Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wikijunior:American Founding Fathers

[[User:Red4Tribe]], one of our most recently elected admins, has been doing a lot of work today on [[Wikijunior:American Founding Fathers]]. This is a neat way to teach kids more about this important period in American history.

More tory then American? We also have an interesting (if a bit abandoned) book [[Wikijunior:Kings and Queens of England]]. There have been a lot of complaints that this book isn't really written at a level for children and should be moved out of Wikijunior. However, the decisions that need to be made about this book will be left until a capable volunteer comes to make them.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Hungry? [[User:Mike Hayes]] has been doing a lot of work recently on our own [[Cookbook]]. It's one of our largest books, so large in fact that we've given it it's own Cookbook: namespace. Mike is proving the old mantra that a lot of little fixes add up to big improvements over time.

The Cookbook is a bit of a special case at English Wikibooks, and some of our editors are not entirely happy with the way it's progressed. Specifically, it exists now as a disjointed collection of individual recipes, and is not a coherent book like we usually require. The general consensus is that it should be converted from simply a listing of ingredients and recipes to a teaching resource that uses those recipes to teach larger lessons about cooking. This is a big task, and we're looking for some very ambitious and energetic authors to help make it happen.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Pueblo Colorado

Are there any Wikimedians out near Pueblo Colorado? I may be traveling that way for work this week by my lonesome. I don't know any of the details yet about the trip (when or if I am actually going, how long I will be staying) but there might be some downtime for a quick meet-and-eat if anybody is interested.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


[[The GIMP]] wasn't just a weird character from Tarantino's Pulp Fiction: It's also a powerful open source image editing software package. Our book on it has been around since 2005, but hasn't always attracted a lot of contributors. Lately, it's been getting some much needed editing and updating from [[User:Chelseafan528]], a member of both Wikibooks and Wikipedia. If you're familiar with the GIMP, especially with recent versions of it, we could use your help and input.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Wikitoddler Flowers Alphabet

[[Wikijunior:Animal Alphabet]] is one of our more successful and popular* Wikijunior titles, aimed squarely at young pre-readers who need books with more pictures then words. It's a beautiful title, and if you have toddlers at home, it could make for a great interactive read.

Another similar project in the same vein is [[Wikitoddler Flowers Alphabet]], which uses pretty pictures of flowers to teach the alphabet, instead of pretty pictures of animals. As quick-to-get-distracted kids will tell you, a little variety is always nice. This book stub was created by our own [[User:SB Johnny]], and has seen a few helpful edits tonight from Wikibooks regular [[User:Panic2k4]]. More hands are always appreciated, especially hands who are familiar with the huge image library at Commons.

If you want a fun activity to do with the kids, or just like writing some things that are less serious then your average encyclopedia, come on down to Wikijunior and take a look at our titles for kids.

* This book was so popular at one point that a visitor commented that Wikijunior was little more then a "collaborative zoobooks". There are a lot more WJ books available, but most of them weren't as visible.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Zope 3 Book

Ever hear of Zope? It's an interesting new web framework for the Python programming language, and now we've got a new book about it! If you're interested in Python and web development, you should check out [[The Zope 3 Book]] which is being actively written now by newcomer [[User:z00perep00z]]. If you're interested in Zope, or know alot about it and want to help, you should come down to Wikibooks and check it out.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Dual Licensing Redux

On Friday I posted a quick note about a discussion that we've been having at en.wikibooks: The issue of dual-licensing of books has been raised again and it's getting the serious consideration that it deserves. Licensing and issues surrounding that is a perennial topic of discussion.

On one end of the discussion are several editors who are interested in multi-licensing their books to help facilitate use and reuse of our materials in schools and on other websites. Wikibooks is like Wikipedia in some ways, but very different in others. Key among those differences is the way that our content is used, and the target audience we have. For Wikibooks to be called a "success", we can't just have a huge library of free books, but we need to get those books into the hands of students and teachers.

The discussion started in our Reading Room (equivalent of WPs Village Pump), and migrated to textbook-l. Textbook-l tends to be a very low-volume and low-participation list, so I'm planning on writing up a digest to post back to the readers at Wikibooks eventually. Here is a link to the first textbook-l post that started the topic:

And here is a link to the original discussion in the Reading Room:

And these, as I mentioned before are not the first places where this issue has been discussed. We have a few precarious books which currently are attempting to use a multi-licensing scheme, and we've basically ignored it when it's happened in the past. I guess there's no more ignoring now, now that the issue is out in the open like this.

I would like to see more input, both on textbook-l and also in our Reading Room. If you have any information, opinions, or ideas to share to help out with this discussion, we would love to hear from you. Alternatively, if you post good messages here on this blog, I'll try to make sure they get seen by the rest of the community as well.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Dual Licensing

Just a quick update tonight: The issue of dual-licensed books is an old one, and one on which we've never come to any firm conclusions. There are some people who are definitely interested in writing some books under dual licenses, or alternate licensing schemes. Some authors, for instance, are interested in writing books which are completely PD, while others are interested in dual licensing with CC-BY-SA-x.x.

