Wikibooks:Reading room/Proposals

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Welcome to the Proposals reading room. On this page, Wikibookians are free to talk about suggestions for improving Wikibooks.

Category infrastructure (continued)[edit]

I'm starting a new thread for this. I started the original thread just over a year ago; by making a clean break, the old section can be allowed to age and be archived. (Automatic archiving of this page is currently set for a "mere" four months.) Here's a summary of what's happened so far:

  • The basic proposal was to use prefixes on most category names, so it's clear what they are; we've had confusion for many years now over whether a given category is a book category or a subject category, and the difficulty of keeping track of which category is of what sort is probably why we've never even tried to have topic categories that could be used to classify book pages as well as books as a whole. I suggested subject categories should start with Subject:, book categories with Book:, and those other categories with some other prefix such as Keyword:. The third part is the most unknown territory, but it would also be the last thing done, so I figured there was no urgency yet about figuring it out.
  • I also hoped to get wikidialog running on Wikibooks, and perhaps use it to help with some of these other infrastructure changes.
  • Within the first half year after starting the topic here, I did get the subject categories renamed, and took advantage of the more uniform structure to make the subject categories echo the classified book lists of the subject pages themselves, so that when you click on a link to a subject category, it's pretty much just as useful as being taken to the subject page itself. I also got the dialog tools installed here, but the real challenge of dialog turns out to be learning how to use them to build assistants ("wizards"), and that is an on-going exploration being done elsewhere, so not all that much has been done here with dialog even though it's available.
  • Almost exactly three months ago as I write this, I started on the renaming of book categories. To start with there were about 2800 book categories with old-style names, and now there are 2100; so if we continued at this rate it'd take another nine months to complete that phase of the operation. Several other Wikibookians have helped in various ways, which has made a real difference in how fast things have gone. Rate of the current tedious renaming operations may decline over a sustained period, which would seem to make the projected completion of this phase more than nine months off; but then, if some dialog-based semi-automation comes on line at some point, it could greatly speed things up. There are some detailed notes on how to do book-category renaming yonder.

Going forward:

  • My running progress report has experienced a glitch, but I'm starting to get a handle on it again. As I'd originally envisioned the process, book categories would be moved one at a time, with all attendant checks and processing, template {{BOOKCATEGORY}} would make sure category references referred to the old name until the move was implemented for each book, and one category would list the books not yet done while another would list those completed. That worked through more than a third of the books, but then — with all good intentions — almost all the remaining categories got moved, without any of the attendant checks and processing. On 4 October 2017, shortly before that happened, there were 1600 book categories under the old naming convention, and 1259 under the new. Now I've got a list of 1430 book categories that were renamed but still need to be processed, plus another 143 still using the old naming convention, a total of 1573 to go, and 2714 under the new naming convention, indicating 1284 completed. I expect to process the ones in the old-naming-convention category first, and then do the ones on my list starting from the bottom. I don't really have a baseline for whether this will go faster or more slowly than before.
Done, as of 23:45, 16 January 2018 (UTC).
  • I'm still thinking about the third stage of this operation: keyword categories. The purpose of such categories is the same as the old library card catalogs, that were mostly destroyed around the turn of the century on the (incorrect) assumption that automatic string search would do the job better — customized help with finding what works in the collection are related to what topics, based on considering each individual work. In effect, the old card catalogs were crowdsourced.
  • In the process of all these book category renamings, I find I'm getting a remarkably wide view of our whole collection, even though I rarely get more than fleeting glimpses of specifics. I've long perceived that Wikibooks is a confederation of thousands of ultra-tiny microprojects that have banded together to share a common administrative infrastructure. What they have in common, at least statistically, is more-or-less described by WB:WIW, but of course any given book may be not only different from all the others, but may be different in a way that none of the others are different from each other. If we want to provide help that will improve books across large parts of the whole collection, we have to do it in a way that admits endless variations (in contrast to the more usual technique used by programming platforms, where everyone is required to conform to some uniform structure for which some tools are then provided). A general problem I can see applies to most of the roughly-three-thousand books in our collection is that a contributor doesn't know how to contribute: the book is created with some sort of vision of how the whole is to be organized and what the various parts are to contribute to that whole, but since this is different for each book, how is a would-be contributor to know what to do? There are lots and lots of books in our collection that have a few sections written and then a bunch of red links, and in order to write those missing parts someone will have to create their own vision of what ought to go there. On Wikijunior, it seems to me, the most successful long-term-growth books have quite well-defined formats for each page, such as Wikijunior:World Religions which has a standard list of questions to address for each religion (in fact, an earlier version of the book basically stalled for years because of flaws in the list of questions). Most books don't have modules as uniformly structured as that, of course.

