How do you collaborate on a book when one author (DHH) is in San Francisco, one’s in Chicago (Jason), and one’s in NYC (me)? Last week, we did a joint writing session and pulled it off. Here’s how we did it:

We all log into iChat and start an audio chat. That way we can discuss what we’re doing.

Then we work on one essay from the book at a time and paste the current version into SubEthaEdit. While originally designed for coding together, its collaboration features work great for co-writing text too.

All you need to do is drag a person’s name from iChat into SubEthaEdit and then they’re collaborating on the document with you. Color coding lets you see who’s editing what. It works so well that you can have multiple people editing at the same time and it doesn’t get (too) confusing.


We even use this setup to collaborate on text when we’re all in the same room together. It’s a great way to let everyone take a crack at text without it leading to chaos.

The only downside is that tone can get a little inconsistent when different people are editing. After the session is wrapped, I go through the text again and make sure everything flows well and the tone is consistent.

A screenshot from the SubEthaEdit site.