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RE: What a modern collaboration toolkit looks like

From: Drew Adams
Subject: RE: What a modern collaboration toolkit looks like
Date: Mon, 31 Dec 2007 23:57:17 -0800

> I have constantly run into what I think is the true issue facing
> Emacs, the fact that it is forked almost to death.
> There are three forks of Emacs for Mac OS X, cedet is maintained outside
> of the mainline, the Ohio Lisp archive died ages ago, slime is
> third party, and icicles distributes through the emacs wiki.

I really, really (!) do not want to get involved with this thread.

But since you opened a tiny parenthesis by mentioning Icicles, Mike, I'll
respond to that. [Inserts foot in door.]

There are lots of libraries and code snippets that are distributed on Emacs
Wiki. And that's a good thing, not a bad thing. gnu-emacs-sources is also a
good place to distribute libraries. Nothing wrong with either.

I don't interpret your remark negatively, but as a compliment. But I want to
be clear that Icicles and many other libraries that are not distributed as
part of Emacs do not constitute forks of Emacs. As far as Icicles is
concerned, it is compatible with Emacs 20 through 23. IOW, it is more
compatible with Emacs than Emacs is. ;-)

There are lots of possible reasons why a given library is not integrated
with Emacs and distributed as part of it. The Emacs world is not limited to
GNU Emacs, and even the GNU Emacs world is not limited to the code
distributed with GNU Emacs. The fact that there are multiple degrees of
unity and multiple means of distribution is rather a sign of vitality, IMO,
not of decline.

Speaking only of Icicles, using it as an example, I will say that though
there would be some advantages to having Icicles as part of Emacs, there
would be some disadvantages also. Since it is separate, I am the only
author, and the user base is relatively small, who cares? I am free to take
it where I like, which means I can shape it in any weird way I might dream

IOW, Icicles has the benefit of being a lab, and I have the privilege of
playing mad scientist. Don't get me wrong, I try to respond to users, as you
know, but it's not the same sort of sober commitment that Emacs development
offers. To me, Emacs is a game, not just a tool to get a job done. I don't
even use Emacs for anything anymore - just for farting around with Emacs
Lisp, an end in itself, a job I never want to get done.

The plus side of this state of affairs is that Icicles can serve as a set of
UI experiments - a late night snack for thought. The minus side is that if
you get addicted to using it you might want to save a copy of today's
version because tomorrow's might be too far out there for your taste ;-). Ya
never know. And you have only one developer to deal with, which also has its
pros and cons.

I would say that (1) it is generally good that Emacs developers take the
integrity of the Emacs code base seriously, and (2) there is also room for
Emacs development outside the innermost tent.

When it comes to things I would like to see changed in Emacs, I sometimes
find (nameless) Emacs developers too close-minded and tight-assed. I tell
myself that they lack imagination. But when it comes to things that I don't
want to see changed in Emacs, I can find the same developers too
loosey-goosey and wish they'd stop messing it up arbitrarily. Taken
together, and given that I am only one consumer of Emacs, those opposite
judgments probably indicate that the developers are not too far off track on
average. ;-)

So consider this my toast to the New Year - here's to Emacs!

Nah, not to you guys - Emacs is more than any of us, RMS included. Emacs has
a life of its own. Offspring are like that. And I'd be willing to bet that
it will have a very long life. My guess is that Emacs will outlive the
future daughter of the youngest gadget-&-gamesick, pimply and ircsome
recruit that any pied-piper pledge drive might bring under its spell.
Nothing wrong with cross-fertilization, new blood, new tools, and new means
of discussion, development, and distribution.

All of that wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee pep-talk stuff is about us and GNU
Emacs as a project, however; it's not so much about Emacs. Emacs dead or
declining? Nah.

40 years from now, in another cocktail soiree, someone will still be
prancing on about how dull, old-fashioned, and decrepit Emacs is, and
everyone there will nod and agree and wonder how and why it still keeps
dragging its sorry, tres depassee ass along. Why doesn't someone put the
damn thing out of its misery?  But Ol' Man Emacs, dat Ol' Man Emacs, he mus'
know sumpin', but don' say nothin'; he jes' keeps rollin', he keeps on
rollin' along...

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