--Pi zero (discusscontribs) 13:21, 21 July 2017 (UTC)

Thanks for the update. Several years ago I had created some topic categories for pages, but not only. They have been deleted here but on the French Wikibooks, you can admire the example of the database category, which not only contains the DBMS books but the database management pages from the PHP and Python books. This structure suits me and I can't see any relevance to split it with different prefixes like Books subject: and Pages subject:. Moreover, Keyword: looks like a referencing concept which would for example imply to categorize the page translating the term "database" from English to French into [[Category:Keyword:Database]], so the targeted readers would get many false positives (eg: programmers vs linguists).
Concerning Wikidialog I didn't test it but believe that we could adapt ourselves to it, like it's alternative: the JS lib MW:OOjs UI usable in our gadgets. JackPotte (discusscontribs) 16:19, 21 July 2017 (UTC)
  • Regarding "subject" and "keyword" categories, there is a messy problem of terminology mixed up in it, and because of that, it might not be clear what I'm trying to do.

    Many years ago, en.wb organized its books using bookshelves. Like other centralized organization systems I've seen on the wikis, the bookshelves arrangement apparently didn't work out. We later set up a hierarchy of "subject pages", with their own namespace, using DPLs (dynamic page lists), which are updated automatically from categories specified on the main pages of the individual books; and apparently that arrangement, automatically self-updating from specifications on the individual books, caused the bookshelves to fall out of use. (Root subject.) Later I upgraded the subject pages so that they would automatically list not only books in a particular subject, but also all books in any of its descendants in the hierarchy. The whole subject hierarchy, though, is still a means of classifying books, not pages. It is much like sections of a library; you know, science books are on the second floor, physics books are on that floor in the three aisles closest to the north stairwell, etc. I've sometimes regretted that we use the name "subject" for these hierarchical groupings of books, because it means the word "subject" isn't available for us to use to refer to anything else. I wouldn't think it'd be practical to change the name now; it must be hardwired into page references all over en.wb, all over the wikimedian sisterhood, and all over the internet.

    The fact that we don't have categories that correspond to Wikipedia articles (whereas en.wn does have categories corresponding, roughly, to Wikipedia articles) is limiting both to the ability of our readers to find things, and to the ability of our sister projects to provide incoming links to our material. I often find myself setting up sister links from a topic category on Wikinews, and I can't provide a Wikibooks link because there simply isn't any one page here to target. String searches are always lousy compared to searches based on human-generated information about the semantic content of individual resources. There is a problem about what to call these, though. We have several different functions performed by categories here on en.wb, and I find prefixes like Book: and Subject: are enormously effective in making it instantly clear what the functions of particular categories are (I'm extremely pleased by the results of these category renamings, so far), but the question becomes what prefix to use with these categories that could list any content page, not just the main page of a book. I thought of keyword: as a possibility because it's common for academic pages to provide a list of "keywords" describing topics to which the pager is relevant; but those "keywords" are often really key phrases, of more than one word. The word "subject" might be an obvious choice, if it wasn't already taken, since the old library card catalogs were "subject catalogs". The word "topic" comes to mind, but, really, wouldn't it be awfully confusing to have two kinds of categories where one is called a "subject category" and the other a "topic category"?

