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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 14:23:17 -0800 (PST)

> > 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.
> Exactly. Users want to get the information fast and it is much
> faster to search for something in google than trying to find
> the relevant section of the manual.

And why is that a problem?  What is wrong with people using a
web search engine like Google to get access to information
about Emacs?

(This is about the use of web search engines; it is not about
the company Google and any political issues surrounding it.)

And what do you suppose users actually find when they do that?
<drum-roll> ... </drum-roll)  Links to the GNU Emacs manuals,
among other things.  Precisely *because* Google indexing and
search is not stupid.  It is based on the information that
people find most useful.

> The manual is great for looikng up again something which you know
> where to find. E.g. what kind of text properties are there?
> C-h i -> m elisp -> g -> text properties
> But if you want to lookup something unfamiliar then google is much
> more efficient.

Something unfamiliar like what, for instance?  It's not a
rhetorical question.  I'm sure there are such things that
are hard to look up in the manuals, but an example
might be illustrative.  (And it might even help you file a
bug report, to improve the manual's index.)

In many cases, I've found that `i' in Info, supplemented by
better completion (in the case of Icicles, being able to use
multiple patterns - unordered, complement pattern matches,
etc.) can be very helpful.

As others have already argued, there is no substitute for a
human-created index.  (We can argue that more, if you are not
convinced and you think that indexing is just a derivative of
search - e.g. "full-text indexing".)

But I won't argue that there is no substitute for something
like Google.  And I will add that I hope we are not aiming
to replace it anytime soon. ;-)

There is no reason to pose Google search either as a threat
to Emacs or as something opposed to using Info within Emacs.
There is no reason for Emacs users not to use a web search
engine to get access to information about Emacs.

> I wonder how many people read the manual from the beginning
> to the end like a book. 

Who cares?  Why would that even be a consideration?  But
if you really don't know, the answer is: very, very, very
very few - if any.

> These days 

Oh, please.  "These days, these days,..."  As if "these
days" were something new.

This gets tiresome at the end.  There have *NEVER* been
legions of people who "read the manual from the beginning
to the end like a book."  Few people have *EVER* read *ANY*
reference book, especially a large one, from cover to cover.

So what?  There is nothing new about the fact that people
often dip into reference books to remind themselves about
particular information or to learn more about a particular

"These days..."  Sheesh.  As if this were a discovery.

> (when average attention span is very short due to years
> of filtering through huge volumes of information
> on the net) I'd guess not many.

Uh, "these days", Google does most of the filtering.

I am not impressed by the "years of filtering through
huge volumes of information" that today's users manage
to carry out.

On the contrary.  The new phenomenon, if there really is
one, is a relative *lack* of effort spent researching and
filtering information.  It is so simple to just ask others.

With the result that Stack Exchange sites (for example)
end up with zillions of butt-ugly, half-comprehensible,
simpleton questions that other well-meaning users and
moderators have to close, under the category of
"TRY to find the f---ing answer yourself first; THEN ask
for help here."

Catering to THAT problem should not waste 3 seconds of
our time here.  The problem there is not our manuals or
Google, and that problem is not one we should be losing
sleep over.  There are better improvements to be worked on.

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