What’s this all about?

December 14, 2010

[The present post is an announcement of the CRing project, whose official webpage is here. This is cross-posted from Climbing Mount Bourbaki.]

Like most mathematics students, I spend a lot of time writing stuff, for instance homework assignments and (of course) blog posts. So I have a lot of random, unorganized write-ups littered around my hard drive, which might be useful to others if organized properly, but which currently slumber idly.

Last semester, I took a fairly large amount of notes for my commutative algebra class (about 160 pages). I made the notes available on my webpage, and was pleased with the reception that they received from my classmates. After seeing Theo-Johnson Freyd’s projects, I decided that it might be a productive exercise to edit the notes I had taken into a mini-textbook. I quickly made progress, since the basic structure of the book was already set by the lectures. I decided early on that the work was going to be open source: to me, it seemed the best way to ensure that anyone who wanted could freely access and modify it.

But I think the project is bigger now. Namely, instead of an open source textbook, how about a massively collaborative open source textbook? This is to say that I don’t want it to be my work anymore, but my work as well as, and more importantly, the work of enthusiastic professors, procrastinating graduate students, nerdy high-schoolers,  or whoever else wishes to contribute. The goal is to end with an openly available textbook suitable for a beginner familiar only with elementary abstract algebra, but which will provide adequate preparation for the serious study of algebraic geometry.

So, I present you the CRing project.

What does this mean in practice? Well, it’s going to be a lot like the Stacks Project. This means that anyone at all is welcome to contribute. There are many ways one can contribute. The first, and most important right now, is to send me massive amounts of bits and pieces of LaTeX code that contains anything at all relevant to commutative algebra and algebraic geometry. It could be a term paper. It could be a homework write-up. It could be a blog post. It could be something you wrote to teach another student. If you have the rights to it, and are willing to make it open source (under the GNU Free Documentation License), then go ahead and submit it (by email to me).

The git logs will show all changes, and in particularly you can see what happened to your contributions.

The other way one can contribute is by editing the current notes. To do so, simply edit the relevant .tex file, and email cring.project@gmail.com explaining what you did.

So will this work? I don’t know. It might be that people dislike the idea of contributing to something where it’s not obvious who did what. There won’t be a single author to the CRing project; at best, someone who wants will be able to read the contributions page. On the other hand, such massive collaboration has the potential to produce a large and comprehensive work while dividing work; many would like that. The success of the Stacks project, and the low “barriers to entry” that we are currently setting, suggests that something might happen. I’ve gotten a positive response from some of my friends who I’ve talked to about this. One agreed to set up a git repository, and many of them said they’d be happy to send me various write-ups!

Let’s see how this goes.


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