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Re: Gtk patch version 3, part 1

From: Robert J. Chassell
Subject: Re: Gtk patch version 3, part 1
Date: Sun, 5 Jan 2003 13:23:05 +0000 (UTC)

   > Yes.  If it is not on your machine, you may not be able to access it:

   Well if it is not on your machine -- you definitely cannot access it
   without accessing the Internet.

That is false!  I do not access over the Internet most of the material
that is not on my machine.  You must be living in a rich and different
world!  Mostly, I get software and documentation from CDs.  It would
take me over 500 hours to download the Debian CDs that I use.

We must rely on `having a local file', meaning a file that is a part
of a standard distribution, and either on a user's machine, or less
conveniently, on a CD or other inexpensive transport media.

This means that we must continue to write documentation and provide it
to the user.

    Some systems even come without man-pages ...

and some come without Info.

As a child, I enjoyed a cartoon in which the hero purchased an
inexpensive, second-hand car that drove very quietly down the steep
hill from the car dealership ....  but the car refused to go up the
next hill ...  our cartoon hero then discovered that the car lacked an
engine ....

An instance of Emacs without documentation is as broken as a car
without a motor.  The people who make distributions without man-pages
and Info are as crooked as the worst second-hand car salesmen.

   > Yes: please remember, when people look up a reference, you have to
   > think of them as being in `encyclopedia mode'.  They want the
   > information.  A link to another document on their machine is likely to
   > be perceived as a hinderance.

   If it is a link which they can click on with mouse-2 and have it
   opened in an emacs buffer, in a browser or in some other viewer, I
   think most users will be happy with that.

No, in my rather extensive experience, people are not happy with that.
After they learn about incremental search and regexps, and the
convenience of proper documentation, most people I know prefer it.

Unfortunately, many contemporary people have learned from interfaces
that were thrown out a quarter century ago by people who had
experience then.  These people have not learned by using decent
software, so they still think that computers are `better typewriters',
and that documentation should be as awkward as you find in man pages
or Web pages or in PDF documents.  That failure is a fault of the
suppliers and schools that persist on using trailing edge technology.

You harm everyone by saying that `most users will be happy with an
awkward interface' when you the truth is that `most users will be
happy with a 1960s user interface so long as they don't know that an
even better interface has been available for more than a generation'.

   > (A link to a document that they cannot
   > get to, because it is on another machine and they are off the
   > Internet, is likely to be perceived as a failure of the
   > documentation.)

   I disagree!  Regarding a user's inability to access the Internet as a
   documentation failure seems quite far-fetched to me.

Again, it appears to me that you are living in a limited world of
intelligent and well connected geeks.  In my experience, I have found
that most people do not think of documentary `help' as meaning that
they have to get off the telephone with me, plug the computer into the
telephone line, dial the connection, and then pay for the download
time on a per minute basis.  They think they should be able to run the
help function, and find out what they did wrong.

For example -- and I will not tell you who among my relatives made
this mistake less than two weeks ago -- you need to tell GNU where you
are located if you want to see which stars are visible at your current
time and location....

    Robert J. Chassell                         Rattlesnake Enterprises
    http://www.rattlesnake.com                  GnuPG Key ID: 004B4AC8
    http://www.teak.cc                             address@hidden

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