[Beowulf] So we will write our own book - next steps...

Ryan Sweet rsweet at aoes.com
Mon Feb 28 04:24:19 PST 2005

On Mon, 28 Feb 2005, Eugen Leitl wrote:

> On Mon, Feb 28, 2005 at 10:46:08AM +0100, Joachim Worringen wrote:
>> I'd say a wiki would be an easier start as it is self-organizing.
>> Depending on how it develops, you can still turn it into a book.
> Yes, my vote goes to a Wiki, too.
> (I could host it, if necessary).

I'm willing to try this as it may be a good way to bootstrap an effort, but I 
see a few problems with it, which may be real problems or may be imagined ones 
(hopefully this doesn't wander too far off-topic - jab me with a stick if it 

* I think it would be good to target the Linux Documentation Project, which 
uses DocBook (http://www.tldp.org/LDP/LDP-Author-Guide/html/docbook-why.html) 
DocBook has a lot of advantages for this sort of thing.  If a wiki were used 
to organise the content what does the actual data look like?  Raw text in a a 
database, or xml in a database would be preferable for later conversion to 
docbook.  A wiki that used docbook articles as a backend would be great. 
Google turns up a dead project on freshmeat.  What I think would be bad is a 
wiki database containing 500 paragraphs of HTML, with different styles (if 
any), inconsistent tags, and so on.

* most wikis seem to make it difficult to generate a printed copy or pdf 
version of the whole document - similarly, is it possible to make entire wikis 
available as a download for offline reading?

* I've seen far more badly structured or confusing wikis that good ones.  The 
ones that I have seen that are good are much closer in form to a FAQ or a 
HOWTO, using the wiki more for collaborative editing than for organsiational 
structure.  Maybe all this implies is a stronger editorial presence, I don't 

* Drupal's collaborative book feature looks like 
maybe an interesting middle-road: http://drupal.org/node/284 though maybe it 
would have the same problems.

Also re: 
>> Robert Brown has already done a lot of work on such a book, and generously
>> made it freely available.  Maybe he is amenable to this being a starting
>> point?
> Sure.  I periodically solicit help for such a project on the list --
> this is the first time somebody has solicited me:-)
> My experience is that it is really pretty difficult to get people to 
> actually contribute content.  However, I've already got a very decent
> start going, I think, and as always if anybody wants to contribute
> content (under the OPL it is published under) I will cheerily include
> it, with attribution.

Well, we've even received a testimonial just yesterday about how helpful it 
has been.  I do recall that the book has a rather personal style to it though 
(an asset that makes the publication less dull), which may (or may not?) make 
it seem awkward as the basis for a larger collaborative effort.

> Based on Glenn's comments, I was actually feeling (once again) like I
> ought to try to shake free enough time to do another full pass through
> the content to bring it up to date and see if I can finish off some of
> the missing chapters and -- possibly -- seek a paper publisher.  I want
> to keep it online/free either way (and there are publishers out there
> that are comfortable with this) but a lot of people want to own a paper
> copy of stuff like this.  I get a lot of requests for a printable PDF
> from people all over who found the html with google but missed the
> online pdf images right next door...

Which is another reason that maybe a wiki would not entirely serve (see 

OK, this may be a loaded question - for Robert, how do you feel about people 
contributing to your book vs starting a new, collaborative effort which draws 
upon the strenghts of what you have already done?

For others, how would you feel about contributing to Robert's book using his 
Latex template, vs starting a new collaborative effort?

Each approach has advantages though if, as was mentioned, its been difficult 
to get wider contributions for the book as it is, then maybe a more overtly 
collaborative approach would help.

BTW - If Mr. Joeseph Sloan is around, I hope you aren't taking offense (er.. I 
guess I would taken offense at the tone of Glen's review - but hopefully you 
appreciates brutal honesty;-)  - I just think there is a need for a book that 
draws upon all of the knowledge which is dispensed on this list and presents 
it in a balanced, well-considered and thorough fashion, offering something for 
beginners and advanced users alike.

In either case I think I can devote a certain amount of dedicated time to the 
effort, as it overlaps with my need to develop some training material, because 
it has been very difficult to find good HPC consultants lately.

Incidentaly, with reference to the above, we're hiring:
send me your CV if you are both able and interested.

Ryan Sweet             <ryan.sweet at aoes.com>
Advanced Operations and Engineering Services
AOES Group BV            http://www.aoes.com
Phone +31(0)71 5795521  Fax +31(0)71572 1277

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