  • An important part of my purpose in developing the dialog tools is to put all page interactivity under the direct control of wiki markup. This is a very big deal for me, as a matter of wiki philosophy; I see the Foundation explicitly trying to shift focus away from wiki markup and I see that as uniformly bad for the future of the entire sisterhood. I somehow found time to write an essay on that (link).
--Pi zero (discusscontribs) 20:42, 21 July 2017 (UTC)
@JackPotte: Perhaps a better choice that Keyword: would be Tag:. See w:Tag (metadata). --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 15:58, 22 July 2017 (UTC)
Why not? Now let's decide the way to add them, I was thinking about {{BookCat|tag1|tag2}} because it's short and simple.
Another longest solution would be (as {{Tag}} already exists) a dedicated template, and it would be able to bring an anchor to the tag related paragraph. JackPotte (discusscontribs) 19:42, 22 July 2017 (UTC)
@JackPotte: Some time ago when our working plan was keyword:, I see you suggested a template {{k}}. If we use tag:, I predict some people using a template called {{tag}} despite the fact it does the wrong thing; and I wouldn't care to use {{t}} since it's so close to {{tl}}. As for {{BookCat|tag1|tag2|...}}, that template already has a parameter, I forget what it does, and I've been thinking for some time I'd like to find and eliminate all uses of that parameter so I could remove it from the template and replace it with a parameter that works uniformly with our other related templates such as {{BOOKCATEGORY}} — which would still be incompatible with {{BookCat|tag1|tag2|...}}.

Another difficulty with piggy-backing on {{BookCat}} is that it's really not meant to be used on the main page of a book; it's designed to not cause a problem when used there, but the main page of a book is really the only page associated with a book where {{BookCat}} isn't mean to be used; one uses {{subjects}} there, instead (and {{subjects}} is designed to degrade gracefully when used elsewhere, but really isn't meant to be used except on a book main page). --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 22:17, 22 July 2017 (UTC)

What to do with Mathematics Worksheet[edit]

There are a lot of userful math problems, but the book would be better suited if each worksheet were to be moved into a book of it's specific subject (for example Mathematics Worksheet/Algebra/Pascal's Triangle would go to the book/subsection of a book on Pascal's Triangle). PokestarFan • Talk • Contributions 15:08, 25 August 2017 (UTC)

Is there a book on Pascal's Triangle yet?--Jusjih (discusscontribs) 06:23, 11 December 2017 (UTC)
@Jusjih: There are a number of pages around the project that mention it, but I haven't noticed any that go into depth; I haven't even noticed them defining it. I wouldn't have thought that alone would be likely made the whole focus of a book, though that may just be because I don't have enough specialized knowledge about it to know what would go into an entire book about it. --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 12:44, 11 December 2017 (UTC)
Thanks. For similar problems and questions, should we make or omit the answer keys? If making them, I prefer a separate page.--Jusjih (discusscontribs) 05:11, 22 December 2017 (UTC)

Comparison of versions[edit]

Hello, I wonder about a variation of the comparison of versions in the history. In the extant comparison, markups are compared. For "preformatted text" or fixed format, another possibility is to compare the displayed form rather than the markup. In that case differences in whitespace would be ignored. For example a blank in one version and tab in the other would not be evaluated as a difference. Has this ever been considered? Is it a possibility? Thanks, ... PeterEasthope (discusscontribs) 15:40, 9 November 2017 (UTC)

My own position is that wiki markup is the technical triumph that makes wikis possible, and must be the central focus of user writing; so I wouldn't want users to be confused by being offered what you're describing since it has an essentially WYSIWYG focus. But, to answer your question, I don't know whether that's been considered. --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 16:28, 9 November 2017 (UTC)
I imagined browser view comparison as a user selectable option and not the default case. In that way it can have benefit with the only "harm" being an unobtrusive switch on a page. If a reader is interested in essential differences of text, markup is a distraction. Particularly when elaborate styling is involved. No argument with markup being a technical triumph. Regards, ... PeterEasthope (discusscontribs) 17:23, 20 November 2017 (UTC)

Categorizing individual pages[edit]

The time has come (I recommend) to work out how we want to do this; we want to get it right. Afaik we've wanted a good way to categorize individual pages for years, and were bogged down by a category infrastructure that served its purpose but got in the way of doing more; now that we've finished a year and a half of overhauling the existing infrastructure so that we can move forward (see previous thread), we don't want to get stuck with individual-page handling that doesn't do what we want and would take another humongous effort to fix. As background, before explaining what I envision and what we need to decide, here's what we now have:

