Welcome to the TeXtalk! For the second episode of the series, we have another special guest: our friend Thomas Titz, also known as lockstep, one of the most active members of TeX.sx, a trusted user (36k+), 650+ answers so far, top voter, top editor, a one-man flag and tag machine! It was fantastic to interview him!
Paulo: Could you tell us a bit about you?
lockstep: I’ve studied urban planning and am working as a zoning official in the Vienna city administration. My hobbies are biking, singing, tarock (an Austrian card game), and, obviously, (La)TeX.
Paulo: How was your first contact to TeX, LaTeX and friends?
lockstep: In 1995, I wrote my master thesis with Word, which did horrible things to my headers and footers. Many years later, I decided that I needed something better for my (still to be written) Ph.D. thesis. I started to experiment with LaTeX in January 2008 and to delve into
biblatex internals in the summer of that year.
In 2009, I bought the “classic” LaTeX books (Mittelbach/Goossens, Kopka/Daly), and finally also the TeXbook.
Joseph Wright: You seem to be the
biblatex expert on TeX.sx. Do you have much to do with the development side of that project?
lockstep: Starting in 2009, I have made several bug reports and feature requests for
biblatex – e.g., the several
backrefstyles are based on one of my requests. I had also hacked together a personal
authoryear-icomp style, which made it into
v0.9 of the core package.
authoryear-icomp-tt was also the reason that I joined my first LaTeX forum (
mrunix.de), because I noticed that a forum member was looking for the very
biblatex style I had created.
Paulo: As Joseph mentioned, you are the
biblatex expert and the one-man tagging machine on TeX.sx. How did you become aware of this community?
lockstep: I occasionally peruse
comp.text.tex via Google (I do not participate, though). There was a post about a proposed stackexchange group dealing with TeX, and (half a year later or so) another post that the private beta had started. I decided to give tex.sx a try – it was already in public beta then. The rest is history.
Joseph Wright: You do a lot of tagging: what approach do you take to find material in need of attention, and what for you makes a good tag?
lockstep: I wasn’t active on meta at first, and so the “big” decisions (e.g., concept tags instead of command name tags) were already made when I seriously started retagging. The “practical” part seemed to be somewhat in disarray, though – e.g., what is
sectioning today was divided into
headings then, with no discernible difference between the two tags.
A good tag a) should have an easily comprehensible meaning b) should be helpful in locating existing answers and avoiding duplicates. That’s for “new” users of tex.sx; for “power” users a tag should c) be helpful in notifying questions which one might like to answer.
idxlayout package saved me a lot of times. Could you tell us a bit about your first package?
lockstep: When trying to typeset indexes, I soon noticed that the positioning of the sectioning heading was wrong (LaTeX bug 3126 in action). Mittelbach/Goosens gives the advice to use
multicol to define a customized
theindex environment. I wrote a small package for private use that also worked with
KOMA-scripts index features. When a user on
mrunix.de lamented about his wrongly positioned index heading, I decided to write something more general and put it on CTAN – that was at the start of 2010.
Later, it turned out that my
idxlayout package, which is partially a recoding exercise of
memoirs index environments, also solved issues with regard to the exact positioning of hyperlinks – I got some unforseen praise from Geoffrey Jones, one of tex.sxs early high-rep users.
I should add that
idylayout today is partially superseded by @egreg’s
imakeidx which makes use of the
\write18 facility. And if you want
\write18 plus runin-typesetting of index items and affiliated subitems, use
Paulo: Our community is very friendly. How do you feel about TeX.sx?
lockstep: It’s addictive, isn’t it?
;-) Seriously, the stackexchange model has turned out to be very appropriate for questions/answers about (La)TeX – fast response times, less duplicates than in traditional forums, and a “reward” system that attracts expert users.
Paulo: How do you see another year for TeX.sx? Top voter, top editor, top tarock player?
lockstep: Top voter – likely; top editor – for sure; top tarock player – there are other Austrians at tex.sx, and who knows how good they are with respect to card gaming. :-)
Paulo: You need to teach me. I only know how to play truco.
lockstep: With regard to tex.sx in general, I’m hoping to see more “consolidated” reference questions/answers.
One has to walk a fine line between being too specific and answering too many questions at once, but I still think that tex.sx would profit from “consolidated” Q/A’s.
Paulo: Ready for LaTeX3?
lockstep: Excited. I’m especially hoping for/looking forward to grid typesetting.
At the moment, there are partial solutions/workarounds, but several consecutive sectioning headings in larger-than-normal fontsize will destroy a grid almost for sure.
Paulo: What do you recommend for a newbie eager to learn TeX, LaTeX and friends?
lockstep: Read “LaTeX Beginner’s Guide” by Stefan Kottwitz – this book features a well-considered selection of what new users need/don’t need to know about LaTeX. If you speak German, also read “Wissenschaftliche Arbeiten schreiben mit LaTeX” by Joachim Schlosser.
BTW, Joachim Schlosser decided to include a chapter about
biblatex in the 4th edition of his book, and more focus on
biblatex is my “top request” for a 2nd edition of Stefan’s book.
Paulo: Thanks for your time! Tausend Dank!
lockstep: You’re welcome – gern geschehen!
Stay tuned for the next episode of TeXtalk!
Filed under Interviews