Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Per-Book Licensing

Two books were found (or "rediscovered") today that have large prominent notices on them that they have been released into the public domain, not under the GFDL. The books have notices on them that "all future contributions to this book must also be released into the public domain". Checking the history, all the edit contributions to these books were from authors who have explicitly stated that all their contributions are released into the public domain, or anonymous authors (who have no legitimate claim to copyright anyway). So what's the verdict? Can a single book on Wikibooks be released into the public domain? Can we tell contributors that they must agree to certain alternate licensing schemes on a per-book basis? And what if a person edits a book or page without seeing that warning first?

This also brings up the topic of cross-licensing. Some books in the past have attempted to cross-license themselves under both GFDL and CC-BY-SA-2.5 (or similar). So long as all text is released under the GFDL, and so long as all authors agree to the cross-licensing scheme, is this acceptable? This is the kind of issue that we have never really come to grips with in the history of the Wikibooks project, and maybe it's something we should be dealing with now.

Monday, October 29, 2007


The veropedia project is finally up and running, and I'm very impressed with the results so far. After a quick browse of the site, I realized that what they are doing would likely be perfect for what I want to do with Wikijunior. It's a read-only website with prominent links back to Wikipedia (for editing). It also has a very simplified interface, which would be ideal for presenting to children.

One day, if the Wikijunior thing works out well, I would like to do something similar for ordinary wikibooks books. Stabilized versions of books would be an excellent tool for getting Wikibooks integrated into classrooms.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Fundraising and the sister projects

Went to wikipedia today to track down a link, and noticed the new site banner: It's a display with a ticker, a graph and a video. A great advertisement for the new fundraiser. Went back to wikibooks and... nothing.

Wikibooks doesn't have the donation message. Wikiversity doesn't have it. Wikinews, wikiquote, wikisource, none of the sister projects have the donation message. I can't even imagine whether any of the other language projects have it. I know that the foundation has been desperately calling for translators, so I assume this effort is well under way.

What gets me is that wikipedians are all complaining about the way the banner add looks, but they take for granted the fact that they get to see it at all. The rest of wikimedia hasn't even been invited to the fundraiser yet, and wikipedians are complaining about aesthetics.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Wikijunior needs help

I read a post this morning in the reading room about how contributions to Wikijunior have decreased in recent months, a trend which may be partially due to the removal of the "Wikijunior New Book of the Quarter" (WNBOTQ) advertisement from the main page. We are working now to replace that advertisement, in hopes that better advertisements will attract more readers and contributors.

What we really need to do is attract more readers who are willing to write books for children. Wikibooks has a policy about allowing allegory if it is instructional, so people really can write some cutesy childrens storybooks so long as they teach lessons in the background. Get together with a good illustrator, and we could be putting together some world-class childrens books.

Another issue, although I doubt that this has anything to do with the lack of contributors, is that wikijunior books aren't "safe" in that people can still vandalize them. Once FlaggedRevs is installed, we will have a good first line of defense against this, but it won't be perfect. The optimum solution might be to try and move forward with book publishing, something that we had tried to start in the past but never took to the next level. With enough publication-worthy books on Wikijunior, we might just be able to start it up again.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Writers UA conference

I've been invited to the WritersUA conference in Portland Oregon next year to speak on behalf of Wikibooks to an audience of software documentation authors. The goal is to discuss the Wikibooks writing process, and hopefully to recruit some new members to the project. Some of the topics to be discussed include:
  • Pros and Cons of wiki-based content creation
  • Introduction to Wikibooks, the WMF, MediaWiki, and associated vocabulary
  • Explanations of how to volunteer, contribute, and donate at Wikibooks
  • Discussion of some "lessons learned" that might be valuable to others working on a similar project.
Wikibooks has a traditional strength in software books and documentation as most of our early adopters were software-inclined in one way or another. Over time many of the early adopters moved on, and we presently see good distribution of contributions over a wide range of subjects. It's my hope that with some good advertisement we will be able to attract authors to help revive many of our dormant computer books.

i'm working on a summary now for the presentation. Apparently it's supposed to be about 75 minutes (allowing for Q&A). I'm certainly open to suggestions about what kinds of materials to cover and how to present it. I'll post more information on this blog as it comes to me.