We have two main kinds of organizational pages:

  • Book categories. A book category contains the pages of a particular book. For a book with main page <title>, the book category is Category:Book:<title>.
  • Subject pages. A subject contains books (not individual pages of books). Subjects are arranged in a hierarchy; each subject has one or two parents, except the ancestor of all subjects, Subject:Books by subject, which has no parent. Subjects are sort of like sections of a library. (The facility that subjects replaced, historically, was called "bookshelves".) The main page of each book, <title>, uses a special template, {{subjects}}, to name subjects that the book should be filed in (usually only one or two subjects, though more are possible; template {{subjects}} is internally quite complicated, btw, but the point is to hide all that so it's very simple to use). For each subject page Subject:<name>, books that file themselves in that subject belong to Category:Subject:<name>.

So the major categories have a prefix, either Book: or Subject:. That's really handy for keeping track of what kind of category you're looking at. I propose we do the same for the new categories that classify individual pages, and use a template on each page to file it appropriately. We need to make at least a couple of choices, to do this.

  • Should these categories be for books and individual pages, or just for individual pages?
I favor both, so that each category corresponds to a topic, making it analogous to an article on Wikipedia, topic category on Wikinews, etc.; thus, these categories would be natural targets for incoming wikilinks from other sisters.
  • What should these categories be called: what prefix should be used, and what template name for filing?
We could use prefix "Topic:" and template name {{topics}}; there's a danger users could get confused between "subjects" and "topics", though. I had considered "Keyword:", but it's been suggested that is too syntactic whereas I think we're after a more semantic classification; or "Tag:" but apparently that would collide with other usage on the platform (indeed, there is already a standard template called {{tag}}). So I'm having trouble coming up with a really good name.

On the technical side, it may make sense to modify the subject-hierarchy facility so that books in a particular subject can be automatically classified in certain of these more-inclusive categories (whatever they're to be called). --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 21:02, 17 January 2018 (UTC)

First off, I definitely think that individual pages can be categorized on a by-page basis. Two examples immediately come to mind: let's say that you have a textbook on a broader topic that includes a page on a more narrow topic which itself also has a textbook (e.g. A page on Spanish morphology in a linguistics book but we also have a textbook[s] on Spanish). Another is categorizing pages by type, such as Category:Coding examples for all of the textbooks about computer programming which have individual pages which are just code or Category:Math worksheets, etc. I think there is definite value in these. To give an example of the how the latter is useful, imagine if MediaWiki changes how it renders code and there is a better way to make it visible or if someone builds a little tool for randomizing homework questions from a bank and we can deploy that tool across textbooks faster. As to your second question, I'm open to suggestions. Topic was what came to mind immediately but I agree that it seems too ill-defined compared to "Subject" (we had a similar issue with Topic/School/Portal on en.wv...) Plus, there is always the prospect that Flow/Liquid Threads will get deployed here and break a bunch of pages (as happened on en.wv). —Justin (koavf)TCM 09:28, 19 January 2018 (UTC)
I'd wondered about the variety of namespaces at wv.

The examples of per-page categories you mention are more technical classes of pages; we could do those, certainly, and perhaps we should, but I suspect they're yet a different type of category (more of an "internal" sort of thing). I've had in mind semantic per-page-or-book categories that would be natural sister-links to/from Wikipedia articles etc. They would share some of the advantages of en.wn topic categories. Two advantages in particular come to mind:

