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Re: Informal survey (was Re: Banner ads)

>>>>> "t" == terry  <terry@animats.net> writes:

    t> Why do you have a problem with the LDP wanting to do it? ie,
    t> produce free documentation? All you're proposing is that it
    t> take a step backwards.

Not at all.  I am only stating that PR is not an issue.  I just cracked
open the new Mandrake and there again, a long index of HOWTOs with
instructions to get them from your CD or go to the LDP for the latest

My qualm is only that promoting the LDP is unnecessary.  The LDP only
needs to promote itself to applications groups and owners of howto
websites to ask if they might consider donating their work to the
library, but if it becomes a good place to look for docs, popularity
will follow from content, not the other way around.

    t> Yes, so why do you want to disease the LDP?

Disease it by suggesting it focus on documenting Linux?  I don't follow
your logic here --- I think you may have cross-read some messages.

    t> completely free documentation, but now includes non-free

Ah .. yes, you have cross-read some emails.  This is a different
thread.  This thread is about the need to promote the LDP through
promotions and appearances, and the need to counter the collateral
damage done by the SlashDot critics.

    t> documentation in its library, they'll know they won't need to
    t> bother with worrying about whether to do free stuff any more,
    t> non-free is ok.

Non-free, free.  Do you really think, honestly, that it matters?

Up until May of this year, I owned precisely 7 computer books, not
counting three I helped write.  That was all I had to show for 25
years of professional and academic computing.  I get all my info from
the source code, from free docs, from black-box probing and from the
newsgroups.  My brother, on the other hand, subscribes to two computer
book clubs and has filled a whole wall of his office with computer

The main difference was that I was in research and he was in industry.
I was just too poor to buy books when I started whereas he lacked the
time to sift the then-fledgling internet (you had to download files
via email in 1987).  Today, if you wanted to build the same Linux
office system my company uses every day, you'd need many, many HOWTOs
and a lot of imagination and experiment, and would get no clue which
docs you needed until you stumbled upon each problem. You can,
however, (apparently) buy a book full of office-computing recipies.

Yes, I would love to have the LDP make some money from that book, but
it does not matter.  Pride, fall, and all that jazz.  I write
commercial software, and I write GPL software (don't worry, nothing
famous unless you are in the newspaper business, or in augmented
reality research) and I have no problems doing either.  If I write an
app for an industry vertical, like an ISDN switch and my client owns
it, I don't think the world really cares.  I'd only draw the line if
they asked to patent it.  Fortunately, some of my clients are open to
my creating apps for them under the GPL, and more and more in the past
7 months have expressed an interest in the phenomenon.

And, yes, writing commercial software does command more of my time,
but I blame my ex-wife's high-paid lawyers for that ;) But it doesn't
stop me or discourage me from participating in open source, and
certainly doesn't dissuade me from promoting it.

    t> If you think there is some good value to be obtained by
    t> bringing free and non-free documentation under one umbrella
    t> then go create one, but I don't see why you want the LDP to be
    t> that organisation.

I don't think I said they should.  I believe, in that other thread, I
said that *I* would *if* I were in charge (which is not very likely,
is it) and in so doing, I would gain the funding I needed to do the
fun stuff.  LDP is half-way there, so that is why I'd want to leverage
the brand-name reputation (forget the slashdot crowd, they probably
don't read docs anyway).  If I began a new startup, I'd need to spend
a long time and many lean years to get where the LDP is today in
public profile --- that is where the OSWG is at today.

Right now, I primarily recruit opensource developers and LDP authors,
not to "steal them away" from free software and documentation, but
very much the opposite: Because they can use their notes, and their
enthusiasm to ramble on about how things _should_ be done, they write
quality work quite quickly and easily.  My contracting lets them make
some easy cash doing what they were doing _anyway_, and allows them to
say 'no' to a few more days of (often non-linux) work.  We don't give
them 'exclusive' contracts, and we don't hush them. They are free to
do anything they like with the knowledge they acquire while writing
for us, but the corporate reality is (today) that they cannot re-use
the exact text they put in our books.

Recruiting from the community is our policy.  I don't care if they are
famous or just a fringe member, so long as they know the subject and
can write well enough that our editors can make sense of it.  We
produce tech trade books, not personality books.  You won't get on
Regis and Cathy Lee writing for us. The only important ingredient is
content and I welcome anyone who knows the content.

Those who sweat it out to become lead authors can earn several
months of paid vacation (many titles make over $2000/month in
royalties) so they can relax from the rat-race and concentrate on
their "labour of love", thereby improving it, thereby obsolescing
their own book, thereby assuring themselves a repeat contract the next
year.  I am _assuming_ an LDP author will not waste the notes they
used to write for me. They will immediately turn around and fold the
new information into their LDP documents.  The free doc does not
compete with their royalties, but quite the opposite, it is the best
advertising for their book (and the book is the best advertising for
the LDP) --- I would _love_ to pay them to write directly for the LDP,
but for the present moment, the best I can do is to 'borrow' them for
two or three months and pay them for 6 or 7.  What they actually do
with those free months is up to them, but I'm idealistic enough to
believe they won't spend it rockclimbing.

What I don't want to encourage is what I am seeing in DocBook these
days, and what has plagued UML from the start: Every question is met
with "Wait for my book" and yet the online docs are so bad, I really
have my doubts if their books will be any better.  By comparison,
I bought Alessandro's book _because_ he's done free work that I knew,
and because I therefore trusted he'd put my money to good use.

    t> I can't help but think that you're confused and don't really
    t> know what it is that you're seeking: Lots of Linux
    t> documentation, or lots of free Linux documentation.

Black, white, 68% grey, does it matter?

at least now, both message threads are the same subject ;)

Gary Lawrence Murphy <garym@linux.ca>: office voice/fax: 01 519 4222723
TCI - Business Innovations through Open Source : http://www.teledyn.com
Canadian Co-ordinators for Bynari International : http://ca.bynari.net/
Moderator, Linux Education Group: http://www.egroups.com/group/linux-ed

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