Social problems of Python doc [was Re: Python docs disappointing]

Paul Boddie paul at
Wed Aug 12 15:24:18 CEST 2009

On 12 Aug, 14:08, Steven D'Aprano <st... at REMOVE-THIS-> wrote:
> With tens of millions of web users, it's no surprise that Wikipedia can
> attract thousands of editors. But this does not apply to Python, which
> starts from a comparatively tiny population, primarily those interested
> in Python. Have a look at the Wikipedia page for Python.

What does the Python entry on Wikipedia have to do with editing the
Python documentation in a Wiki? Once everyone has agreed that the
description of Python on Wikipedia is reasonable, there's not much
point in editing it, is there? In contrast, there's a continuous
stream of people who don't think Python's documentation is that great.


> > A free-for-all isn't likely to be the best solution for more actively
> > edited Python documentation, but Wiki solutions undeniably provide a
> > superior "fast path" for edits by trusted users to be incorporated and
> > published in accessible end-user documentation.
> And the Python time-machine strikes again:

And I suggested that the complainants use it as a starting point.


> Oh dear me. You mean that they don't agree that YOUR time is more
> important than theirs??? What horrible people they must be, to expect you
> to sacrifice some of your sleep time just so *they* can get some sleep
> themselves!!! Who do they think they are???

That's quite an attempt to make my position more extreme than it
actually is. I get people asking me to improve my own software, you
know, and even if I don't have the time or inclination to do what they
ask, I do spend time discussing it with them. Such people, including
myself when I'm on the other side of the fence, appreciate more than
just a brush-off and no: they don't insist that their own time be
valued above anyone else's (as you would have me misrepresented); they
just ask that their own efforts aren't treated as having no value
because they're not part of the "elite" development team. You get
various projects doing soul-searching about embracing the efforts of
non-programmers, and the first port of call on that particular voyage
is to not treat them like idiot consumers whose remarks can only be
considered as mere heckling while the visionaries act out their
flawless production.


P.S. The mention of "social problems" ties in with other remarks made
recently, and I've increasingly found it more trouble than has been
worthwhile to pursue Python-related matters of late. When one tries to
encourage people to participate in improving various things, which
usually means the community having to accept a degree of criticism,
people claim that it's encouraging "undesirable" influences to point
such critics in the right direction instead of showing them the door.
When one tries to pursue such improvement matters oneself, people
always have something to say about the choice of technology or whether
they like the particular background colour being used or indeed have
an opinion, typically shallow and negative, about anything but the
task at hand, and there'll always be someone queuing up to dismantle
anything that does get done at the first opportunity. In contrast,
I've found other groups of people to be grateful for even modest
technical assistance, and I know that such people are much more likely
to get my support and input in the future than those who think that
it's some kind of advantage to have potential contributors run the
gauntlet of denial (that there are structural problems in their
project), skepticism (that newcomers can have anything to contribute),
discouragement (because any solution which doesn't validate someone's
technology preferences must be criticised) and, indeed, outright

One can always spend one's time doing something which isn't 100%
enjoyable or 100% rewarding if one feels that the time is still being
spent on something worthwhile. I'm getting the feeling that lots of
Python-related stuff doesn't quite satisfy such criteria any more.

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