A text-book for Wikipedia – how came?


Some people say that Wikipedia or the internet in general make printed books dispensable. Maybe it is true, unless you write a text-book about Wikipedia writing. Recently appeared my ‘Wikipedia. Wie Sie zur freien Enzyklopädie beitragen’ at Open Source Press, Munich.

In 1887 Ludwik Zamenhof published the first work on his new language, Esperanto. It was a basic grammar and vocabulary in 40 pages. The first Esperanto speakers deemed this and short introductions in newspapers enough to learn the language because… Esperanto is so simple and easy to learn. It took ten years until someone came up with the first decent text-book about the language, which already had evolved within these years.

The same you have with Wikipedia. In 2003, a teacher wrote that his students wrote “great articles” without any preparations because Wikipedia editing is so easy and self explaining. Nowadays it takes a very optimistic (or naive) attitude to maintain such an opinion, look how complicated editing became since then.

Follow the flag

When I talk to Wikipedians a lot of them (a large minority) laughs about the idea of using a text-book to learn editing. If you are such an idiot that you need that, you should not be allowed to edit at all. But in 2009 Frank Schulenburg came to the Mentor pages of Wikipedia in German and asked about teaching aids. Then I said, in front of my fellow Mentors: If five men (or was it more?) will follow me, I’ll take up the flag. They followed, and the result was a text-book at Wikibooks. Some called it simply ‘the Wikipedia text-book’, but I insisted on a title of its own, ‘Eigene Beiträge’ because there can and should be many different text-books about Wikipedia editing.

In late 2009 I attended the OpenRheinRuhr conference in Bottrop/Germany, and met a representative of Open Source Press. We talked about the desirability of a Wikipedia text-book, and suddenly she told me to write a mail to the publisher. And so it came.

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