User:Whiteknight/New Book Guide/The Problems

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There are a number of problems that need to be considered, that many people don't always take account for.

Being Bold

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Not everybody who comes to Wikibooks is comfortable being bold, and making all sorts of gigantic changes, additions, deletion, etc. If a book is poorly structured, it is foolish to think that anybody in the future is going to come in and make it better. It is unlikely that once a mistake is made, that it will ever be corrected. This is especially true of larger mistakes, because people will be less willing to undertake the effort to fix it. Wikibooks is home to over 3000 separate books. Even if we have 3000 active editors at any time, it is unlikely that any particular book will have even 1 regular contributor. Some books are very large, and they get that way by drawing a disproportionately large crowd of editors from the pool. If there are 1000 editors, there are probably going to be 9 editors each on the 100 biggest books, which leaves only 100 editors to manage the other 2900 books. To illustrate this fact, I am currently the primary contributor on nearly two dozen books (not the only contributor, certainly, but the most active) While other popular books can draw two dozen regular contributors to their pages.

Beyond sheer numbers, I must reiterate that not everybody is a project leader. If every editor who came to Wikibooks, even for a short period of time, were bold and made a significant change here, Wikibooks would be far better off. If a new editor found a book, renamed all the pages to have better names, fixed the TOC to be more helpful, and created a print version, more books would draw more editors. But, alas, this is not the case. The average editor simply isn't going to make big changes, isn't going to make big contributions, and isn't going to come back in the future to see if those changes get made at all. It is paramount, therefore, that new books be started off on the right foot, to inspire confidence among readers that the book is going somewhere, that somebody cares, and that this is a project worth getting involved in.

Having a Plan

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When an author creates a new book, they typically have a plan in mind as to what the book will contain, and what direction the book will take. However, if this information isn't written down, and the author disappears, future authors will be confused and may ultimately avoid editing that book. If you have a plan for your book, make sure to write it down so that future editors know what your intentions are. If people have a plan to follow, they will be more likely to contribute to your book, and less likely to go off on a tangent that will reduce the quality of the book. Here are a few things that should be included in a good book-writing plan:

  1. The need behind the book (why you are making it in the first place)
  2. The definition of the book (scope, target audience, etc)
  3. Background and prerequisites
  4. Integrating your book with other books.

The Need

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We've already discussed the need for a new book. However, when writing your plan it is a good idea to write down your rationale for why you want to write your book. This can be a good idea, so that as your planning progresses, you can double check that you are actually working towards your goals.

The Definition

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Again, we have already discussed the definition of a book. We should always write down the book's definition explicitly, especially during the planning stages, so that you (and any helpers that you have) can ensure to keep all your work focused on that definition. If you add items to your outline that don't meet the book's definition, you should delete them, etc.

Background and Prerequisites

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If you write down the necessary background and prerequisites for your book directly on the planning pages, you can ensure that everybody who reads your outline will be on the same page. Also, it can help you fight the urge to try and explain things again that your target audience should already know.

Integrating your Book

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Your book is not always going to be a stand-alone resource, but instead will be interdependant on all the other books here at wikibooks. Other books may cite your book as a reference, and your book may cite other books as well. You can use existing books as a prerequisite for your new book, to help take care of our prerequsite problem easily. Also, your book may absorb and be merged with other pre-existing books, book stubs, and lone pages. It is a good idea to write down in your plan all existing pages and books that could have an effect on your new book. Make sure you differentiate between prerequisite books, reference books, and books that could possibly be merged into your new book. This way, when your new book is introduced to a bookshelf, you can have an organized plan as to what needs to be merged where, and what links need to be added to what books.

A New Plan

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When creating a new planning page, this code stub can be used to ensure you fill in all the necessary information:

This is a planning page, not a book!
== My Plan ==
(discuss here why you want to create the book, the need, the definition, the prerequisites, etc)
== Intended Table of Contents ==
(draft your book's table of contents here.
== Resources ==
(list books that will be useful as resources here, including prerequisites)
== Existing Pages ==
(list pages here that might be merged into your new book here)

Presentation: Following NPOV and NOR

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The principles of Neutral-Point of View (NPOV) and No Original Research (NOR) are as fundamental to Wikibooks as they are to other Wikimedia projects. However, unlike other projects, these issues are not as strictly codified on Wikibooks.

Here are a few points to make:

  1. Presenting known information in new, original, or novel ways does not constitute original research. Material, so long as that material is verifiable and unoriginal, may be presented in ways never seen before.
  2. The restriction of the scope of a book to a particular subset of information does not necessarily constitute a POV bias. The exclusion of certain lessons that are properly superseded by better lessons, or the exclusion of materials that are tangent to the prime narrative of the book, is acceptable. However, material may not be added to purposefully promote it, and material may not be excluded to purposefully obscure it. When multiple sets of possibly-conflicting information are available but not all included, it is always good to leave a note about why the book has chosen to include or exclude certain materials.
  3. The choice to use particular vocabulary or language in a book does not represent a bias.
  4. The use of new or original terms, descriptions, explanations, or demonstrations, does not represent original research unless it is the intent of the book to popularize those terms, descriptions, explanations, or demonstrations. The goals of a Wikibooks textbook are to provide information to students, and not to set a precedence among educators.

These are all just rough guidelines, of course. If you have any questions about these, and would like clarification, you can ask a message about it at the Reading Room.