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Emacs, oldsters, newbiness (was: Emacs Wiki Revision History)

From: Paul R
Subject: Emacs, oldsters, newbiness (was: Emacs Wiki Revision History)
Date: Fri, 24 Oct 2008 10:31:14 +0200
User-agent: Gnus/5.11 (Gnus v5.11) Emacs/22.2 (gnu/linux)

I think there is something in the emacs active hackers community now,
that has been here for a long time now, and that can be simply
formulated . A lot GNU/Emacs active developers develop emacs for their
own needs of emacs gurus. Those are concentrating all their efforts on
what bog them the most. It's like it has become for them a solitary
pleasure, or necessity, to hack on emacs. Doing so, they tend to
neglect to clean up and facilitate the steep and hard path going from
the state of total newbiness to emacs, to the state of being able to
appreciate the work being done at the moment. I am sure they enjoy
what they do, as they are highly skilled developpers spending time on
what they feel important. But over the time, Emacs from the outside
tends to look like a wall, an old rough wall that as been there for
ages. Behind the wall, there is the magic treasure that grows with the
number of people benefiting from it. But almost nobody is tall enough
to see the jowels. Most new comers to emacs I can observe look at this
old wall, give a try to climb it, hurt their hands on it and give up.
After all, they don't doubt they can find some other jowels far easier
to pick up, no matter how beautiful they are. And while hackers enrich
the treasure inside, newcomers can't cross the wall, don't feel really
welcome, and turn heels.

It is in some ways similar to the lack of guidelines in emacswiki.
Power users don't mind the relative mess resulting of this policy, and
they enjoy the very high freedom they have to drop code here and
there, and to start a discussion right in the wiki below the code. But
for a newcomer, finding what (s)he looks for will be hard.

I think Alex has done a great job at doing what he wanted to.
Emacswiki is undoubtedly a success for emacs hackers to put code, tips
and to discuss. I guess it was never meant to be a portal to the emacs
world, designed to suit newbies needs above all.

Maybe what you want, Xah, is such a portal, with very structured
information, no duplication, one-problem-one-solution, aimed at being
accessible above all. Why not, I'm sure it would be a good thing,
although you are probably aware of your current own difficulties at
being "accessible", to say the least. Alex has said it all when he
sincerely encouraged you to do it. We all do encourage you to do it.

But making emacs more accessible to the newcomers is a whole project
in itself. Emacswiki, in spite of its relative mess, is clearly a step
in this direction. Though, I'm afraid there is not so much room for
improvement in this area as long as core developers show constant
reluctance to change the defaults of emacs, which are most of this
high, rough, wall.


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