Subject: Re: Back on topic: Re: FSBs and mechanized documentation
From: Rich Morin <>
Date: Sat, 11 Mar 2006 00:46:52 -0800

At 4:59 PM +0900 3/11/06, Stephen J. Turnbull wrote:
> Are you implying that "maybe" they're "not needed" because such usage
> doesn't exist?

There's an interesting story (maybe in one of Gerald Weinberg's books)
about a village asking for a train to stop at their station as it goes
through at 2:30 each afternoon.  The RR company sent out an inspector
who visited the station several days running and determined that there
wasn't any demand, as nobody was waiting at the station at that time.

There are a number of mammoth Open Source projects around, fighting
for mindshare in both the user and developer communities.  The users
don't want or need the kind of detailed documentation that mechanized
approaches excel at, but prospective developers might.  And, if more
developers get on board, the results might draw more users in.  Here
is one possible scenario:

Companies such as Novell, RedHat, and Sun are fighting for mindshare
in the OS wars.  Sun, in particular, wants to convince Open Source
hackers to "get involved".  Given that Jonathan Schwartz has said:

  We've got roughly 5000 people working on Solaris.

it doesn't seem inappropriate for them to put a couple of programmers
to work on mechanized documentation.  The investment is small and any
payoff could have substantial leverage, both internal and external.

Given that these OSes are largely drawing on the same software base, a
trickle-down effect could occur as these packages get documented, etc.
Finally, if the mechanization tools become polished and programmers'
expectations get raised to demand them, small projects might jump in.

--            Rich Morin     +1 650-873-7841

Technical editing and writing, programming, and web development