# Could we make a book with MSE answers?

Several days ago, I was thinking: "This site has so much amazing answers, I guess it's possible to colect some of them and compile a book with them."

I want to know if such project already exist here.

• This question is to some extent related: Call for discussion: Compiling an introductory resource for (say) Abstract Algebra, from MSE answers.. – Martin Sleziak Sep 4 '12 at 7:45
• I don't know of an extant project. But this should be doable: the cc-wiki allows you to create a book as such, provided that you give proper attribution, and that you distribute the work under a similar license. – Willie Wong Sep 4 '12 at 8:53
• I would suggest asking the explicit permission of the writers anyway. I know that some people value answers I wrote which I now know that are not-as-good-as-they-could-have-been written. If a book were to be compiled by someone I would much rather having the ability to veto the inclusion of some of my posts. – Asaf Karagila Sep 4 '12 at 9:17
• My favorite page of this book will be where potato answers a question by pink elephants :) – user2468 Sep 4 '12 at 16:35
• @Asaf Karagila: Vetoing seems to out of the question as your contributions are "perpetually and irrevocably licensed to Stack Exchange under the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license". But I'm also afraid that possibly many questions contain copyrighted material ... – Hagen von Eitzen Sep 5 '12 at 19:53
• @Hagen: While legally speaking I have no saying about whether or not my answers should be used in such context; I would think that it is reasonable to ask for the permission of the writer before using his answer. – Asaf Karagila Sep 6 '12 at 10:44
• @Asaf: How would a second "yes" be better than the first implicit "yes"? If I wanted to compile a book from SE content, I surely won't want to have to contact hundreds of contributors, wait for their replies and individual complaints - that's the opposite of reasonable. Any such publisher might leave a note somewhere what his sources were, but maybe not. I know of books made from wikipedia articles where no authors were asked and noone complained afterwards - as long as the licensing rules were fulfilled. – Hagen von Eitzen Sep 6 '12 at 17:05
• @Hagen: Suppose that you live in a society which has similar mannerisms to the common western society, but it also insures its continuation by setting up couples by some criteria. Would you think it is better to be with a girl whom you love (and vice versa) or just an arbitrary girl? Obviously if there is love then there is a better compatibility and the home life is better, in contrast to a predetermined match making. Yes, you can take my answers, but it's much much nicer if I also support that action rather than pouting and bitching about that. – Asaf Karagila Sep 6 '12 at 19:08
• I've contemplated this a few days and can't see how predeetermined matchmaking can serve as analogy for free consent. OK, irrevocability sound tough, but would you compare a (more or less) irrevocable longterm contract that you once "signed" freely (tattoo, long-tem credit, marriage, maybe parenthood) with match making that takes place above our head? Maybe its a bad decision in hindsight, but don't expect to hear "Do you mind me seeing your tattoo?" or "We'd happily accept your rate payments whenever you should feel like it". - Anyway, my hint to copyright violation in questions got lost. – Hagen von Eitzen Sep 12 '12 at 21:58
• @Hagen: Sorry for the late reply, but let me try another analogy. Suppose that I am your lord and your are a peasant living in my farm. I am entitled to tax you as I wish and I am entitled to take from you as much as I want by force if you refuse to give it willingly. Would you be happier under the law of someone taking 90% of your livestock by force, or someone that you give 50% to willingly? I would be surprised if you choose the former. Yes, everyone agrees that the copyright are free for the taking, it is a manner of being nice, that is all. – Asaf Karagila Sep 24 '12 at 0:03
• Related thing: how to handle attributions in such a book? More here. – hhh Oct 5 '12 at 13:47
• I like paychecks. Surely I wouldn't want to actually go places and do things for those paychecks. Have you ever had a boss? They want you to do stuff. When you do it maybe they they think you didn't do it quite right. This is the opposite of reasonable. It is much more reasonable if I just make withdrawals from their accounts. – Jay Oct 1 '13 at 22:25

This is clearly something that they are looking for, API change published after this thread here -- coincidence? I doubt. They are trying to get people more involved but still keep the quality high. Perhaps the word "books" is misleading -- perhaps cards or tickets that could add real value to SE users? The license allows you even to do profit but it is not surely easy.

