User:Whiteknight/Primary Authors

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Due to a severe shortage of time, I am no longer able to be an active member of the Wikibooks project. Please see my page for more details about my absense. I will continue to monitor my talk page for correspondence and will try to reply quickly when possible.

Primary authors of a book are a heavily empowered group of people who are given almost total unilateral control over the books for which they are authors. Primary Authorship is not a distinction that is made officially by the wikibooks project, nor is it a tool that can be used to assert authority over other users.

What is a Primary Author?[edit]

A Primary Author of a particular book is essentially a single active contributor to that book, who makes the vast majority of all substantive contributions to the book, and who has almost unilateral control over the book so long as they remain the primary author. Primary Authorship is not a badge of honor that one earns, but is instead a position that somebody obtains through the actions of others: A person is a primary author of a book so long as there are no other active contributors to the book. If a given book has a single primary author, and a new user begins making substantive contributions to the book, the primary author becomes just "a regular contributor", and loses unilateral control over the book.

Primary Authorship is not a tool that can be used to assert authority over other users. By definition, a person cannot be a primary author when there are other contributors working on the same project. A person's historical status as a primary author of a book does not net them any extra authority over the book, or any extra "pull" in discussions when they are no longer primary authors. People who do not like this transition from unilateral control to multilateral control are free to take their bad attitudes to a new wiki (or preferably off the internet all together).

Decision Making[edit]

It's not that the Wikibooks:Decision making policy doesn't hold in the case of primary authors, but that if there is only a "group" of 1 making decisions, the act of acheiving concensus is no act at all. Concensus from a single person is simply the whim of that person. Also, if there is only a single person interested in the book, it doesnt make sense to request comments from other users from outside the book before making changes. However, if more people become active in the book, there is no longer a primary author, and decision making occurs according to the official wikibooks policy.

Original Authors[edit]

An original author is the person who first creates a particular book. The original author is given unilateral control over the book title, creating the book structure (Table of Contents, naming conventions, etc) and defining the scope of the book (material covered, target audience, narrative voice, etc). An Original Author is essentially just a primary author, and they remain primary authors until new people join the project (which may not be long, if the book is well-advertised on the main page). However, Original Authors have more power then any other author because they get to define the title, structure and scope of the book initially. Changes to any of these things can be made by future primary authors, but are typically not made because of the sheer amount of effort involved.

Problems[edit]

People who are primary authors are only such because nobody else is contributing. If new people come to help contribute to a book, the primary author loses his status, and loses unilateral control over the book. This could cause some primary authors to "lock out" new users from contributing to a book, and therefore maintain their own strict control over the book without interference. This is not allowed. If a person begins to remove good-faith edits from other users, or begins to roll-back edits without justification, that user becomes a vandal, and should probably be blocked from wikibooks all together. Wikibooks is a collaboration, and when there are other kids in the neighborhood, we all need to play nicely.

Under no circumstances should any contributor to a particular book, primary or otherwise, restrict the ability of other contributors to edit that book. It is also against wikibooks policy for an author to be hostile to a new user in an attempt to deter them from contributing to a particular book. The bottom line is: If you don't want to share, leave wikibooks and don't come back.

If a book with a single primary author is found to be in violation of policy, or if the book (or pages from the book) are nominated for VfD, the responsibility falls on the primary author entirely. Many times a book is found to be in violation of a policy, and is therefore nominated for deletion. If the book has only a single primary author, that author must improve the book to make it conform to policy, because there are no other active contributors to help with such a project. There have been times in the past where the primary author of a book failed to improve the book to meet policy standards, and the book was therefore deleted.

On the bright side, if the book is found to be in violation of policy, and the primary author is able to fix the problem, the book will be able to stay on wikibooks.

Benefits[edit]

There are several benefits to being a primary author, and many books will benefit significantly from having an active primary author. Under a primary author, a book can typically progress quickly, with new material being added, new pages being created, old pages being moved into a better order, etc. A primary author will edit a book with a single vision in mind, and the book will tend to be standardized in terms of voice, scope, target audience, and formatting. However, a primary author should not take for granted that new users may not understand all the de facto rules and guidelines that the previous primary author employed, so all primary authors should take some time to write down their vision for the book: formatting guidelines, scope, depth, audience, voice, etc. In this way, future editors to the book can jump right in without making a big mess.

Under a primary author, decisions that are typically difficult to make become quick and easy. A book's naming convention, or even the book title can be quickly changed without debate or compromise. The structure of the book, the navigational templates and other book-related resources can be improved quickly without looking for a concensus decision on the mater.