One Finite Planet

The Webpaper and the ‘Blook’: An Evolution of non-fiction.

First Published:

Table of Contents

Think of the process of writing a book, while sharing all the research and steps of finding, researching and collating material, as the book gradually takes shape online as the work progresses. But does the work ever end, or is there always progress towards the next edition?

Think of the process of writing a work of non-fiction book, while sharing all the research and steps of finding, researching and collating material, as the book gradually takes shape online as the work progresses.

The overall work is the result of research, that ideally takes the form of papers, that are open to review and criticism by peers, and others, when the papers are also online and updateable, these I refer to as ‘webpapers’.

But does the work ever end, or is there always progress towards the next edition?

What is a Webpaper?

There is no agreed definition of ‘webpaper’, as at this time the term is my own.

A Wikipedia page is a form of what I would describe as an anonymous community consensus webpaper. Wikipedia pages have similarities to scientific papers in that they are open to review, and they cite sources of information. They also have differences in that they can continue to evolve over time, and they reflect not views of a specific author(s), but a community consensus, and as such should not be controversial.

The reason my ‘webpapers’ are not simply Wikipedia pages, is that they do not necessarily reflect community consensus, and they are not constrained from expressing controversial viewpoints. As an online encyclopedia, Wikipedia must focus on containing what is agreed, and not opinions.

Drawing on some things are drawn on to make one form of hybrid of a scientific paper and Wikipedia page:

  • From scientific papers:
    • the naming of any and all authors.
    • restriction of paper content to invited authors.
    • the freedom to express views that do not reflect community consensus.
  • From Wikipedia.
    • the continuous updating of content over time
  • Not exactly form either:
    • Review by way comments that can be upvoted, but not restricted to ‘peers’

The exact format is still evolving, but that is the general concept.

What is a book?

A form factor.

The book in the modern form, “the codex”, replaced the scroll, and mass production was made possible by the invention of the ‘Guttenberg press”. From wikipedia:

The intellectual content in a physical book need not be a composition, nor even be called a book. Books can consist only of drawings, engravings or photographs, crossword puzzles or cut-out dolls. In a physical book, the pages can be left blank or can feature an abstract set of lines to support entries, such as in an account book, an appointment book, an autograph book, a notebook, a diary or a sketchbook. Some physical books are made with pages thick and sturdy enough to support other physical objects, like a scrapbook or photograph album. Books may be distributed in electronic form as ebooks and other formats.

Wikipedia.

In the end, when we say “book”, we have in mind a physical object, which makes the “book” a form factor. Most of us do not necessarily only think of the form factor, but what can be done with the form factor.

The following sections look at common uses of the form factor.

A Novel.

When a person says “I read a book”, my first assumption is they read a novel. For the ability to embody the work of “a novel” I do not think anything has yet surpassed the form factor of the book.

Motion pictures are not a direct replacement, as they become one persons interpretation of the novel, and a summarised interpretation. The pure uninterrupted reading time of a novel is normally longer than a motion picture running time, and when reading anything beyond a few pages, the time required stretches beyond direct reading, in order time to allow time for thought and interpretation. It is not just the condensed experience time, almost all the imagination done while reading a book, has been done by those making the movie. The result is a different art form.

eBooks did show promise, but I believe interest has waned, particularly in eBook readers, and eBook services. One problem is that no one seems to have managed to match the mix of the freedom of a physical book together with a mechanism where the author receives their revenue.

Then there are audiobooks, but while these do allow consuming content while driving or doing other tasks, I again suggest they are not about to replace the printed book.

The non-fiction True Story.

It is not only fiction that takes the form of a novel, and autobiographies and real life adventures can have a similar format. In this case it could be that a motion picture, or perhaps mini-series to provide a longer experience, could be less of a compromise, as there is only one true story, but I still think the “book” is still the best medium once again.

An Anthology: A collection of works.

An anthology could be a collection of news stories, recipes, photographs, facts,

While a book can sit on a coffee table, and deliver tactile experiences unmatched by online resources, for many types of anthologies, online versions have taken over, as online collections of works provide advantages over books. The ability for one resource to be continually up to date has very much resulted in the end of the book encyclopedia, and, for example, blogs of recipes have become a viable alternative to recipe books.

The characteristic of anthologies, is any element of the collection can be updated at any

Anthologies are an area where the format is evolving beyond the book.

A Textbook.

Textbooks are also seeing a significant move to an online format. Physical books are heavy, hard to search and there are workable solutions to providing school systems with electronic books. Unlike anthologies, the publication of textbooks tends to follow the traditional publishing model, where the entire book is updated at the same time. Having a book updated during a course would be problematic, so the model of “live updates” becomes a problem rather than a feature. Students normally only need one specific edition of the book, and even when there is a new edition, they will not need it.

A Reference Book.

A reference book is similar to a textbook, but can be read for pleasure rather than as a requirement. This brings some of these books into a space somewhere between a novel, and a textbook. If a topic is of interest, then having the book continually updated to the latest edition is highly desirable. However, unlike an anthology, normally book most overall be consistent, and updates to one section can impact other sections, making live updates a challenge. If the topic is an area where progress is fast, including the latest data can be extremely important.

It is less clear what the evolution will be.

Evolutions of The Book.

The eBook.

An eBook takes the traditional book publishing process, and provides for electronic distribution. They are lighter and searchable, but normally do not benefit from live updates. eBooks clearly are a desirable evolution in some niches, but seem to be far from “the fittest” in many other niches.

The Blog.

Blogs work well for anthologies. Every new entry provides an additional entry to the collection. and can potentially replace a now out of date older entry. A novel could be serialised as a blog, but for most novels, the entire plot needs to have been written before any of the novel can be released. For many novels, text and reference books, the editing process is needed to ensure cohesion, making continuous release problematic.

