Maybe it's just an optimistic dream of mine, but so many people offer up great books on here, and there are so many great programmers that I would love to see a cumulation of the knowledge in an "open source" book.

Maybe it'd work the same way as this site does with users of certain reputation able to make new chapters, edit/add to the chapters, submit their own examples of code. If something is "downvoted" enough in some way, then it will be deleted. Either that or just edited by another user.

I don't know, just something I was thinking about recently. What do you guys think?

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    Wow! +4/-0 on SO before being migrated. That's rare. – balpha Apr 7 '10 at 17:42
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    @Justen Have you ever tried to write a book? – nb69307 Apr 7 '10 at 19:25
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    Nope. This was just something that I thought of and said to myself "That'd be awesome" – Justen Apr 7 '10 at 19:26
  • Along similar lines: msmvps.com/blogs/jon_skeet/archive/2009/08/20/… – adrianbanks Apr 7 '10 at 22:44

Writing a book is hard.

Writing a good book is exceptionally difficult.

I suspect for this to work you'd really need several aggregaters and a great editor or two. The editor would choose a section to be "published" and the aggregaters would then collect all the best questions posts for that topic, re-write each into a readable subsection, or write new material, which the editor would then take and edit into a cohesive section.

You can open the process up to the community, wiki style, but I believe you're going to have to have many people who are particularly interested in doing this, can do it well, and are dedicated to the process.

In other words, I don't think that the book is going to be generated out of the noise simply by developing a mechanism to create the book. I'm thinking it can work very, very well if you get people together to do it.

The only remaining problem, then, is what kind of book can be generated using such a process? Is a given book meant to be a reference manual? Tutorial? Solutions to technical problems?

  • For a given language, I'd envision it covering simple things such as the first "Hello World" program all the way to very advanced topics that you might find in a Master/Doctoral program and above. Basically, an everything or compilation of the language complete with user made examples etc. – Justen Apr 7 '10 at 19:23

http://en.wikibooks.org/ exists for this, and is already doing a stand-up job.

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    They have the mechanism - I'll grant you that. But the content is badly lacking. – user27414 Apr 7 '10 at 18:08
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    @Jon B: are you volunteering? – Randolpho Apr 7 '10 at 19:05
  • @Randolpho: does it matter if he is? He is right, the content is badly lacking.. I wasn't aware you can't complain unless you're contributing. – Thomas Bonini Apr 8 '10 at 11:29
  • @Kop: Well... when a site relies entirely on volunteers for its content, I'd say, yes, you can't complain unless you volunteer to add to the content. It's like complaining that the people who answer questions on Stack Overflow don't know what they're doing and are stupid. Don't like it? Make it better by answering questions yourself more betterly. – Randolpho Apr 8 '10 at 13:57

I have actually started trying to work on a similar project myself. It is still in the very early stages, so I haven't posted about it yet. I have begun going through my answers, questions and favourites, organising them by topic and summarising the discussion that occurred in the threads. I think producing a Stack Overflow book would be awesome!

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