Wikibooks has, in the past, taken a very laissez faire attitude towards this. We have allowed books with these intentions to post message templates to that effect on the main page of the book. I have been very optimistic about this situation historically, although I am becoming more pessimistic as I get more experienced and more educated about licensing issues. I worry that an uneven licensing landscape will make content reuse between books more difficult, will raise the barrier to entry for new users, and will create problems for contributors who are not conscious of licensing peculiarities in individual books.

However, despite my pessimism, I do recognize that there is a lot of motivation on the other side of the line: Increased flexibility, better targetting of books to their target audiences, and an increased awareness of books as being individual projects in and of themselves. A book really is a closed ecosystem, with it's own authors, it's own styles, it's own guidelines and practices. Having it's own license seems like just another logical peice in the customization puzzle.

The question was raised again, first in the Reading Room (our equivalent of the Village Pump) and then on textbook-l where discussion is continuing. I would like to see a lot more feedback, from Wikibookians especially but also from other Wikimedians too.

I don't have time tonight, but I'll post some relevant discussion and textbook-l archive links tomorrow.

Conversational Yiddish

I feel like I've been advertising a lot of language books lately, but they seem to be the focus du jour for some of our most recently active contributors. Today, I've been seeing a lot of activity on the [[Conversational Yiddish]] book, by [[User:Moyvey]]. It's a book that's been around for a while but has only started to progress recently with the new author.

There is a second book on Yiddish, [[Yiddish for Yeshivah Bachurim]] that hasn't been edited since it's primary author left in January. Both books are featured at a new portal [[Yiddish]], although this will probably be moved to [[Subject:Yiddish]] in the future.

If you're a Yiddish speaker and would like to contribute to either of these books, or even if you would like to start your own book on the topic, we would be glad to have you. Come on down to Wikibooks and take a look around.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

New Books and other news

Interested in computer modeling? [[User:MihalOrela]] has been doing some interesting work on his new book [[Modeling from A to Z]]. There is still a lot of work to be done yet, but it's a promising start and I'm looking forward to see where it goes. [[Clojure Programming]] is a relatively new book being written by [[User:Parth.Malwankar]]. Clojure is a dynamic programming language which is run on top of the Java Virtual Machine. These two projects look pretty interesting to me, and I hope they attract new contributors and continue to develop rapidly.

I created a new template yesterday, {{Not a book}} for flagging newly-created pages which don't appear to be heading in the right direction for inclusion in Wikibooks. Wouldn't you know it, as soon as I create the template I find about a million uses for it? As with any message template, it could probably stand to be more positive ("You know what would be much better then writing something that isn't a book? Writing a book!"), but I think this is a good start.

Erik mentioned yesterday on textbook-l that the PDF extension is being tested now in the wikimedia labs website. What's so cool about this is that the Wikimedia Labs site uses an old dump of the en.wikibooks database. It's like testing on our own wiki, and really gives the feeling for what it will be like when it gets installed for real. I haven't had a lot of time to play with it yet, but it looks fantastic. I definitely encourage all Wikimedians (and Wikibookians especially) to come take a look at the test site and give some good feedback about it.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Manchu Language Book

[[User:Mashuwen]] has been doing some great work on a book about learning the [[Manchu]] language. It's a language that could be on the verge of extinction unless it is preserved in books like these. Know any Manchu? If so, we could use your help here at Wikibooks.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


Know any Punjabi? [[User:Jaspalkaler]] and newcomer [[User:YoshiroShin]] have been doing a lot of hard work on our new [[Punjabi]] wikibook and are looking for some help. It's still early in the book's development so it will be difficult for non-speakers to learn the language right now. Hopefully, development will start moving more quickly if we can get some more volunteers to work on it.

We've got a lot of other language books that need your help too. If you know a language and think you teach it to others, stop on by and take a look.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Props to my Peoples

There has been a lot of activity lately, and I feel like I could post a million blogposts about it all, but I'm trying to limit myself to one per day or less.

[[User:Aya]], the bureaucrat that first promoted me to admin several years ago, appeared out of nowhere yesterday. He's been absent without a trace for almost exactly 3 years, and not for lack of us trying to get in touch with him at various points. In the time he's been gone we've passed a new adminship policy that calls for the deadminship of inactive admins (so he's not a bureaucrat at Wikibooks any longer) and we've passed a policy to disallow videogame strategy guides (so the [[Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas]] book he was working on has moved to StrategyWiki. It's sad, I think, to see things change so much. However, I feel like we've made a lot of changes for the better and Wikibooks is a more mature and stable project now then it was three years ago. Hopefully Aya feels the same way.

A while back I started a book about [[Communication Systems]]. It was intended to be a general dumping ground for my notes from several classes I was taking in the field of Communications. Taking the "Wiki is not paper" mantra to heart, and being a bit naive, I tried to create a gigantic communications masterwork that would encompass the entire field in a way that no other traditional book had ever done, or would ever be able to do. A little wiser now, I've since broken the book up into several smaller books, each encompassing a particular aspect of Communications theory and practice. Now that I'm out of school, however, I don't have the time to work on any of them.

