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RE: Emacs learning curve

From: Drew Adams
Subject: RE: Emacs learning curve
Date: Sun, 11 Jul 2010 08:08:27 -0700

> It's sad, because it's such a great tool, and I don't want to see
> it fade away in obscurity.

Don't be sad.  Emacs will be here long after you and I will have bit the dust.

50 years from now someone who has newly discovered Emacs and tried
unsuccessfully to turn casual-user friends, family, and colleagues onto it will
opine the same anxious/delerious opinion that Emacs MUST move QUICKLY to adopt
the ever-popular and universal FLOMBIT (TM) standard or it will RAPIDLY WASTE
AWAY.  If you could search the emacs-devel archives in the future you would see
plenty of such periodic threads.

This is not very different from someone who discovers fresh, organic, local food
or fine French or Chinese cooking for the first time and wants to stop the world
from wasting its time and health on junk food.  Well, the difference is that
such discoverers do not usually spend their time trying to convince the foodie
community to start packaging their organic fare in Happy Meal (TM) boxes in
order to reach the masses.

It's normal when you discover something good (good wine, good music, good art,
good science, good health...) to want to share that discovery and feeling, to
turn everyone else onto it.  Visit Facebook if that's not clear.  ATTENTION!!

But that's an individual learning experience.  Do not confuse your enthusiasm
arising from the gap between you yesterday and new-you today with the gap
between the world without X and the world + X.  Do not conclude that X will soon
disappear if everyone does not quickly wake up and smell the coffee.

Proselytize for Emacs, if you will, and wrap it in CUA-mode and such if you
think that will help you proselytize, but do not confuse your missionary zeal
with some real lack on the part of Emacs.  You want to close the gap, fine.  But
do not assume that the reason Emacs is not on every breakfast table is that it
is missing what Fruit Loops has.

> But if easy of entry is not increased for casual users then
> it [fade away into obscurity] is the most probable future
> for our beloved editor.


News of the impending demise of Emacs is yesterday's (false) news.

Emacs can, does, and will learn from outside developments.  Sometimes it learns
slowly; sometimes it learns the wrong lesson; but in the long run it tends to
pick up useful improvements.  It is a mistake to think that it MUST or even
should adopt this or that approach or feature.

If you really want to help, then find and promote real improvements (see the
mention of Eclipse features and CEDET in this thread), not just "improvements"
that amount only to syncing with the mainstream of the moment.

For a century or two everyone was convinced that whole-grain bread was
old-fashioned and inferior for health and in taste.  It was considered on its
way out, a vestige consumed only by a few ignorant, old country folk on their
last legs.  One can imagine some well-intentioned "Defenders of the Wholely
Grain" crying Chicken Little, stressing the urgency of bleaching whole grain to
make it look like the white bread that the masses had become accustomed to, in
order to save wholeness from outright extinction.  Save the Wholes!

White flour is still popular (and dominant) today, but whole grain has been
around for millenia and is still appreciated, even by some who are not on their
last legs.  The period when its imminent demise was foreseen amounts, so far, to
only a teeny blip on the history screen.

Someone might well repeat `This tends to lock people into corners by saying
"look how good we are".'  If so, don't bother - you're missing the point.  Not
agreeing to follow a fad or the mainstream on this or that feature is not a
refusal to consider all new features or improvements.

The argument that Emacs should (or MUST) do X just because the mainstream or the
Flavor Of The Week does X is a weak argument.  It _is_ an argument to consider,
but it is a weak one.  If that is the _only_ support for making some change
then, well...

Am I satisfied that Emacs development always adds the right features in the
right way or otherwise makes the changes that _I_ think would be improvements?
Hehe - if you read this list then you know the answer.

What it's about is discussion - argument and evidence - of possible changes.  If
you want some change, then argue to support it on its merits.  The devil is in
the _details_.

Blanket whining that we should do X because EVERYONE is doing X doesn't work for
teenie boppers trying to get parental permission, and it doesn't work here
either.  Argue your case, with particulars.  And be prepared to think again -
and not necessarily to win your case.

FWIW, I feel the same about changes that ARE made by Emacs development.  IMHO,
changes are sometimes (too often) made without sufficient reason, discussion,
and argument.  The same thing I say to those who want this or that change I say
also to those who implement this or that change without sufficient debate and
investigation: "Reasons, argument, evidence, please."

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