A difference in mindset

Some of my favourite literature are unix man pages. When I got started on unix, the system (a 3B2 w/ SVR2.0 IIRC) we used at the vakgroep AIV only had printed documentation. But it had all of its man pages in neat little red binders. The format fit exactly the way I absorb information, a quick overview, followed by a linear list of features.

Commands or options listed on the left hand side, with their explanation on the right. As a quick reader, I've never had any trouble distilling the information given in a man page. If I don't understand something, I just keep on going until I either find an explanation or get lost entirely. No problem. A second reading will often put things in a different perspective. And a third or fourth careful reading may sometimes clear up some assumptions or delusions as well.

I read the man page for sh(1), ksh(1) and ksh93(1) at least once a year. And I learn from it. I know most of the features supported by the original Bourne shell, plus the differences with the non-existing POSIX shell, Sun's ksh and AT&T's ksh93. I must admit I'm not confident with most bashisms, though.

The funny thing is that, until I encountered the dummy guides, I had never considered that some people do not like to read through a full description of all the features of a piece of equipment or a piece of software. It came as quite a revelation to me that most people, in fact, do not want to understand things, they just want them to work.

So the type of documentation a geek like me prefers is more like:
option x will do ...
option y does ...
etc., while a non-technical person will prefer text like:
To perform action X, select/press/dial ...
If you want to ..., do ...
The difference is like the P/J difference in the Meyers-Briggs typology. An old style hacker/nerd prefers to be given a set of options to explore (P), where another would prefer a more goal-oriented(J) approach.

I'm not saying one approach is better than another. I'm too much of an observer for that. I like to watch and see how people differ, than take a position on one side or another.

Let us be different.

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