Caveat: not trying to step on toes or anything, not targeting this at any particular user(s), just thought I'd share some of my own thoughts since I've been an over-active user of late.. :)
My first thought was: "not this topic again"... ;) This basically started as a Q/issue regarding formatting of lists. That was discussed already in another thread, and I believe one of the developers will have taken the feedback and make sure the one missing parameter is in there. I'm glad that doing some browsing or a search resulted in finding the solutions and answers we set out. The advantage of these forums, and the wiki, is that you can search and find answers that go above and beyond basic or normal usage, into complex modifications... I find that downright cool -- others may find that, well, painful.
So I started thinking about documentation. I don't usually read docs. I barely read manuals. That's me... I'm a well-above-average computer geek. ;) Yeah, the docs are probably lacking.
Then again, for the slightly-more-than-basic user, my guesstimate would be that if you can use a 'template tag' -- which, please, remember is really a php function, just one that also usually has ECHO statements in it -- you should be able to at least learn to read through the php code at a beginner level. There are maybe two or three core files that the tags and functions exist in. Poke around, look through them...
I'm a programmer, so this stuff is 'native' to me. But I'd really recommend to anyone who's already poking around html/php and CSS that they learn just enough that they can look at the first line of a php function (sorry, template tag ;) ) and see exactly what the parameters are, what the defaults are, etc. With a typical SDK/API, you generally have to start with whatever documentation there is. As a backup, you usually have header files, though they typically have absolutely zero documentation, even lacking self-documenting variable/parameter names.
With something like WP, you have the source code. You can look at the actual tag/function. You can see the entire parameter list. You can see the defaults that get used if you don't pass in all the parameters. Heck, if you're wacko like me, you can even change the functions... :) :)
The really basic user just wants a site there for them, and won't be downloading and installing anything that relies upon SQL servers, configurations, etc. That's where hosted things like MT latch on a lot. However, I think there's potential for people to host MT-like pre-configured ('auto-configured'?) blogging locales with WP driving the blogs. This has been discussed elsewhere, I seem to recall.
So, we're really talking about something above a basic user at some point. Again, if you can use basic html and php, if you understand the basics of 'passing parameters to a function/template-tag', opening up the php files and looking around might seem a bit daunting, but it exceeds anything basic documentation can cover... well, at least without built-in docmentation in the php code surrounding every function, extracted with one of these cool open-source xml doc thingies... ;) AND, we're talking about live, changing, open-source development here -- being able to read the actual source means you never have out-of-date documentation.
Yes, I know that in many ways, I'm expecting too much of the average user. But if I seemed daunted installing the system myself, I have to give some credit to the others who have done it and who don't have the tech background I do. I credit them with a level of intelligence and curiosity, to go beyond the basics and move up into intermediate-land. In the end, if you are downloading and installing a blog site system, you are an above-average user. At least in my definition.. ;)
I agree with all the comments that this doesn't answer the need for more simplified ways of adding more complex features to an individual blog.. More drop-in CSS or index.php samples -- though those would need to be kept up to date with changes... More documentation -- well, that's under way. The wiki seems to be a good place to visit too. A way to never have to actually touch index.php ('the template'), and rather have lists of 'modules' that go into columns, layout orders, etc., would be cool -- but that's likely not a top priority at the moment, AND strays into 'CMS land'... More likely is that the community actually would work on developing extended admin pages to achieve this result. Now THAT would be a community project!
I think a more major point is that WordPress is really just getting off the ground. It has the legacy of b2 behind it, but it still needs to find its own path. Things like documentation, process, templates, samples, wikis... those are all part of the struggle to manage a project that is likely already bigger than there are primary maintainers to handle it... :) Let's give them, and the community, a chance to develop a bit more.
As for a wiki forcasting the fate of a project, I've seen many an open-source project whose only 'documentation' was the wiki or the code. Or forums. Heck, PHP itself has documentation, but I end up reading the comments off each function that other developers have written in weeks/months/years prior that supplement basic documentation efforts. The problem with developing systems is that the developers are many times the WRONG people to be working on large core documentation, specifically because they are too close to it to see the view of the average user... The concept of a wiki is truly awesome as it allows the growing community to give an active representation of things from end users who are using the stuff day in and day out, rather than people trying to maintain and enhance the system.
And, maybe I'd expect more if I had paid a dime for WP. Well, no, that's not true. I've paid hundreds (even thousands) of dollars for different software in just the last few years that was lacking documentation... and it all STILL is the top software in each of the vertical markets. Good software is good software -- good documentation is secondary. Software docs have always been horrible -- and if they weren't, there'd be a ton of people out of jobs writing how-to books! ;) :) ;) Hah! ;)
Anyway -- hope this is taken in the spirit in which it was meant: another user sharing his thoughts about the continuing development of WordPress (code and supporting pieces!), as well as the community... I see a long future ahead.