Opening up our editorial process

I can still recall watching Hearts of Darkness for the first time in the early 1990s. The documentary on Apocalypse Now shows Francis Ford Coppola’s struggles with actors, a script with no ending, weather that destroyed sets, and helicopters being taken back by the army he’d hired them from. The first true behind the scenes production I’d seen, it left me frankly amazed that Coppola had managed to pull off such a remarkable (IMHO) film, and seeded a love of finding out how creative works are made.

Today, the ‘making of’ DVD extra is de rigeur in films and TV. There are also many retrospectives for features, books, music and so on. What today’s rapid information age has perhaps made much easier is for authors and creators to share their working before, during and after publication or broadcast. These might be as simple as updates (in the lead up to the publication of John Siracusa’s 24,000 word review of OSX Mavericks, podcast co-host Casey Liss made a point of asking him about his progress). They can be blogs, articles, teasers or whole chapters (in the case of George RR Martin). Or they can involve readers and users, asking for their involvement, opinion and nous (as Matter, for example).

All such approaches open up the process of creation, and this is something we want to experiment with at Mosaic. We have an open access ethos in that we’ll be making all our features available for anyone to republish under a Creative Commons license and are making a website that’s accessible via a variety of devices. But we also want to open up the editorial process, involving our readers and drawing on their experience, expertise and ideas.

This involvement can begin before a feature is commissioned. We’ve already got some ideas for blog posts from the editors on lead features we’re thinking about, but  we may also test out crowdsourcing ideas – inviting readers to share their thoughts, potential interviewees, writers or angles etc – or an open features list. Once a feature is in progress, we’ll encourage writers to blog about their progress.

When we actually publish a feature, we’ll encourage authors to publish short articles alongside it on how they developed the feature or how they tackled a thorny issue. If we produce infographics, we’ll provide raw data alongside and look at design decisions. And we’ll publish content developed for but not included in a lead feature, such as full interview transcripts, on set photos galleries, audio and video clips, and tangential discussions.

Finding the best ways to discuss and debate the issues that the stories and topics raise will also be interesting experiments. As well as discussion on Twitter and Facebook, we’d like to test out live Q&A sessions with writers, interviewees or other experts in the field, facilitated discussions on Branch, and Google+ hangouts.

Together, we hope that this open ethos will make Mosiac’s features stronger and more relevant to our readers. And we’ll only know if it is relevant from the feedback of our readers, so do keep talking to us. Leave us comments here on the blog, email [email protected] or tweet us @mosaicscience.

Giles Newton
Editor, Mosaic