  • Sister links, incoming and (of course) outgoing: Each Wikinews topic category has outgoing wikilinks to Wikipedia (almost always), to Commons (usually), and sometimes to Wikiquote, Wikivoyage, etc.; and of course the category is also a suitable potential target for incoming sister links from those pages. When I set those up, though, I rarely provide an outgoing sister link to Wikibooks, because I can't easily choose one target here that corresponds to the Wikinews category.
  • In-project wikilinks: The more a project uses project-internal wikilinks, the more it feels like a coherent project (in the old days, almost all wikilinks in the body of a Wikinews article were to Wikipedia, and that made Wikinews feel more like an appendix of Wikipedia than like its own project, whereas with a "real" project like Wiktionary or whatever, readers in the mood to explore can spend an extended browsing session just clicking from one page to another within that project without ever being dumped into another such as Wikipedia unless they choose to); so the project needs to have as wide a range of targets as possible. We have a template {{w}} at en.wn that doesn't just link to Wikipedia: it first checks to see if the target exists in Wikinews mainspace, and if so it links locally, otherwise it links to Wikipedia; which over time has allowed the project to feel much more coherent.
I deplore Flow, which I see as an example of the Foundation trying to go in diametrically the opposite direction from what is best for the volunteers and sisterhood (other examples being VisualEditor and some aspects of the implementation of Wikidata). At en.wn we use liquid threads (LQT) — only for our "opinions" pages, where readers discuss the topic of an article; we all "love to hate" LQT, but agree that for that one purpose it actually works better than wiki markup which most readers don't know (more's the pity), and we'd far rather LQT than Flow even for that purpose. My hope is that, with a bit more experience in how to effectively use wikidialog, we can implement semi-automated tools to assist wiki-markup-based discussions, making both Flow and LQT irrelevant. --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 13:11, 19 January 2018 (UTC)
Visual editor isn't bad. It is useful for wikipedia, and perhaps only wikipedia.
Im thinking of categorization of the ones that are ok. Then others can be case-by-case. Some pages could be both marked.
Artix Kreiger (discusscontribs) 14:37, 19 January 2018 (UTC)
Of VisualEditor: I consider WYSIWYG to directly undermine the human foundation of wikis, because (I maintain) wikis are a successful thing thanks to wiki markup, and people learn wiki markup by seeing how other people's wiki markup is written, but WYSIWYG is all about preventing the user from seeing how things are done underneath. --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 14:55, 19 January 2018 (UTC)

Subjects and sections[edit]

  • One approach would be to rename the existing "subject" hierarchy to something else, and reuse the Subject: space for the purpose. It'd be a bother to do, but it could be done — it's a highly uniform mechanism and I understand it thoroughly — and once done it'd be done. There are nomenclature advantages for both kinds of pages:
  • The name "subjects" for the existing hierarchy has always been a bit odd; how about calling them "sections"? When explaining them I tend to say they're like sections of a library.
  • The non-hierarchical groupings of pages are organizationally much more like the physical dead-tree subject catalogs that were ubiquitous in public libraries prior to the twenty-first century. (The old dead-tree subject catalogs were superior, btw, to most of the electronic catalogs that have replaced them, because those old catalogs had been crafted by hand over time in a very wiki-like way; but I digress.)
--Pi zero (discusscontribs) 21:05, 3 February 2018 (UTC)
That seems like a reasonable scheme. —Justin (koavf)TCM 05:26, 4 February 2018 (UTC)
A snag occurs to me. Atm the standard template on a book main page to file it under subjects is called "subjects". If that gets renamed to "sections", the name may make people think of sections of the book. Perhaps a different name for the template... --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 12:05, 4 February 2018 (UTC)
Such as {{library}}... ---Pi zero (discusscontribs) 12:07, 4 February 2018 (UTC)
Brainstorming about terminology. This renaming can be done, but it's not a small operation, so once we commit to it we're likely to live with it for quite a while. In the old system, from before subjects, the root page was Wikibooks:Departments, and the subdivisions were called bookshelves. It does bother me some that "section" is so generic it can be used to refer to a part of a book. "Department" sounds to me like a top-level subdivision of the entire library. "Shelf" is good in that it has high recognition value as a grouping above the book level, but it sounds odd to have one "shelf" contained within another "shelf". We can't use "collection" because it's been preempted. --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 14:19, 5 February 2018 (UTC)
Also worthy of mention: stacks. --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 19:05, 5 February 2018 (UTC)
(Looked around a bit for a good picture of library stacks,
Library Stacks (8145376020).jpg
having spent many happy hours in such places.) --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 19:11, 5 February 2018 (UTC)

Template renamings[edit]

Checking here before doing the following renamings of some magic-word-like templates; unless I get early opposition, I mean to move ahead quite soon.

