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Discussions[edit | edit source]

All of my filed discussions.

Whither Wikibooks?[edit | edit source]

Something new is needed at Wikibooks. We have some fair books now but these are not attracting new editors. If you look at some of our featured books they are not being edited by new experts in the field and some quite popular books have been almost untouched for months. Yet our sister project, Wikipedia, has large numbers of contributors. We seem to have a fairly large readership with over 20000 views a day ( Wikicharts) and rank about 3000th on the net (for a comparison ranks 18000th). My hunch is that many of the readers are going straight for the pdf files (this needs to be checked).

As an internet site we are hugely successful and it seems to me that we will need to accept the awkward truth that books are written by a handful of people and read by many.

So what is the way forward? Some of our most complete, reliable and rapidly developed books have been written as group exercises. This is a key area and possibly the front page should contain a prominent box advertising collaborative writing in a seminar/classroom context. It is also the case that most criticisms of Wikibooks focus on the changeability of texts, Wikibooks:Wikipublish is probably critical to our long term success but we have so few editors with the time required.

Perhaps we could resurrect the "joke book" and place boxes for featured books on every page....

Any thoughts? RobinH (talk) 11:45, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

The fact that books are written by few and read by many isn't awkward or unexpected. Quite the contrary, it's exactly what many of us have assumed for a long time, and it's confirmed fact on Wikipedia (i'll dig up the statistics if i can find them). The split between readers and writers is about 90%/10%, if I remember correctly.
Putting more information about collaboration on the main page is not a bad idea. However, for those of us who remember the old COTM, the last few COTM books before that program was cancelled were abysmal. In short, putting collaborations on the main page did nothing to actually attract collaboration, or to help improve the book. However, if we took books that already were active and put a "spotlight" on them, that might help. Given the historical evidence of COTM, however, i'm inclined to say that putting a collaboration on the main page just isn't going to do anything productive. --Whiteknight (Page) (Talk) 15:19, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
It would be interesting to know how many readers are going straight for pdf files... The type of collaboration that I had in mind was collaboration in the context of an academic environment where Wikibooks is used as a tool to enthuse students with the idea of producing essays for something worthwhile. What is needed is some way of selling this concept to university dons. RobinH (talk) 11:43, 21 December 2007 (UTC)
Also, the Wikipublish thing might be getting a technological boost coming up, because the foundation is having print-on-demand and automatic PDF generation capabilities added to the software. I've also been pushing for a read-only site or sub-domain or something where books that are good and stable can be hosted. Having a stabilized version of a book will make it more usable for classrooms (since the book won't be changed mid-semester) and will make it more attractive to educators and parents (because they won't be prone to vandalism). The Wikipublish project could become something so simple as an editorial board, checking books for quality, editing and updating them, and then saving them as stabilized versions. There are a lot of things going on with the WMF and the software that is going to help us out in a big way in the coming months, so I'm of the mindset that we need to wait and see, so that we don't waste effort trying to do manually what the software will eventually be doing automatically. Of course, if the foundation drags it's feet on these things (which isn't an unreasonable assumption) we will need to take action ourselves. --Whiteknight (Page) (Talk) 15:24, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
This is good news. The big problem is going to be getting enough enthusiastic editors with enough time. RobinH (talk) 11:43, 21 December 2007 (UTC)
I think attempting to resurrect the joke book would lead to mass hysteria, so let's not go there. As far as the reader:editor ratio is concerned, one possibility with the featured books is that most people who read them aren't that knowledgeable about the subject they're reading about, which is why they do not edit it. Even if a professional does read it (for reference or curiousity or what have you) they may be deterred from editing a book that is deemed "nearly complete", or they may just want to avoid having to write more about their profession (I know WK has said before that engineers at least seldom like to write about engineering, since they have to do it all day anyways). It's somewhat different with an encyclopedia article since it's a lot smaller of a scale and less detailed than a book on the same topic, at least in my view.
I do agree, however, with the emphasis on collaborations, though as WK pointed out it is difficult to get those together who would want to collaborate (class projects are convenient since they all are in the same place anyways, getting a random group of people from the internet together is an entirely different proposal).
With regard to the publishing, it would be difficult to verify all of the information in a nearly complete book, without a bunch of people (i.e. experts in the field) who can look it over and catch any mistakes and so forth. However, if such a professional saw that we were looking for verifiers, such as through use of a template, it is possible that they would be more inclined to help. Regards. Mattb112885 (talk to me) 17:58, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
One thing that I do want to do is find a way to get the new book list posted on the main page. The problem with that is that it takes space to add this list, which means we need to remove something from the main page if we want to add something new to it. I am highly in favor of removing the "navigation" links from the lower-left corner, or at least compacting them. If we have about 5 links to the "departments", and not two dozen links to various bookshelves, that would save us the space we would need for an abbreviated new book list. Putting books that are "good" on the new page is likely to increase readership but not necessarily increase contributions. However, putting books that are new or "bad" on the front page with a big "you can help!" message is likely to do exactly that. At least, it's a hypothesis that I think is worth testing. --Whiteknight (Page) (Talk) 18:44, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
I definitely support your idea of reducing the bookshelf list on the main page to major headings. RobinH (talk) 11:43, 21 December 2007 (UTC)
I was wondering if it would be possible to convert every book possible to PDF and actually send somebody to Wikipedia to switch at least some of their activity to Wikibooks. Meta would probably have some executives to come over, probably bringing a retinue of followers with them. However, reading over the above thing, that might also get contributors over. I know a Wikipedian (Valentinian) who is majoring in English and Contemporary History at a Danish university, and he might be willing to write things on Danish in English or vice versa. That could really get us going.. Also, I know Wikipedians who might be interested in switching completely to Wikibooks. Thanks, Laleena (talk) 01:45, 21 December 2007 (UTC)
As for the PDF versions, it would be possible to create a PDF out of every book, but it doesnt make sense to go through the effort for stub books, or small books, or books in bad condition. However, there is going to be an automatic PDF extension being installed next year that will allow us to create PDF versions of books quickly and easily. I dont think we should do anything drastic until this new extension is installed.
As to attracting wikipedians, I agree that it would be a great benefit to us. Some of our members, notably User:SB Johnny have tried long and hard to attract Wikipedians to Wikibooks, and it's largely not been successful. That doesnt mean that it can't happen, just that our attempts so far have not be fruitful. Maybe we just haven't tried hard enough. If you know any wikipedians who are (a) upset at wikipedia, (b) interested in writing books, (c) just looking for a change of venue, or (d) fans of wikibooks, definitely try to invite them here. We have Wikibooks:Wikibooks for Wikipedians to get them started, and Using Wikibooks for a more in-depth discussion of our project. --Whiteknight (Page) (Talk) 23:08, 23 December 2007 (UTC)

IP files[edit | edit source]

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