[Date Prev][Date Next] [Thread Prev][Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: what i've learned, and explanation.

On Thu, Apr 12, 2001 at 05:09:06PM -0400, Alan Shutko wrote:
> There's a difference between making requests and acting "entitled" to
> help.
Well, it sort of depends on what you want Linux to be.  If you want it to
become something that's easily accessible to all, because you feel that
everyone is entitled to a free, stable OS, then people are entitled to
things like nice documentation, even if they're not able to help out.
IF you want to keep Linux as an OS for those who have the time (and I mean
LOTS of time) to figure out how to use it, then no, they aren't entitled to
easy-to-understand docs.  I'm not saying that either one is "correct" -
there are people on both sides of the fence, each with valid points.
I tend to lean towards the former.

> This whole thing started because of a comment that said, in essence,
> "Documentation is an easily-correctable problem, so go out and fix it
> or you're all a bunch of elitists."
> We _all_ know there could be better documentation.  We _all_ have been
> hearing about it for what, over six years in my case?[1]  After a
> while, even the most patient people will get a bit testy at hearing
> the same demands over and over again.
> Good documentation isn't easy.  Ask the people at the LDP about it,
> who have been working on good documentation longer than I've been
> using Linux.  It's hard.  There's insane amounts of stuff to document,
> programs often do the same thing different ways for "historical
> reasons", and things change all the time.  It's hard work, and having
> someone come around and say "Come on guys, it's easy, you must just
> not care enough" is infuriating.
> Right now, Linux is not for everyone.  That's a simple fact.  If you[2]
> can't pick things up from existing resources[3] for whatever reason,
> you should probably use something else.  This isn't an attack!  It's
> an acknowledgment that not everyone may have the time or inclination
> to deal with Linux in its current form, and no amount of effort will
> make Linux suitable overnight.  Come back in a year or two... Linux
> will still be around, and things may have gotten better.
Also granted.  I heartily agree, Linux is not for everyone in its
current incarnation, but it could be.  I mean, if you've been seeing
requests for good docs for 6 whole years, that's probably because there
haven't been any for those six years, and people may wonder if things are
going to change within a couple more years.  I think it was JWZ who said,
"Linux is only free if you don't place a value on your time."  (or something
to that effect)   I think we're sort of in the situation where people say,
"Well, I had to suffer through the man pages, so you have to as well."

I mean, let's get a few things out in the open.  Man pages can be very tough
to learn from.  They're great if you need a reference on command line
options and such, but that's about it.  HOWTOs can also be difficult to
read for those who have little familiarlity with Linux.  Personally, I
don't think either of those resources were of any help to me until I was
at least 3 months in, and I had a pretty solid background in general
computing concepts, and the willingness to spend a lot of time reading this

I guess my point is that people who just brush off requests for help and
say, "the man pages and HOWTOs should be good enough", are avoiding the
weighty issues surrounding documentation (the ones you mentioned above).
Not that I am not referring to you or Mr. Self, just making a statement.

> This isn't an attitude of 'You're dumb or lazy or both'.  It's an
> attitude of "Here's the situation as it stands, and only you know
> what's best for you."
Well, the subject of Mr. Self's email was "should lazy, dumb people be
allowed to use Linux"...  So I would beg to differ.  But perhaps that's
not what he really meant.

Anyway, like I said, I think it comes down to that basic question: What
do you believe?  Do you believe everyone is entitled to a free, stable OS
regardless of their ability to contribute to it, or should Linux always be
something that is only usable if you have the time and skills necessary?
It's a good question, and there are valid points on both sides.  Unfortunately
I tend to be frustrated by those on the more elitist and up the spectrum,
and I finally vented (albeit in the wrong forum).  All I really wanted was
for a sane discussion to ensue, like the one we are having now.  Of course,
making inflammatory statements doesn't help.  Oh well, at least I can
admit I made a mistake.


Reply to: