementation of this kind of thing.
posted by teditrix at 4:30 AM on January 22, 2013

In a wiki that supports transclusion like MediaWiki or JAMWiki you can break content down into arbitrarily small pieces and each one will have its own talk page, change history, etc.

If you take a look at Wikisource they have a process in which each page of a scanned document is transcribed to text on its own wiki page where you can easily refer to the scanned image as you're working, then all the pages are merged together by transcluding them into a single wiki page with the full document.
posted by XMLicious at 8:05 AM on January 22, 2013

Response by poster: Great answers so far, folks!

CommentPress looks like just what I need! I'll need to make a trial installation to have a closer look. Many of the other solutions look good as well!
posted by Harald74 at 11:27 AM on January 22, 2013

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