For most blogs, no real structure is required. The only possible structure normally available is that every entry is to be ready in chronological order. Both reference books and novels are often written out of sequence, with segue sections and foundation knowledge not always completed in order.

The Wiki.

Unlike a blog, a wiki is indexed, and has clear focus on continually updating previous entries. Wikis have proved extremely successful for anthologies which provide a repository of information, but the challenge is a mechanism for an overall editorial perspective that spans entries.

Introducing The Blook.

A Proposed Evolution of the Reference Book.

I propose a concept where the work to produce a reference book is shared live in a blog like manner, creating a cross between a blog and a traditional book.

Unlike a blog, an overall structure and and table of contents is required prior to the book being complete. As a refence book, information required to allow a reader to progress through sections may also be required.

So how does this fit with blogging?

For a novel, it would not. However for refence books, all the research could be shared as work progresses, as it is common that parts of the book can stand alone even if the full value is not provided until the work has been made complete and consistent.

How It Works.

The proposal is that entries, or as I call them “webpapers” are created and listed as blog posts or “page candidates”, but then reviewed, with those entries found to be worthy “bound” into a structure of sections and chapters with a sequence and provided with summaries.

People can view individual entries as they are written, or view the current state of the overall reference to find specific information on areas of interest at the time it interests them, rather than as the entries are written.

Will this work? This site is an experiment to see if it can.

Successful Candidates: What Content Gets ‘Published’?.

Successful candidates to be read in a book as opposed to read as a blog, are those later determined worthy of being read other than when they were first written.

So what makes is something interesting to read later?

The first criteria I am planning to apply is that topic for the research for webpaper uncovers surprises or was initiated to research something surprising. If there is no surprise when you first read out of interest, then was there anything new, and if not, why did you bother?

The second criteria I apply is that something is useful as a reference. Because it would be worth bothering reading even if not surprising, if the information us useful as a reference for further though or in other situations.

My third reason something is worth reading even at a later date, is that what is written will at that later date be a useful record of what was happening back at the time the page was written.

My fourth, and final reason, is rather than just a record of what was happening at the time, the page contains a prediction on the future.


The Structure of This Blook.

Webpapers, or: Exploratory Papers for the web.

Webpaper vs Blog Posts

Blog posts are normally diary entries. Produced at a point in time, and reflecting that point in time. Posts are normally updated only in order to correct errors. When there is new content, there will be a new blog post. This works well for some subjects but for others, information may end up spread over many blog posts.

Webpapers‘, are a form of ‘exploratory papers‘. As opposed to blog posts, these can be perpetually a work in progress, evolving as information on the topic evolves.

Many paper assignments call for you to establish a position and defend that position with an effective argument. However, some assignments are not argumentative, but rather, they are exploratory. Exploratory essays ask questions and gather information that may answer these questions. However, the main point of the exploratory or inquiry essay is not to find definite answers. The main point is to conduct inquiry into a topic, gather information, and share that information with readers.

Purdue University: Introductions, Body Paragraphs, and Conclusions for Exploratory Papers

Sometimes an initial exploration takes 5 or 6 days, and will rarely be updated. Others are updated month after month as the topic being explored is evolving rapidly. The goal of an exploration is a page or ‘paper’ that will still be relevant months and years after it was first published. A log of major updates is kept for each exploration, although only recent minor updates (marked with an asterisk), are maintained on the log.

Explorations discovery missions. Explorations are revisited and updated over time as I discover more. Explorations do not normally start as a belief I wish share, but as something to be investigated. Even when I have an initial perspective, that often changes as the topic is explored.

Some explorations are a result of my being asked, others are to satisfy my own desire to find answers.

Part of my goal in self publishing even papers I initiate myself, is that the process of trying to arrange my thoughts sufficiently clearly that anyone could see them, will help crystallise more clearly what makes sense and what does not. What the exploration will reveal, or whether it will turn out interesting is not always known at the outset.

Active Status: Explorations of Interest.

Not all explorations will end up achieving the goal of still being interesting months and years later. Pages considered still of interest to view are ‘active‘ due to being judged as meeting one of the criteria below, or can be ‘inactive‘ as they are not considered to sufficiently meet the criteria.

  • Active ‘explorations’:
    • Surprises: Explorations of a topic that led to conclusions found to be surprising, and not at the time know to be reported elsewhere.
    • Reference pages: A concise collection of data information similar to a Wikipedia page.
      • Sometimes a result of my being asked and not find a concise answer already on the web.
      • Other times put together to provide background for my own further research, or to serve as my own convenient reference.
      • Or can contain reviews outlining my own evaluation of a technology or product.
    • Time Capsules: Records of events intended to be woven into timelines.
    • Predictions: A look at what it was though the future will bring, back at that point in time.
  • Inactive Explorations failing to be judged “worthy”:
    • Needs Update: Judged as not worthy of reference status unless more .
    • Needs New (version): No longer a reference as now out of date, but rather than updating this page, a new edition should be produced.
    • Old Edition: A newer editions had been produced.
  • Undetermined:
    • Preview: Still a work in progress.

So what happens to ‘inactive’ explorations that do not achieve any of those 3 goals? They still appear in a search by topic category, but are not normally indexed.

Originally I waited until an exploration had come to a conclusion before allowing it to be seen by others, but I now have added ‘preview’ status, which opens the exploration from an early stage.

Topics, Subtopics and Chapters.

There are currently 5 topics, and each topic is divided into one or more sub-topics. Sub-topics in turn contain pages grouped into chapters.

Updates

  • 2022 Nov 15: Added ‘webpapers
  • 2022 January 20: Moved category

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