Wednesday, March 12, 2008

[[Linear Algebra]]

Our [[Linear Algebra]] text has been around a long time, but it has been in bad condition for most of it's life. It was part of a set of three books, including [[Algebra]] and [[Abstract Algebra]] that were all in bad shape. The problem with these books (and a few others as well) was that they were heavily cross-linked, and interdependent. Material that belonged in one could be found in another. Pages were moved from one book to the other creating a maze of redirects and double-redirects.

A while back, we started a project to separate these conjoined books, and to set them up properly. A lot of progress was made, but instead of having three books that were heavily interdependent, we now had three stub books that were completely independent.

I received a question a while back from [[User:Shahab]] who asked what our policy was on book donations. If he could find another book that was released under the GFDL, could we import it to Wikibooks? I said yes we could, but I recommended that he get permission from the original author, as a courtesy. Permission was gotten, and now we have access to a brand-new, complete linear algebra book. We are uploading and developing this new book in parallel to our old book. Eventually, we may merge the two, but that depends on how things progress.

The book, however, is written entirely in LaTeX, and multiple contributors have produced files that don't have any kinds of standard formatting rules. Plus, the book relies heavily on macros for a number of common tasks. There are some LaTeX->Wiki translation programs available, but none of them can accurately handle macros, and all of them are restricted to a small subset of LaTeX directives, which this book does not follow. So I pulled out my bot and started the slow process of incrementally translating the book to wikitext. In retrospect I should have written a proper parser, but I was convinced that I could use Regexps to handle most of the conversions, and then manually tweak pages after the fact to cleanup any remnants. Certainly, I could do just as good a job, or better, then some of the other tools I had seen, given the input data.

I was partially correct.

I was able to do a lot of the conversion work automatically, and the results are very promising. I'm still working on it to fix some residual nonsense, but for the most part the pages are nice and mostly LaTeX-free. There are about 80 pages, and all of them need editing assistance to help complete the conversion process. If you are interested in helping with this process, head over to the "NEW Table of Contents" in the [[Linear Algebra]] book, and dig in. Here are some things that we need from editors, that cannot really be done by bot:

#Add headings to break the long pages into managable sections.
#Determine whether inline math equations need to be surrounded by tags or not.
#Seek and destroy residual punctuation marks, like "/" and "&".
#Fix numbered lists so they are continuous
#Find and fix malformed equations. The original book used some advanced formatting that our LaTeX engine doesnt support.

Every little bit helps!

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