Ditching Out-of-Date Documentation Infrastructure

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Long ago, the Linux kernel started using 00-Index files to list the contents of each documentation directory. This was intended to explain what each of those files documented. Henrik Austad recently pointed out that those files have been out of date for a very long time and were probably not used by anyone anymore. This is nothing new. Henrik said in his post that this had been discussed already for years, "and they have since then grown further out of date, so perhaps it is time to just throw them out."

He counted hundreds of instances where the 00-index file was out of date or not present when it should have been. He posted a patch to rip them all unceremoniously out of the kernel.

Joe Perches was very pleased with this. He pointed out that .rst files (the kernel's native documentation format) had largely taken over the original purpose of those 00-index files. He said the oo-index files were even misleading by now.

Jonathan Corbet was more reserved. He felt Henrik should distribute the patch among a wider audience and see if it got any resistance. He added:

I've not yet decided whether I think this is a good idea or not. We certainly don't need those files for stuff that's in the RST doctree, that's what the index.rst files are for. But I suspect some people might complain about losing them for the rest of the content. I do get patches from people updating them, so some folks do indeed look at them.

Henrik told Jonathan he was happy to update the 00-index files if that would be preferable. But he didn't want to do that if the right answer was just to get rid of them.

Meanwhile, Josh Triplett saw no reason to keep the 00-index files around at all. He remarked, "I was *briefly* tempted, reading through the files, to suggest ensuring that the one-line descriptions from the 00-INDEX files end up in the documents themselves, but the more I think about it, I don't think even that is worth anyone's time to do."

Paul Moore also voiced his support for removing the 00-index files, at least the ones for NetLabel, which was his area of interest.

The discussion ended there. It's nice that even for apparently obvious patches, the developers still take the time to consider various perspectives and try to retain any value from the old thing to the new. It's especially nice to see this sort of attention given to documentation patches, which tend to get left out in the cold when it comes to coding projects.

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Zack Brown is a tech journalist at Linux Journal and Linux Magazine, and is a former author of the "Kernel Traffic" weekly newsletter and the "Learn Plover" stenographic typing tutorials. He first installed Slackware Linux in 1993 on his 386 with 8 megs of RAM and had his mind permanently blown by the Open Source community. He is the inventor of the Crumble pure strategy board game, which you can make yourself with a few pieces of cardboard. He also enjoys writing fiction, attempting animation, reforming Labanotation, designing and sewing his own clothes, learning French and spending time with friends'n'family.

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