To flesh the idea out for you, here is (with some small updating) the original proposal I sent out for what I had in mind. For those who don't like clicking, here are what I wrote as the main rules:
- The intended audience you should have in mind when writing a chapter is smart high school sophomores. I see this as the most important rule. The goal is a book (or, more concretely, a collection of chapters) the general populace can pick up and read, to learn about computer science and why it is interesting. We want to hear people say: I decided to try computer science because of this book.
This rule has some corollaries. First, fewer equations, more pictures. Second, lots of examples. Third, simple language. I do not mean to suggest that we talk down to the audience, or assume that they are mathematically ignorant, but that we assume as little as possible, and try to reach the broadest audience.
- Each chapter should explain something already known and understood, and why it is significant.
- Each chapter should explain a specific, but big, open problem that one hopes might be solved in the next 10-20 years, but probably not before that.
- Each chapter should be roughly 15 book pages. If we can have 20 chapters, that will be about 300 pages, which is plenty. That's a guideline; I expect some variance.
- Each chapter should include at least 3 easily available references for more information.
If you're wondering what such a chapter might look like, I have my chapter from back in 2006 available. (It's on coding, naturally.) I'll talk more about this chapter, and how much work a chapter is, next post.