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[Groff] Future direction of groff

From: Eric S. Raymond
Subject: [Groff] Future direction of groff
Date: Tue, 4 Feb 2014 15:43:11 -0500
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.21 (2010-09-15)

I came in late. Apologies, I didn't realize there was discussion of the
longer-term future going on under "space width". :-)

Peter Schaffter <address@hidden>:
> Mine, too.  My impression is that, under Werner's leadership, groff
> has been brought as far as it can be without crumbling under the
> weight of history.  Groff is at a crossroads; either it remains the
> "spiffified but encumbered with historical baggage" program that it
> is, or it heads off in a new direction that, while respectful of the past,
> is not a slave to it.

I'm a very long-time groff contributor with a continuining interest in
text formatting and typesetting.  And I have to say, unfortunately, that I 
think the entire presentation-centric model within which groff lives 
just about run its course.  The future belongs to structural markup 
and stylesheets, because of the requirement for rendering in multiple
output media including the Web.

The one thing I thing we could usefully salvage from the groff model
is the notion of stacked DSLs for special formatting tasks - pic, eqn,
grap, chem and the like.  Cutting them loose from their groff-centric
assumptions and making them generate more modern low-level formats
like XSL-FO and SVG is a groff2 I could get behind (some of you may
recall that I started in this direction a few years back by teaching
eqn to emit MathXML).

> Aye, there's the rub.  I suspect I may have the leadership
> qualities, but as anyone who goes through the mom code can see, I'm
> a rather hamfisted programmer.  Leading a project like this would
> require skills I simply do not have.

Peter, you have just earned my respect. That's a tough admission to make
in a crowd like this, and having the stones to utter it anyway suggests
to me that you may in fact have the qualities required to lead a project.
One of those is a related sort of humility - never letting your ego 
get in the way of doing the right thinmg.

As a project lead it is very helpful to be able to program as well as
your senior devs, but it's not absolutely necessary.  I cannot speak
from direct experience, because my personal leadership style does lean
heavily on having wizardly coding chops, but I have *seen* people do
project leadership differently than me and successfully.

You can lead a dev team by having good judgment and good taste and
good timing about what should be done, and showing that through good
communications skills.  I have followed leaders with those traits in
the past even when I could code rings around them on a purely technical
level, and doubtless will again in the future.

What I am trying to tell you is *don't fear trying*.  Nothing that
I know about you excludes the possibility that you would make an
*excellent* project lead.  And you'll only learn to do it by doing it.
                <a href="";>Eric S. Raymond</a>

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