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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 18:44:42 -0800 (PST)

>  > 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.
> It is new.  Before the internet, people relied on local expertise
> and asking face to face, and if there was none, gave up.
> StackOverflow and friends are basically the inverse of spam:
> ask the universe at no cost to yourself.

That mischaracterizes "StackOverflow and friends", I'm afraid.
But yes, you get the point.

It is more accurate to say that some people use StackOverflow
& friends that way.  Their attempts to do so are only
moderately successful, however.  Users of SO & friends who
do not act that way are rewarded with more and better help
in the long run.

Another consideration is that asking a good question takes
not only some up-front effort but also some experience and
knowledge of how to express oneself clearly.  And language
(English) is sometimes an obstacle, if not a barrier.  And
in some of our countries the education system is not as
good (for most) as it once was.

It is actually a *good* sign that people, especially those
who have difficulty expressing themselves, do not hesitate
to ask when they have a question.  We need a lot more of that.

(In some contexts, especially in some fairly traditional,
formal education settings, students are taught not to ask
but to shut up and respect.  It is a good thing that more
young people do not hesitate to ask, in order to understand
better.  Question authority.  Question anything.)

And users can sometimes learn to ask better questions in
such contexts, which generally means *first* asking Google,
Emacs, and other resources oneself.  And the feedback
provided by StackOverflow & friends tends to help users
get better at it, if they pay attention at all.

Never has it been easier for an individual to "ask the
universe".  And that's a *good* thing.  It's just that
there are better ways to ask than to pose an undeveloped
question on a question board.

> I agree with you that not catering to those folks is the
> right way to go.  Among other things, in the rare case that
> they offer contributions, they usually suck. ;-)  Just do
> what Emacs wants to do.

We agree, but I would add this: Even users who reflexively
ask poor questions, without any effort, can improve.  As
they learn how to ask better questions - which by definition
require some up-front effort in research or at least more
careful explanation - they will be rewarded.

And they sometimes do become helpful contributors, giving
back to others who have their own questions, etc.

Emacs should not cater to such poor behavior.  And it
certainly should not accept it as a "new norm" that we
must somehow get in sync with in order to attract new
blood.  But Emacs can (continue to) try to show the way.

Improve Emacs manuals on the web, sure.  But let's not
forget to use that web presence to help users learn that
the best way to consult the manuals is to *ask Emacs*.

This is not obvious.  There are few, if any, interactive
contexts that are helpful the way Emacs is.  People do
not expect it, and they start out ignorant of it.

Aiming *primarily* for perfectly interactive web versions
of the manuals, even if we could emulate all of the Emacs
Info features on the web, would be a mistake.  Such
improvement can be a goal, but another goal should be to
make sure we point the way to the manuals in Emacs itself.

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