Re: S-FAQ [was 'Votes etc']

Martin Maechler (
Mon, 19 Jan 1998 14:34:21 +0100

(automatic mailing list "fronter")
#######:>>> The latest FAQ on S: <<<
### WWW:
### FTP: --> S-faq.{ps|info|txt}

[S-movers: This is somewhat off topic; I'm only talking about the S-FAQ]

In a mail to the new discussion list about moving S-news,
Prof. Ripley writes

>>>>> "BDR" == Prof Brian Ripley <> writes:

BDR> .....
BDR> .....
BDR> .....

BDR> The `list owner' problem is likely to recur. One way to defuse that
BDR> might be to set up a small group of people who would be seen as
BDR> guardians of the community's interests, and could advise rarely. I
BDR> can think of three circumstances in which this would have been
BDR> useful:
BDR> (1) The FAQ fiasco. The initiators there lost interest very
BDR> quickly, and we were left with an out-of-date FAQ, and no way to
BDR> reclaim it.
BDR> (2) Discussions about advertising.
BDR> (3) The present issues.
BDR> I am not sure how to get or (more importantly) maintain such a
BDR> group, and although I have a pretty good idea who would get support,
BDR> that may need to be demonstrable.

The "FAQ fiasco" naturally drew my attention,
since I have been involved in it, and actually tried quite a bit
to NOT have a fiasco.

In July 1994, I had established a mailing list in order to bring the
FAQ (then also outdated by > 2 years) in a better shape.
The list still exists with 41 subscribers.
Someone before me had already started to use the texinfo format (see
below), I continued to update the FAQ and somehow we decided that Charles
Roosen took over as FAQ maintainer. At that time, he was still a free
person at Stanford (as opposed to now, when he is employee of Mathsoft ;-)

Half a year ago, I wrote the following to the addresses below,
got almost no reaction apart from Charles who did some minor upgrading
almost only related to the S-plus product and Mathsoft address pointers.

I think it may be a real good time to discuss this matter again
and I think we should be able to setup things such that the FAQ will be
maintained more intensively and accurately, in the future.

Here is my mail from then

>Date: Tue, 24 Jun 1997 15:14:03 +0200
>From: Martin Maechler <>
>To: Alain Kerneis <>
>> CC: Charles Roosen <>, Reinhard Sy <>,
> S-FAQ mailing list <>,
> Kurt Hornik <>
> In-reply-to: <> (message from Reinhard
> Sy on Tue, 24 Jun 1997 12:47:04 +0200)
> Subject: Re: S-FAQ [was 'ETH Web page']
> Reply-to: Martin Maechler <>
> Sender:

(automatic mailing list "fronter")
#######:>>> The latest FAQ on S: <<<
### WWW:
### FTP: --> S-faq.{ps|info|txt}

>>>>> "RSy" == Reinhard Sy <grasbln!!> writes:

RSy> Alain, please contact Mr. Martin Maechler, his email is:

RSy> All the best Reinhard

AlanK> Reinhard,
AlanK> Do you know who we should contact to update the following site
AlanK> It's FAIRLY obsolete.
AlanK> Thanks,
AlanK> Alain.

RSy> Reinhard Sy

I completely agree: The S-FAQ is very obsolete.

Charles Roosen -- even before starting his job at StaSci (Seattle) --
agreed on being the S-FAQ maintainer.

For this reason, he has been having a login here at ETH,
in order to upgrade things.

One of the main reason why the page is here, is the following:

I started updating and improving a version by
Balasubramanian Narasimhan <>
Shanti Gomatam <>

which Bala*ian had translated to the texinfo format.
This format allows to produce

1) TeX
2) Info (for Emacs or 'info' cmd)
[much faster to search through, than an HTML tree]
4) Text [Ascii w/o any formatting strings inside]

from the SAME source file which is very nice and useful.
---> see the S-faq.* entries in

The printed out version from TeX -> DVI -> PostScript
(with table of contents, index, ..)
is much nicer than, e.g., a print out of the corresponding Web-page with
the HTML and we have been using it as handout for courses about S-plus.

For some reason, Charles Roosen has been taken up with other duties, and
still even did not try get a passphrase for the OTP (one time password)
system that we've been using for several months now.
>>> MM (1/1998): In the meantime he got the OTP and DID upgrade the FAQ

Maybe, it'll be a good time for someone else to become maintainer of the
FAQ. I still think that the texinfo format is a better format to maintain,
then HTML directly, for the above reasons.
A more modern documentation system with the same goal (unique source file
with LaTeX (-> PostScript) / HTML / Info / .... output)
is the "SGML-Tools" (formerly Linuxdoc-SGML) system.

Please let me/us know what you think !

(using the S-faq mailing list is probably the most reasonable;
this list has been close to death for quite a few months now ...)

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Martin Maechler <> <><
Seminar fuer Statistik, SOL G1
ETH (Federal Inst. Technology) 8092 Zurich SWITZERLAND
phone: x-41-1-632-3408 fax: ...-1086
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