Anyone who has experience publishing in philosophy knows how frustrating it can be. It can take several months for a journal to come to a decision (even at journals that generally have a good reputation for quick turnaround times), and whether one gets reasonable or unreasonable (and sometimes just plain mean) reviewers is a complete roll of the dice. Etc.
Is there a better way? I keep up with particle physics in my spare time, and I've noticed that physicists do things quite differently. Their publishing process has changed with the times. Fifty years ago, they had the same process we have. Now, however, they've done something very cool. Basically, everyone uploads their papers to a single online database -- the Arxiv -- before sending them to jounals. The Arxiv then functions as a kind of public review process. That is, people in the profession pay great attention to the Arxiv and begin discussing papers even before they have been published. In this way, people in the profession begin to determine publicly which papers are "good" and "important"...all before the paper has even been sent to a journal. In essence (if I understand it right), this process makes the actual review process at journals something of a formality. Everyone already knows publicly which papers are good, important, groundbreaking, etc., so there is a smaller chance that unreasonable papers will be rejected by unreasonable reviewers (viz. the otherwise unreasonable reviewer often already knows that everyone thinks a paper is great, and so will be likely to accept it).
Now, one worry about this process is that it is less than fully blind -- yet I think there are several things to say here on its behalf. First, blind review in today's day-and-age is almost impossible to ensure. A simple web search is all it often takes for a reviewer to determine who wrote the paper they are reviewing (note: this need not be any fault of the author, as conferences may post paper titles online, etc). Second, the Arxiv process seems arguably more fair (to me) than traditional "blind" review. After all, once again, we all know how unfair unreasonable reviewers can be. What could be more fair than the profession-at-large determining which papers are good, etc.? Aren't there at least some reasons to think that the profession as a whole is a better judge of quality than, say, one or two reviewers? For a fun example (albeit with a book), see RM Hare's hilariously dismissive review of Rawls' A Theory of Justice. Here are a few fun excerpts:
In concluding this not very sympathetic notice, it must be said that a reviewer with more ample patience and leisure might possibly have done better for Rawls. I have taken a great deal of pains (and it really has been painful) trying to get hold of his ideas, but with the feeling all the time that they were slipping through my fingers...The book is extremely repetitious, and it is seldom clear whether the repetitions really are repetitions, or modifications of previously expressed views. I have drawn attention to some of these difficulties, and there are all too many others. Rawls is not to be blamed for failing to keep the whole of this huge book in his head at the same time (the only way to avoid inconsistencies when writing a book); and still less are his readers. He is to be blamed, if at all, for not attempting something more modest and doing it properly.
Many years ago [Rawls] wrote some extremely promising articles, containing in germ, though without clarity, a most valuable suggestion about the form and nature of moral thought. It might have been possible to work this idea out with concision and rigour (Rawls' disciple Mr Richards has made a tolerably good job of it in his book A Theory of Reasons for Action, which is much clearer than Rawls' own book as an exposition of this type of theory). If Rawls had limited himself to, say, 300 pages, and had resolved to get his main ideas straight and express them with absolute clarity, he could have made a valuable contribution to moral philosophy.
Wouldn't an online, public review process like the physicists' Arxiv be better than leaving publication decisions merely up to individuals? (Note: I do not mean doing away with journal review altogether, but rather supplementing it, as physicists do, with a more public review process).
One final worry might be that a public review process might favor "popular" people in the discipline over the less popular -- but I don't think this has occurred in the physics world. Quite the contrary, some of the most widely-discussed papers on the Arxiv have been written by "nobodies", thrusting them into professional discussion. Finally, the Arxiv also seems to do a very good job of ensuring that bad/incorrect things are not published. For example, the single most downloaded article on the Arxiv -- Garrett Lisi's "An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything" -- generated an immense amount of discussion, but has never been published because it was ultimately shown to be incorrect.
Anyway, I'm curious to see what you all think about all of this!