[OS X TeX] FAQ or Archive

Joseph C. Slater joseph.slater at wright.edu
Fri Jul 16 03:07:18 CEST 2004

On Jul 15, 2004, at 6:18 PM, Alain Schremmer wrote:

> Disclosure: I am a little bit allergic to blaming the learner.
> In mathematics, it is normal to give a definition and immediately 
> thereafter use the defined term. In my experience, both as the 
> graduate student I was a long time ago and as the instructor of 
> Two-Year College students I still am today, this does not often work. 
> You can blame it on stupidity or on anxiety. If you blame it on 
> stupidity, then you just flunk the student. If you blame it on 
> anxiety, you just don't use the defined term cold. What you do depends 
> on the circumstances. You may give a reference to the previous page or 
> point at the definition that you refrained from erasing from the board 
> or you say/write something like "in other words xxxx" or a hint or 
> whatever will do. Then you wean the student. With the next definition, 
> the weaning might go faster and eventually you will be able to use 
> definitions cold.
> You will say, correctly, that you can't do that sort of things in the 
> footer. But you can't avoid the issue.

No, we can't. It's like a migraine that I thought we got rid of months 

> It's like everything when dealing with anxious people. You try what 
> you can. You can use the ultra short solution, you can use the 
> modified solution including FAQ, maybe other solutions. As I said, 
> here, I have no idea what would work better. Note that I said better 
> as of course nothing will work perfectly. But you try until something 
> works. And you have at least a couple of people who told you that it 
> didn't.

We had an entire iteration discussion a while back. After much debate, 
we settled on this. In all honesty, I believe that it actually has 
worked very well. I think the simple solution was to respond to Robert 
that the list has a web page, not to go into a debate of why he didn't 
notice it.

> I started from scratch, not out of love with beautiful typesetting. I 
> don't think of myself as an entirely lazy, irresponsible, irrational 
> person. When I first wrote to this list, it was in desperation. Truly.

Wonderful! That's the way al questions should be posted (maybe just shy 
of desperation).

> And you want me to have read the fine print.

What fine print? Nothing is in a smaller font. I know, you didn't 
literally mean 'small font', but we didn't literally mean ' you don't 
have to pay attention to this'. It has been suggested before that the 
list be split in a variety of ways: conformers - non-conformers, 
novice-advanced, senior-newbee. Most of this we find distasteful, but 
may eventually become necessary as it is with other large groups. The 
best way to keep this to one list is to have everybody play by the 
posted rules.

> Look, I had a problem and NO time and NO idea of what most of what I 
> found and read meant.
>  (With the sole exception of the install instructions in the TeXshop 
> page which is what got me started.)

That's not true. You criticized my introduction some, but with 
significant compliments (don't make me dig up compliments!).

> So, please.

Hopefully I've made some improvement in the introduction. However, if I 
recall, you did indeed find the majority of the resources on your own, 
even if you had difficulty understanding them. That's what this debate 
has been about. Should people find them? Can people FIND them? DO 
people find them? Well, they agreed to know where they were when they 
signed up.  "Do people understand the posted resources"- well, at that 
point, they should post away. But, also, do people have a 
responsibility when they sign up on this list to read their 
responsibilities (which was also another very long discussion). They 
do. Many on this list give very freely on valuable time. It propagates 
into a great personal cost. I can't fathom putting in the time that 
many do. They make me feel like quite the slacker. Instead of myself 
and others charging money for our efforts, we charge in responsibility. 
That responsibility is simply: "read the responsibilities and 
understand them before posting to the list". When receiving free 
service, one has to consider that someone else is paying some cost, and 
one has to take some personal effort to mitigate that by spending at 
least a few minutes looking for a  solution. Why is a posters time more 
valuable than anybody else on the list. I'm quite amazed that the 
patience that some show responding with 'look at this manual on this 
page' where the manual is a standard posted, and primary, reference. I 
think it's wonderful, but I also think that a novice has a 
responsibility to spend money like I have to buy the books (at least 
one!), and download the free references posted on the web site, 
searching each of these first.

Further, one should also attempt to give back to that community. That's 
what makes it work. When Gary, Marteen, or Gerben ask a question ( to 
mention only a few), people jump to answer their questions because they 
know that a) significant sources have been consulted fist, and b) all 
three deserve every effort to reward their service to the community. 
The best thing that a novice can do is a) continue to consult resources 
before posting, and b) take some responsibility for interception posted 
novice questions and answering them for the rest of the community.

In reality, I'd much rather turn off a novice than cause any of the 
many gracious contributers to get turned off.

Post: <mailto:MacOSX-TeX at email.esm.psu.edu>
Please see <http://www.esm.psu.edu/mac-tex/> for list
guidelines, information, and LaTeX/TeX resources.

More information about the macostex-archives mailing list