How many times have you written something, published it, and then realized in retrospect that what you thought you said was not in fact what came through? (Even if you’ve never done this yourself, you’ve certainly witnessed it in others.) What if you could revise a work after publishing it, and release it again, making clear the relationship between the first version and the new one. What if you could publish iteratively, bit by bit, at each step gathering feedback from your readers and refining the text. Would our writing be better?

Iteration in public is a principle of nearly all good product design; you release a version, then see how people use it, then revise and release again. With tangible products (hardware, furniture, appliances, etc.), that release cycle is long, just as with books. But when the product is weightless, the time between one release and the next can be reduced from months or years to days or even hours. The faster the release cycle, the more opportunities for revision—and, often, the better the product itself.

Writing has (so far) not generally benefited from this kind of process; but now that the text has been fully liberated from the tyranny of the printing press, we are presented with an opportunity: to deploy texts, instead of merely publishing them.