Having recently read Beautiful Code and being in the process of reading Beyond the Desktop Metaphor, I think that what Andrew may be touching upon is the need for the editor. Each of these books represents an edited collection of research, and while the individual research contributions (chapters) undoubtedly have value standalone, the editors add value by balancing individual and collective “voice.”
Andrew may also be touching on something else I’ve thought aloud about: what is the natural unit of written collaboration? Is it the paragraph, the section, the chapter, the document, the slide?
He also seems to raise the question, what is the point (in authoring this document) here? Is the document a means to ends or is it becoming an (over-engineered, dead) end in itself? If organizations seek agility shouldn’t they expect the same characteristic from their documents, authoring and collaboration?
I’m still striving to realize a more fluid, goal-oriented authoring process–at least for product documentation and community guidance. When I raised the cry wikify Documentum already, some of the initial internal reaction had to do with the role of the technical writer. For example, does the role transition to that of pure editor? If so, is that good or bad? What is lost? What is gained (e.g. new bandwidth to focus elsewhere–like community enablement)?
Clearly I have more questions than answers…