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Re: [Bug-gnupedia] Nupedia

From: Jimmy Wales
Subject: Re: [Bug-gnupedia] Nupedia
Date: Thu, 18 Jan 2001 12:33:20 -0600
User-agent: Mutt/1.2i

Thomas E. Vaughan wrote:
> How does nupedia handle serious math content?  If I write an article with
> LaTeX, then how do I submit it?

This is one of the issues we have recently faced and dealt with,
albeit imperfectly.

Some of the essential problems of differing native formats for
contributors work (which shows up most clearly with mathematical
content, but can show up in other cases as well):

1.  Contributors should be accomodated to whatever extent possible.
If a math or physics person is most comfortable working in LaTeX
(which is generally true), then we should accomodate them if we can.

2.  At the same time, for our open review process, we would like for
non-experts to be able to read and comment on the articles, and they
may be less likely to be able to read the native format.

3.  And of course, for final presentation on the web, LaTeX and other
native formats simply will not do.  Eventually, all articles need to
be represented on the web, which at the present time and probably for
a long time to come means presentation as HTML.  We are also
committed, by the way, to keeping the HTML as simple as possible.


Side note: LaTex is a really obvious example (to us technical geeks)
of a non-web-friendly native format, but a more common example is the
ubiquitous Microsoft .doc format.  While tempting to say "No, you
can't send us files in that format", it is more productive to
understand that many history professors (and other similar
contributors) simply don't know anything _but_ .doc as a format.
They are aware of HTML, but believe me, you don't want to work with
the HTML generated automatically by Microsoft.  Yikes!


Our solution, to be fully understood, would require you to look
at our production process in detail.  You can sign up at Nupedia
and check it out.  But I can explain it, too.

In essence, we allow people to upload native format files and then we
convert them (as quickly as we can) to be within our XML dtd.  During
the review process, people can refer to either.  There are problems with
keeping them sychronized if there are multiple revisions -- we haven't
yet solved the problem completely.

As it turns out, there is no "one best" way of doing this.  It 
depends on the context.  If the authors and all the reviewers are
comfortable working in some native format, then we can just translate
to a web format at the end of the process.  If the article isn't
going to go through many revision steps (like, in a short and
easy article), then we can convert up front.  If the author is
"sort of" comfortable working with a web format, then the author
can let us convert up front, and then edit the file in the
web format.


I'm sure I haven't convinced you that we have 100% the right solution.
But I hope I've convinced you that we're pretty far along in thinking
about it, and that we could use your help in doing it in a better way.


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