  • rename Template:FULLBOOKNAME to Template:NAIVEBOOKNAME
  • rename Template:BOOKNAME to Template:NAIVEBOOKSTEM
  • rename Template:ROOTBOOKNAME to Template:BOOKNAME

This even looks strange to me, when put baldly like this.

For years we have had two sets of magic-word-like templates for decomposing page names, with clashing naming conventions.

The first set of templates were created in late 2007, with the names BOOKNAME, FULLBOOKNAME, CHAPTERNAME, and FULLCHAPTERNAME. Likely these were intended to provide more book-oriented decomposition of page names than the built-in magic words that are generic to any wiki. Imho the only one of these that really did quite what it said was CHAPTERNAME.

A second set of templates were created starting in mid 2009, based on the idea of templates that orient to the book associated with a page (not only if the page is in the book, but if it's an associated category or template). The first of these was called ROOTBOOKNAME, only because the name "BOOKNAME" was already in use. This set has continued to grow, a particularly important one recently being {{BOOKCATEGORY}}; but it has been a continuing thorn-in-the-side that the name BOOKNAME was occupied by an older-style template.

In recent times I worked out that FULLCHAPTERNAME was really a device for producing a book sort key, and renamed it to {{BOOKSORTKEY}}. Nothing needs changing about CHAPTERNAME. Over the past few days, I've eliminated all (but one) use of the old BOOKNAME. We generally don't delete old infrastructure, we just mothball it or in some cases history-merge it; and I wouldn't care to merge the histories of BOOKNAME and ROOTBOOKNAME as they overlap and would produce a confusing mess, so I figured to shunt the old BOOKNAME aside to a name that wouldn't do any harm, for which I have suggested NAIVEBOOKSTEM. I do think NAIVEBOOKNAME is a much more accurate description of what the old FULLBOOKNAME template does. And "BOOKNAME" really is a much more natural name for the thing currently being called "ROOTBOOKNAME". --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 19:28, 21 January 2018 (UTC)

For what it's worth, I certainly have no objection if you want to do the work. If you need help, please ping me. —Justin (koavf)TCM 05:47, 22 January 2018 (UTC)
This has now largely been Done ; The main vestige of the old naming, at this point, is uses of redirect "ROOTBOOKNAME", which I am slowly changing to "BOOKNAME". --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 15:55, 24 January 2018 (UTC)
good work. Artix Kreiger (discusscontribs) 16:14, 24 January 2018 (UTC)

Transclude related Reading Rooms[edit]

At present (see the banner at the top of this page), we have several Reading Rooms in three broad categories: Discussions, Assistance, and Requests. I propose transcluding these into three larger pages. Since en.wb does not have very much activity, having so many conversations spread across many pages makes it less likely that anything will be seen. For an example of how this would work, see s:en:Wikisource:Scriptorium (which transcludes a /Help subpage) or w:en:WP:CFD (which transcludes the /Speedy deletion page). They can still remain separate pages but once they are transcluded into one, it will increase visibility for any one conversation. —Justin (koavf)TCM 19:52, 4 February 2018 (UTC)

At Wikinews we used to transclude all the water coolers into one big page. It never worked well. If the parent page was unprotected, people would post things onto the parent creating a confusing muddle. If the parent page was protected, the same people would claim they were prevented from posting. In any case, the only way people are likely to see discussion threads, and additions to discussion threads, is if they have all the relevant pages on their watch list, and transclusion onto a parent page only creates more confusion in that regard.

So I'm not convinced it'd be advantageous. --Pi zero (discusscontribs) 21:45, 4 February 2018 (UTC)

The protection method seems to work on Wiktionary. Just have really big "CLICK HERE TO ASK FOR HELP" and "CLICK HERE TO PROPOSE A POLICY" at the top. Seems to work there without any problems. We can also make a notice in case someone hits "View source" by accident. —Justin (koavf)TCM 05:33, 7 February 2018 (UTC)