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

From: Stephen J. Turnbull
Subject: RE: Have you all gone crazy? Was: On being web-friendly and why info must die
Date: Mon, 22 Dec 2014 15:25:01 +0900

Drew Adams writes:

 > 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.

I don't think anybody with real leverage on the decisions is thinking
in terms of aiming at "interactive web versions".  The point is to
make an interactive version targeting Emacs that is more compatible
with web presentation, and that gives browser-preferring Emacs users
the choice of getting their docs in a browser.  There is also the
purported benefit of more efficient and effective authoring if a
"better" source language is used.  I'm not sure there really *is* a
significant benefit of that kind, in fact I tend to doubt it.  But
I'll be happy to adopt if somebody else does the work of developing
one! :-)

The rest is tl;dr, but it was already written and bandwidth is cheap
nowadays. :-)

 > > 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.

Exaggeration for effect.  The cost-benefit analysis for the
questioners, however, stands.

 > It is more accurate to say that some people use StackOverflow
 > & friends that way.  Their attempts to do so are only
 > moderately successful, however.

They are fully successful in keeping me from using SO, Q *or* A. ;-)
But then, I'm generally pretty good at asking the kind of questions
that the people I want to talk to enjoy answering.

Despite the deprecation by the baby boomer generation, I suppose crowd
sourcing (wikis and web fora like SO) have had significant successes.
Still, we should be able to do better.

 > 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.

True, but we also need more people to jump over the desk and start

 > (In some contexts, especially in some fairly traditional,
 > formal education settings, students are taught not to ask
 > but to shut up and respect.

Tell me about.  Most of the students I advise are Chinese, and the
rest are Japanese.[1]  But I teach them how to ask questions in a way
that empowers them and pleases Those Who Have Some Answers.  Not
always successful, but as often as not they get it, even if two
years in a master program isn't enough for them to learn to do it
consistently without supervision.

It doesn't give me a good reputation among my colleagues; many
consider my students to be so many questioning PITAs.  On average,
they are (and still a slight negative at graduation).

 > Never has it been easier for an individual to "ask the
 > universe".  And that's a *good* thing.

I'm not sure I agree.  Spam is still spam, even if it's in a good
cause.  Maybe *worse* when it's in a good cause. :-/  Specifically, we
need to consider the effect on the answerers as well as on the
questioners.  In my environment, a significant increase in questioning
behavior is clearly a blade that cuts both ways.  (I think my
colleagues by and large prefer to do bureaucratic paperwork!)

[1]  People who "get it" are everywhere, AFAICT in proportion to
population.  But those two educational *systems* are diametrically
opposed to educing the ability to "get it" for the average student.
There are lots of teachers who can't help themselves, and mentor
despite the obstacles raised by the systems.  But not enough. :-(

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