Enter [[User:Jugandi]] who's been flying through the [[Communication Systems]] book like a whirlwind. He's writing all sorts of content and examples, adding tables, pictures, diagrams. He's breathing life into the book in a way that I never could. I've long felt that the most important thing to do for a new book was to give it a solid organizational structure. A skeleton book without much content can be easily added to, because people know exactly where and how content should be added. A large formless book filled with rambling content, on the other hand, is much harder to contribute to. Jugandi has been able to take a bare skeleton book and add so much to it in such a short period of time, nice evidence in favor of my idea. [[User:Jeremyb]], a relative newcomer to the project (an SUL-enabled wiki-immigrant), has been helping to convert some images of tables and formulas into ordinary Wikitext or TeX format.

[[User:The Scarlet Letter]] has been doing some excellent editing and authoring in some of our mathematics books. Some of the work he does is gnomish (small fixes here and there), but some of it is very substantial too. He's been doing good work in our books [[Real Analysis]], [[Abstract Algebra]] and [[Functional Analysis]]. He and [[User:Topology Expert]] have also done some good work recently in the [[Topology]] book too. Our mathematics shelf, which has long been a little woeful, is being reinvigorated with these and other's efforts.

The [[Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter]], long one of our largest and most impressive books, is still as active as ever. One of our bureaucrats, [[User:Withinfocus]], keeps watch over the book, but a lot of the great content work recently is being done by [[User:Chazz]] and [[User:PNW Raven]]. So dedicated are Chazz and PNW Raven to their book, that neither one of them has ever requested adminship (and Chazz once turned down the offer outright). Their dedication shows, because this book is one of our crowning acheivements.

This is just a narrow glimpse into the activities at Wikibooks recently, and I'm sure I'm missing plenty of important details. Got something to share? Let me know and I'll post it on the blog.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Open Kids Dictionary

textbook-l received a cool email today. Karen Fasimpaur, an occasional Wikibooks contributor and open-education activist, wrote to tell us about an open dictionary project that's aimed at children and K-12 education: This website seems neat by itself, but what's really cool is the new glossary tool which hopefully could be adapted for use at Wikibooks. We're always talking about increasing our suite of book-building tools, and a glossary builder tool would be a great thing for us to have.

One thing that we at Wikibooks have been kicking around for a while, but have not been able to get developed, is some kind of system for extracting metadata from the pages of a book (word definitions for a glossary, references for a unified bibliography, keywords and terms for an index, etc) and displaying that data on a separate page. Think about our tags, but instead of having the references appear at the , it would appear on a separate page entirely. Now, extend that same concept to be more general, not just for references but for bibliography, indices, glossary, etc. It's a big and ambitious feature request to be sure.

Anyway, if you have some spare time today you should head down to the Kids Open Dictionary project and take a look around. Their project is all PD, so content reuse in Wikimedia-world shouldn't be a big problem. I wonder if some kind of synergy would be possible between them and Wiktionary? Maybe we could get some of our precious few Wikijunior enthusiasts interested as well.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

New Book Snapshot

Here is a snapshot of some of our new books. These books are listed on {{New}}, a DPL-generated template which is populated by the {{New book}} template. Tagging new books with {{New book}} is both an important job and a great way to get familiarized with the community. It isn't a fast-paced task, but it is very valuable.

Obviously, all these books aren't going to "make it", some of them are not suitable for Wikibooks and will eventually be relocated to some place more appropriate or deleted outright. Books which are obviously not going to ever be keepable can be nominated for deletion at [[WB:VFD]]. Books which are borderline cases should not be nominated for at least 7 days (we like to give a book enough time to develop before we start chasing it with torches). If a book has the potential to grow into something which is acceptable, it shouldn't be nominated for deletion, but instead tagged with one of our cleanup tags so people can work to fix them up.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Libre Software Meeting

Sub, a user from fr.wikibooks that I've been in contact with messaged me yesterday. He sent me a link to the Libre Software Meeting (LSM). The LSM is, from what I can gather, a conference for open-source software proponents. LSM will be held next year in the town of Nantes. Sub, living nearby, is on the planning committee for the event.

He suggested I go to the conference, and maybe take some time to talk about Wikibooks. I don't speak fluent French (or any French, for that matter), but he claims there will be plenty of English speakers in the audience as well. Sub also suggested that there might be the potential for some travel funding for the occasion, which would be a nice incentive if it materialized.

I was personally hoping to make it to OSCON next year, an open source conference that's a little closer to home (although not much closer, if it's in Portland again). My wikiwork would be just as relevant there and it would meld with some of my other OSS projects too. Since both are going to occur in the summer months next year I probably couldn't afford to do both (if I am able to afford either). Being half a world away again, I probably won't make it to next year's Wikimania either.

If any other Wikibookians--or Wikimedians for that matter--are near enough to Nantes France and want to help spread the word, this would be a cool opportunity.