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RE: Have you all gone crazy? Was: On being web-friendly and why info mus

From: Drew Adams
Subject: RE: Have you all gone crazy? Was: On being web-friendly and why info must die
Date: Sun, 21 Dec 2014 13:44:09 -0800 (PST)

> >> The younger crowd expects interactive web pages (e.g. jumping
> >> to manual nodes with completion), because they are used to
> >> interactive features on other pages (Gmail, facebook, etc.)
> >
> > Fine.  And it is not only "the younger crowd" that is used to
> > using interactive web pages.
> Frankly, that's not really useful since
> a) every "interactive web page" is different
> b) they work badly with automated fetchers, so you cannot usefully
>    aggregate them
> c) they tend to require enabling known security problems like Flash

Yes, I agree.

> > That's OK if it's a habit or they somehow find it easier,
> > but they should at least be made aware that they *can* access
> > the same information from within Emacs, and that they will
> > get more help and learn more that way than via the manuals
> > on line.
> Well, one problem is that the manuals are really effective for
> learning a lot in one learning session.  And that's a good deal
> for getting better with using Emacs.  But it doesn't match
> modern attention spans.

I wouldn't use the word "modern" in that context. ;-)
But OK, let's take as given, for the sake of discussion at least,
that attention spans of people are in fact shorter nowadays.

I don't see the problem you are getting at.  Why does it follow
that because the manuals are "really effective for learning a
lot" they are not also very effective for learning a little?

IMO, using the manuals within Emacs is effective for learning
a little, as well as a lot.

But perhaps your point here is something like this:

The manuals are essentially reference manuals, with some
guidance thrown in.  They are not user guides or tutorials.
They are not how-to videos.  They are not FAQs.  And so on.

In sum, they are good for looking up reference information,
but they are not so good for teaching/learning.

Is that it?  If so, then I would agree.  For many users,
reading a reference manual is not the best way to *learn*.
(For some of us it is a good way, but for many others it
is not so good.)

But the answer to that problem is to add such learning aids,
to supplement the manuals.  I don't see this as a failing
of the manuals, and certainly not of their form as Info
within Emacs.

> And that's an inherent problem we have with selling Emacs,
> and it will continue to cost us "market percentages".

Assuming I got your point (I'm not sure), I don't agree that
it is an inherent problem.  It might be a problem to some
extent now (and I'm not even sure of that), but it is not
an inherent problem.  There are already lots of Emacs blogs,
tutorials, wiki how-to's, etc. that help users learn Emacs.

I really don't see the lack of such learning aids as "an
inherent problem we have selling Emacs."

> > The best way we can help them in this regard is to let them
> > know that Emacs itself offers great help for learning about
> > Emacs, and one of the best such aids are the Emacs and Elisp
> > manuals - *within Emacs*.
> >
> > Having the information in these manuals at your fingertips
> > while you use Emacs is an giant plus.  Providing better Web
> > use of the manuals is of course a good idea.  But we should
> > not neglect inviting users to consult the manuals from Emacs.
> Certainly.  But I think that would primarily concern the Emacs-
> related manuals, 

That's exactly what I said, at the outset.  This is a separate
concern from the need to provide a better web experience for
GNU manuals in general.  My point was that the Emacs and Elisp
manuals are special, in that using them inside Emacs is
particularly rewarding.

> so we should probably see to it that one can get the Texinfo
> conversion process and/or our personal manual CSS sheets to
> make this a general feature of the Emacs manuals in particular.

I agreed with that already.  In doing that, I would like us to
nevertheless consider the concern I raised, which is Emacs-specific.

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