[TUHS] man-page style

George Michaelson ggm at algebras.org
Mon Nov 19 13:21:24 AEST 2018

Mike Lesk had a really good rap about his work on Library information
systems and the work they did at Bell (or maybe one of the schools of
library sciences).

The principle was, that "simple" users wanted nested menu and "power"
users wanted commands. They did A/B testing and a bunch of work to
show that if you trained people in the keystrokes for the commandline,
they got significantly more productive.

Mike also said (I may be mis-remembering, but this is what I took from
the conversation) that people's prior experiental sense of what they
wanted had as much influence on what they thought, as the quality of
the system.

So if (like me) you walked into the SOS room at the lab, on a
Dec-10... you wound up wired to go with ed/ex/vi family interaction.
If you walked into the teco room you came out more wired for emacs. I
think this is very probably true, purely on my own sample of one. If
I'd walked into the LISP room, I would probably now be a lowly paid
quant in a small bank, failing badly instead of having walked into the
pascal room, and being an imperative language person earning the huge
bucks coding menu systems. No wait.. thats not right..
On Mon, Nov 19, 2018 at 1:11 PM Jon Steinhart <jon at fourwinds.com> wrote:
> Chet Ramey writes:
> > On 11/16/18 4:13 PM, Jon Steinhart wrote:
> > > But really the issue is that info introduced a new interface on a system
> > > that already had one that people were accustomed to.
> >
> > Improvement is in the eye of the beholder. RMS and other folks consider
> > info, with its hyperlinks, indexes, and tree-based navigation the superior
> > alternative.  Not just different, but better.
> Well, of course it is.  And as long as one doesn't care much about existing
> community one can do what one wants.  Sort of like Americans expecting others
> to speak to them in English when they travel instead of understanding that
> they're in a different environment and it makes more sense to learn the culture
> as it's unlikely that everybody is gonna change just for you.  This is not a
> unique problem with man vs info.  I see it in the large number of different
> make utilities, package managers, and so on that really don't provide new
> functionality but do make it much harder to be a practicioner since one has a
> lot more stuff to learn for no real benefit.
> So were it me, I would have looked at the current culture in the UNIX environment
> and figured out how it gracefully extend it for new functionality.  To me, that's
> a mark of good engineering instead of being a bull in a china shop.  A good example
> of that in a different field is the way in which FM stereo was finessed in such a
> way as to not break existing mono receivers.  Would have been easy to just toss it
> and make everybody buy new gear, but I prefer the more elegant solution.
> Jon

More information about the TUHS mailing list