[OS X TeX] TeX and the wild wild world out there

Alain Schremmer Schremmer.Alain at gmail.com
Wed Nov 29 17:50:28 EST 2006

Alessandro Andretta wrote:

> On 29 Nov 2006, at 20:21, Alain Schremmer wrote:
>> Yes, and let's not accept, say, what the next Grothendieck/Perelman 
>> write because she doesn't want to take away any time from her 
>> mathematical work to learn the beautiful LaTeX. Hey, if she wants me 
>> to read her, she better accomodate my eyes and kiss my feet too.
>> I think that this kind of attitude is truly sad.
> Agree, but the problem is that most mathematicians are no 
> Grothendieck/Perelman/ or anyother Fields medalist.

Yes but how do we know they are until we read them?

> I think sloppyness should be chastised. I have a (very good) grad 
> student who recently finished his PhD under a joint
> supervision of another mathematician and myself. He wrote a very good 
> thesis (from the mathematical point of view)
> with lost of horrible LaTeX code. A few days ago, I was helping him 
> writing some slides and I gave him hell for all these
> crass mistakes: after seeing that he could write MUCH better slides 
> with 1/3 of the lines of code, he agreed that
> he should have spent a bit more time on LaTeX.
> I think it is just like social protocols: although we might want to 
> associate with a genius regardless of his/her
> personal hygienic standards, a normal individual that does not bath 
> regularly will be an outcast....

I think that there is a lot of confusion in this discussion. I will not 
really say anything I haven't already said but, hopefully, this will be 
clearer—inspite of the typography being awful.

1) What I choose to read or not to read depends on my role:

- As an _individual_ it depends entirely on my whims.

- As a _referee or as a teacher_ it does not depend on me. I cannot 
refuse to read a paper on the ground that it is badly written or badly 
formatted. (I do give hell to my students when they turn in something 
that I am having a hard time reading—I may even threaten not to read 
and/or complain of being dissed—but I would think it much too convenient 
an excuse for me actually not to read their papers. So read them I do, 
kicking and screaming)

2) What and how I choose to write depends on whether or not I am under 

- As an independent writer, I write as I see fit. The extent to, and the 
manner in which I take or do not take the reader into consideration are 
completely my decision and for whatever reason I have. (As a grant 
writer, I went a certain way towards what I knew the granting instution 
wanted but not beyond a certain point that I set.) This is currently my 
case. I will put the magnum opus on the web and leave it to people to 
read or not read it on whatever ground they wish, educational, 
mathematical, typographical, etc. Nobody will be forced to read it, 
nobody will have a right to complain about any aspect of it.

- As a contracted writer, I cannot write as I see fit: contractual 
obligations dictate, at least to an extent, what and how I write. By the 
way, I see textbooks that are beautifully typeset, that are addressed to 
a fairly well defined readership but that, after the first few pages, 
become completely unreadable for that readership. I consider this a much 
more unpleasant disregard of the readership than a poor typography.

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