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Re: Emacs contributions, C and Lisp

From: Juanma Barranquero
Subject: Re: Emacs contributions, C and Lisp
Date: Fri, 28 Feb 2014 19:23:03 +0100

On Fri, Feb 28, 2014 at 6:53 PM, David Kastrup <address@hidden> wrote:

> GNU Emacs is the application for which the GPL was written and
> which started the GNU project.  Sometimes you just have to do your best
> and be prepared for success as well as for failure.

Fair enough.

> That's not the interesting question.

Well, I think is *an* interesting question, though whether is *the*
interesting question is debatable. Reasons below.

> Do we think that a relevant number
> of people will choose to work on GCC until it works for that purpose in
> stock Emacs rather than just install another compiler?

...Talking about leveraging Emacs to preserve GCC's importance is not
just about the programmers that could/would work on GCC (assuming that
by "work on GCC" you mean "working on extending GCC"; if not, my
mistake). Most C/C++ programmers that use Emacs and GCC have neither
the interest, nor the knowledge, ability or disposition to work on
GCC. If Emacs/GCC is insufficient for them and they switch to a
non-free, or less free, toolset, this is a net loss for the GNU
project, I think.

> The history of several Windows-only features that were only admitted
> into Emacs proper once they were supported reasonably well under other
> platforms would suggest that the answer to this kind of question may
> very well be "yes".

Which features? (Not doubting you, just curious.)

> You are trying to view Emacs and GCC in isolation.

I'm not *trying* to view them in isolation, though perhaps I'm doing
it out of naïvete.

> Both are core parts
> of the GNU system and we don't want the GNU system to become one where
> working with one GNU program would be a reason to prefer using a non-GNU
> program over another GNU program.

Agreed. But at some point, all these kind of reasons interact in
extremely non-obvious ways. If Emacs were to work better with clang,
would that be a reason for people to prefer clang over GCC, or a
reason for people to want to extend GCC to match clang's capabilities?
I.e., I question the strict cause-effect relationship, not because I
think is wrong, but because I don't think anyone can really say
whether it is right.

> Emacs and GCC are the oldest central components and cornerstones of the
> GNU project.  If any two applications have reason to stick up for each
> other, it are those.

Yes, if that means that both evolve to better match the needs of their
users. Not so clear, if that means both stagnate, because, to be
relevant for the user's freedoms, they have to be used.

> We don't want Emacs to become more useful to the detriment of GCC.  Of
> course, this is the Emacs developer list so it is to be expected that
> some list members are less than enthused about the principle underlying
> this kind of decision.  But not taking the underlying principle into
> account when dissenting means that the dissent is only relevant to a
> part of the decisionmaking, and the decisionmaking is exactly about
> finding a _balance_.

FWIW, I'm not arguing against your position. I just happen to think
that, in this matter, decision making is hardly fact-based, because
facts are scarce. It's much more about how one side and the other see
the consequences of these decisions. I happen to be in the less
pessimist side, but that's just a gut feeling, entirely fact-free.

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