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Re: [Groff] Mission statement

From: Eric S. Raymond
Subject: Re: [Groff] Mission statement
Date: Sun, 16 Mar 2014 04:57:31 -0400
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.21 (2010-09-15)

Peter Schaffter <address@hidden>:
> Eric --
> On Fri, Mar 14, 2014, Eric S. Raymond wrote:
> > - Increased use of browsers shifts the commonest use cases for man pages
> >   in a direction that rewards structural rather than presentational markup. 
> >  
> This is a tad OT, but do you know for a fact there's an increased
> use of browsers to read man pages?

Yes.  As a paradigmatic example, the webbed version of the manual pages for
the git suite get a *lot* of traffic. (You can can tell this by their
Google rank.) 

Now, to be fair, I suspect the git pages are an extreme case. But I
also suspect that they're an extreme case because the git maintainers 
decided to put effort into (a) producing high-quality web versions, 
(b) putting them in a well-known place, and (c) advertising them 
as a feature.  

If other projects did siimilarly I think they'd see similar results -
that is, lots of web traffic.

> I remember reading manpages in a browser for a while, back when it
> was cool that you could do it at all, but I quickly switched back
> to the terminal.  Why?  Because everything I ever wanted to consult
> a manpage for was something I'd be doing at the terminal.  I won't
> bet the farm on it, but I'm pretty sure that's the case for most
> Unix users.

Here's what I think is going on.  There are two different access cases 
for man pages: directed and serendipitous.

In the directed case, you know the man page you want.  You browse it locally,
through a terminal emulator or (if you're me) more often in an in an Emacs

In the serendipitous case, you found the page via search engine.  *That*
is when browser usage dominates.
                <a href="";>Eric S. Raymond</a>

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