Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Simple English Wikibooks

A message was posted today on the english wikibooks [[bulletin board]] about a related project, the simple english wikibooks. Simple English WB apparently has reached the milestone of 100 book pages. Looking through their recent changes, I can see why this is such a big milestone: over the past week or so the project has averaged about 25 edits per day, from only about half a dozen contributors.

I have to wonder why simple english wikibooks is so small compared to en.wb. There are many potential factors:
  1. No advertising. People simply don't know that there is a simple-language alternative to the regular english wb. I know that our project doesnt advertise for it, and it's hard to find anybody on meta or in the foundation really pushing for simple english to become more widely adopted.
  2. Direct competition. en.wb already contains books for many audiences: books for children (in the form of Wikijunior), books for school students, etc. Some of our books even specify that they will be written in a particular english dialect, such as british english or "e-prime". Each book is empowered to have a local "manual of style" to help keep all it's pages synchronized, and many books take the effort to specify what language and vocabulary is going to be used.
  3. Less versatility. Editors on simple english wikibooks can write books in simple english. On en.wb, authors can write simple and they can write complex. We can write books for children and university graduate students without having to log in to a different server. Of course, once SUL happens this will be much less of an issue. Readers, also, have the benefit of being able to progress from simple books to harder books without having to switch projects.
I don't mean to be disparaging, because i've seen the work on that project and I'm very impressed by the skill and dedication of their workforce. However, the fact remains that en.wikibooks likely has more books written in simple english then simple.wb has. Top that off with Wikijunior, our popular children's book project which attracts much attention from people who want to write in simplified english, and regular efforts to duplicate curricula for school curricula, and it seems that simple.wb has quite an uphill battle.

I do believe that the two projects should be merged. Not because simple.wb has failed in any way, but because they would benefit from our environment with more readers, more writers, more infrastructure, and a closer proximity to other efforts such as Wikijunior. It makes good sense to me, and I hope that other people seriously think about it.

1 comment:

  1. I absolutely agree with you that the Simple English Wikibooks should be merged with the English Wikibooks. While I am not exactly sure what the motives were for creating projects in Simple English in the first place (I've heard several different explanations), I believe that there is no merit in keeping them separate from their larger counterparts, perhaps except for the SE Wikipedia.

    In my opinion, the SE projects currently have no merit in themselves; they need to get clear-cut goals and objectives, as well as dedicated volunteers, in order to stay alive within the family of Wikimedia projects, and so far I have not seen many traces of this.

    I anticipate more discussions about the Simple English projects in the future, about what they merit and exactly what their goals are (and/or should be).