[tex-live] Failure notice

Rowland McDonnell rjmmnet-lists at yahoo.co.uk
Mon Jul 27 01:26:10 CEST 2009

It occurs to me that I'm probably not the only irritated person on this
mailing list at the moment.

My intentions might be utterly misunderstood.

The aim of this message is to reduce the rate of new irritations.

I've tried to make it concise.

If I'm reading technical documentation, I need a structure to fit the
information into.  If the documentation doesn't provide that structure
or if I've not got it in my head, then I can't remember anything much of
what I've read.  Even if you give me all the pieces of the structure, I
can't fit them together.  I need a top-down view of the structure; the
bottom up one you get from man pages and so on doesn't work.

The problem with man pages is that they expect you to divine the
structure from the bottom-up information.  Some people seem able to do
it; I can't.

It's like giving someone all the parts for a skyscraper but no plans and
expecting them to oversee its construction.  It seems that some
magicians can do that; I can't, and nor can most people.  It is an
unusual ability, no matter how many irritable Austrians insist

I've observed that one of the things which distingushes the `hacker
type' from what I think of as `normal' (but isn't, not really) is that
`the hacker type' does have the ability to do that.

So: I need to understand the overall structure or I can't make sense of
or remember documentation; the TeX Live documentation generally does not
provide that structural information in a form I can access.

That leads to this situation: I do not understand the structure that
exists [around/to support] TeX Live or any of its management tools.

That's why I ask specific questions.

Experience teaches me that if I can get the answers to a few questions,
that'll help me get a view of the structure, and - with a bit of luck -
I'll end up being able to make progress on my own.

The problem with man pages and most of the TeX Live documentation is
that it does not provide that structural overview in a form that I can
use, which means I can read it as often as you like but I generally
can't understand most of it and I generally can't remember most of even
those bits I do understand, due to a lack of structure to hang ideas
off.  If an idea's not got a home, it wanders off and gets lost in the
woods that my mind wanders through...

Old fashioned documentation - what I call `proper manuals' of the sort
that I still have on my shelves and in my filing cabinets - that sort of
documentation does provide the structural overview I need.

So while pointers to documentation are welcome if I've asked questions
about TeX Live, they are generally useless UNLESS they are linked to an
answer to my question.  And I mean an answer that I can understand, not
one that someone else thinks I ought to be able to understand.

The point is: if I can get the answers I'm after, that'll help me put
the jigsaw together to understand the structure of what's going on and
I'll be able to stop asking stupid questions.

Thank you for reading,

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