[NTG-context] spacing before items

Hans Hagen j.hagen at xs4all.nl
Wed Jun 24 08:49:48 CEST 2020

On 6/24/2020 12:00 AM, Mike Cooper wrote:
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: On Behalf Of David Rogers
>> Sent: Tuesday, June 23, 2020 3:18 PM
>> Mike Cooper <mike at murchisondrillingschools.com> writes:
>>> Thanks Tomáš!
>>> 1.  Where can this solution be found?
>> Mike, I know how you feel. The reasons that the documentation is
>> so sparse and difficult to find are the same reasons behind a lot
>> of things: time, money, and ability. Good documentation requires
>> all three of those things to be brought together at the same time.
>> Some people reading and responding here have two out of the three,
>> but it's rare to find someone who has all three at the same time.
>> On second thought, there are at least five things required: time,
>> money, ability, desire, and a workable plan. And with ConTeXt
>> being developed by a relatively tiny group, even if a brilliant
>> and kind organizer came along and said "I want excellent
>> documentation for ConTeXt, and I'll pay a fortune to the person
>> who knows how to write it - see, here's the money" - there's no
>> way of guaranteeing that someone would actually take the offer.

 >> David

Indeed. It's all volunteer work that doesn't pay the bills. Sitting down 
and starting to write a big manual simply doesn't pay off so it has to 
happen in free time. And that being the case, it is more attactive to 
work on some new challenge.

Concerning manuals: I sometimes wonder if they are really read. So, how 
to set up one that works for all, build up explanations, etc ... isn't 
it more about googling a solution nowadays (ok, not entirely true i 
guess, as one then has to learn how to distinguish the wrong solutions 
from the good, but i suppose one can just test it).

It has been said before: one can have manuals, wikis, mailing lists, 
journals ... once they cross the beginners level they also become large 
and hard to navigate. One can have 'beginners' and 'advanced' but who 
wants to be a 'beginner' ... when is the line crossed. Maybe on the wiky 
we should actually have that distinction.

> Thanks David!
> I don't think I've ever been quite so frustrated at trying to learn anything else in my life!  If it wasn't required by my job, I wouldn't have made it past the first day or two (3 months ago).  But I'm slogging away and it's gradually coming together (I think).  I spent my whole day yesterday figuring out how to do some very basic formatting/layout that would have taken 5-10 minutes in Word or HTML/CSS.
> People have been very helpful and patient with me!!  Thanks to all of you for that!

Let me challenge you: how would your solution translate to a wiki page 
for a beginner with the sam eproblem to solve ... content but also the 
'how to get there aspect'

> And thanks David for this explanation of the situation.
There are a couple of things that you need to keep in mind when you 
start with something like context:

- you often bring with your experience (and exposure) to different 
systems and these don't translate; recently i was playing with some css 
setup for a rather complex xml -> html mapping and things that would 
have taken me 5 minutes in tex costs me plenty of time in css due to all 
kind of interactions; just as with tex, one can end up with hacks found 
on the web (it was hobyism of course)

- often one starts using something like tex in order to do something 
that is not really 'beginners' stuff (cue: always test something new or 
explore a command in a one page small test file!) .. the extremes are: i 
do this complex book layout in 'indesign' (manual work) but how can i do 
it (fully automatic) in tex (and i have to have it running next week) 
and btw, i have xml inout that has flaws

- in typesetting all kind of mechanisms are involved, it's an ecosystem 
and all can work with all and interfere with all ... comparing with 
word/css is a bit tricky as tex systems are meant for automatic flows 
(with of course local tuning but then we enter 
what-you-program-is-what-you-get) and dtp is klick and point and choices 
on the spot .. i think one can safely say that tex has a longer learning 
curve but that gets compensated in the end (it compares to typing: who 
takes a few week typing course in order to benefit later ... most start 
with two fingers and do that their whole live) .. tex has been qualified 
as a live-long toolkit: it takes a while but after that you use if your 
whole live (which is posisble because it stays around)

- if one is happy with word and it does what it does better and faster 
.. don't use tex; i admit that i never used word but then, i never had 
to make documents of that kind (just like i alway suse metapost and 
never used a drawing program as i never needed that kind of graphics)

- in context you need to think rather minimalistic: most styles can 
actually be rather small once you realize that a lot of configuration 
keys are similar (there is no need to document 'before' or 'style' with 
each comand ... most beginners styles have too much code

- in addition to manuals (the ones that i write are often around some 
specific mechanism and they only make sense then when you need something 
like that) there is suite of small test files .. one can learn from that 
too i think

- a lot of solutions in the end converge to a similar investment of time 
independent of the tools ... of course the kind of solutions and 
satisfaction can differ


ps. With context having lua on board: i often see lua code that 'just 
does the job' but is not really good code. The thing is that in a 
programming language one can just keep adding lines to deal with 
exceptions or corner cases for that solution. The code doesn't have to 
work with other code and so that doesn't hurt. If it runs slower? Fine. 
TeX is different, you can add some lines of code and a month later 
someone elses document can come out weird (e.g. around a page break). 
Fix a font and ... there is no simple solution for that. The problem is 
that 'slower code' doesn't hurt but seeing different output' does.

                                           Hans Hagen | PRAGMA ADE
               Ridderstraat 27 | 8061 GH Hasselt | The Netherlands
        tel: 038 477 53 69 | www.pragma-ade.nl | www.pragma-pod.nl

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