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Re: [O] would take more than an org-mode strip-down.

From: Thomas S. Dye
Subject: Re: [O] would take more than an org-mode strip-down.
Date: Fri, 30 Sep 2011 06:59:09 -1000

Carsten Dominik <address@hidden> writes:

> 1. Startup difficulties for non-EMacs users
>    One of the fundamental aspect you discuss is the difficulty to
>    enter the Org-mode world as a general computer user, possibly not
>    familiar Emacs.
>    Today's world expects programs to be self-explanatory, if possible
>    without any documentation reading at all (no, I am not saying that
>    this is what *you personally* expect, I mean in general).  In the
>    world of iOS, it is standard that one can download an application
>    and at least get started with it by playfully launching it.
>    Manuals and Documentation are generally disliked.  This also has to
>    with the fleeing nature of peoples use of programs.  It is common
>    to spend more time looking for a tool or program than the time one
>    uses it before discarding or at least ignoring it.  I have many
>    apps on my iPod Touch which I have downloaded, used once for a very
>    short time, and then not ever again.  So if there is a 70% chance
>    that I will ditch the program after a week, the cost of reading
>    documentation is extremely high. 
>    Mind you, I do think that this is (today) a legitimate expectation.
>    However, a user with this kind of expectation would be very
>    difficult to make feel at home in Org-mode.  The main startup
>    problem is already that is runs in Emacs, and a good new version of
>    Emacs is not frequently part of a computer system for "normal"
>    people.  Org-mode really lives in Emacs. If flourishes on so many
>    ideas that are deeply ingrained in Emacs.  So much of Org-mode use
>    is quite obvious when you already use and love Emacs.  The tags
>    issue you mention is a great example.  Emacs solves these things
>    using "completion" (see also Eric Fraga's post in this thread).  An
>    Emacs user automatically tries to type a keyword like this by
>    typing a few letters and then hitting M-TAB in order to do
>    completion.  This is something the spine does for an Emacs user, no
>    brain required.
>    Obviously this will be very hard for a person that comes with a
>    different expectation to this program.  And yes, this could be
>    helped with putting more GUI-like elements into Org files.  For
>    example, we could make tags look like buttons and let the user
>    click on them in order to change this.  But, I and many Emacs users
>    would see this as a distraction, a detour.  We even do have this
>    feature, but it is not turned on by default.
>    I think that the real issue here is that Org-mode was not
>    (originally) intended for "normal" people.  It is a geeks program,
>    and we take our pride from making vi users (vi is another
>    programmers editor) jealous enough so that they will create a clone
>    of the program.  We have not even begun to cater for another
>    audience, and this is the thing you, James, are running up against.
>    The website we have is not aimed at the general audience.  The fact
>    that people like you even know about the program and consider using
>    it speaks for the success Org-mode has been.
>    If we, as the Org-mode community, would like to draw in a new class
>    of people, the website would have to be changed.  We'd need a basic
>    page, with only a link to the geek stuff.  And the installation
>    instruction should be:
>    a) Download and install Emacs
>    b) Create a file with extension ".org" and edit it in Emacs.
>    i.e. no links to how to install the latest version etc etc.  Russel
>    Adam has pointed (earlier in this thread) to his intro video for
>    Windows users, this has the right spirit, but still assumes users
>    might want to update Org-mode.  You might have gotten off to a
>    better start with such an entry page - but that does not mean you'd
>    like to program because it would not work intuitively at first
>    sight.

I see this issue as an opportunity to innovate rather than as some
limitation of Org-mode related to it being a geeks program.  As several
others have pointed out, complexity is the price paid for flexibility.
Yes, it is difficult for an avocational programmer or a non-programmer
to tailor Org-mode properly, but this is because it is possible to do so
many things with Org-mode and not because Org-mode is structured
illogically or limited in what it will do within its realm.  

For the sake of discussion, I'd like to disagree with Carsten and
suggest that the Org-mode community has begun to cater to another
audience.  I'd also like to disagree (I think) with James that Org-mode
requires something along the lines of a strip down.

It seems to me that the reproducible research capabilities of Org-mode
might work as a way to "package" Org-mode for any number of purposes.
The main focus of this work up until now has been to reproduce
scientific research papers, along with their data analyses.  But why not
grocery shopping planners, workout trackers, etc.?  Eric Schulte taught
me how to put all the emacs and Org-mode customizations in an init.el
file and then call emacs with the -Q option so I can be certain that
other users are configured correctly.  This is half the battle.  An
arbitrarily complex .org file can be passed to the pre-configured emacs
instance from the command line.  The file can contain all the
instructions needed to use it (metadata) and it can be set up to do
pretty much anything, replete with gui buttons, as Carsten has pointed

A fancy setup might use an installer to download emacs and make certain
that "emacs" on the command line points to the right executable.  The
ungainly "emacs -Q etc." command line could certainly be hidden behind a
cool looking button on the Desktop, or some such thing.

All the best,

Thomas S. Dye

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