Clound-sourcing is very possible. You could perhaps create an open Git -repo where you aim to write some books. Every time, you need help -- you could ask questions in Stackexchange. If it works, you are a good example for other people! Why I want to stress this is that you should not just exploit the Stackexchange network: you need a proper structure for your ideas so it is easier and more accessible to follow than random wget-outputted -material. Creating Zombie -farms around SE is not the way to go. The word "book" means in a way "reinvention": you need edit and you need to add missing material here-and-there. It will be time-consuming so I am not sure whether you want to do it alone. You need all kind of experts such as designers, proof-readers etc -- time-consuming at the best. Hope you can find someone to share your ambition! I am at least interested, interesting times.

Some cool features that some people may be interested besides content-hosted material such as books

• Ability to ask questions, perhaps related here, not necessarily in Stackexchange -- perhaps create an independent reviewing -site around the "book"?

• Ability to browse the material easily on iPad, perhaps related here

• ...other?

I tried something like this...but...

Please, note that the book -content is much different to forum-style -writing or Stackexchange -style writing. You need to do a massive amount of editing and then references may become harder to track. I don't know how easy it is to parse the Math.Stackexchange -material but I once tried to do books from Blogs and it is much easier to start from Scratch, rather than create a poor quality book from casual writing -- you often need to remove everything.

Novel idea? Perhaps you could create brainy clouds and analysis of the material, not even trying to create the book! Suppose you want to understand why some material is closed, there is a competition for it by the Stackexchange! More here. It is not an easy puzzle but looks interesting enough for further investigations -- also here. Perhaps instead of immediately starting a book, you should understand that the material here is not really book material, to automate its processing is not an easy task ... focus, focus and focus. Context is important! Their open position perhaps related to this here.

The quality of Stackexchange -material is not that high for a book. You need proper layouting and pictures, etc. If you are serious about the book, I would suggest to do it in some team or classroom? Perhaps some service to help people to create books from Stackexchange -material? You can find such services for platforms such as Blogger so I am surprised if something like that does not already exist for Stackexchange.

Perhaps related

• "Clound-sourcing"? Is that some combination of cloud-computing, crowd-sourcing, and clown-saucing? – Gerry Myerson Sep 7 '12 at 23:51
• @Gerry: Did you mean crowd-surfing? – Asaf Karagila Sep 8 '12 at 9:01

There are two aspects of the site which might mean that a compiled resource (not necessarily a book) could be rather different from conventional textbooks.

The first is the way that the questions identify some of the mathematical ideas which people have most difficulty with, or find it hardest to remember. [Though some things are best worked out yourself]. ie it picks out some of the things which are not always accessible in existing lectures or text books or papers.

The second is that many of the questions generate answers from different mathematical perspectives, or mention how results can be generalised in different ways - many lectures and text books are much more linear and offer one or two perspectives. So it as an interesting source of links between areas of mathematics.

Any compilation would have to be carefully done, since the questions and answers are sometimes at very different levels of mathematical knowledge and understanding.

One proposal about how we would go about doing that is here.

Quoting:

PlanetMath is a free/open mathematics community that uses the same license as Wikipedia. It is best known for its encyclopedia. In recent years, PlanetMath's software has been rebuilt, with a new focus on free/open problem sets, course outlines, and textbooks. In order to expand our collection of mathematical learning materials, we plan to reuse existing material from PlanetMath, Wikipedia, and math.stackexchange.com, along with other free/open or public domain sources. PlanetMath's special-purpose software makes it an ideal place to assemble this content -- and publish "downstream", e.g. to Wikibooks. This kind of content exchange has a precedent in the earlier PlanetMath Exchange, which brought hundreds of articles from PlanetMath to Wikipedia. If we can do something similar with books, it will be a big step forward for Open Educational Resources and the Wikimedia movement.