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Re: "Why is emacs so square?"

From: Arthur Miller
Subject: Re: "Why is emacs so square?"
Date: Fri, 29 May 2020 16:27:43 +0200
User-agent: Gnus/5.13 (Gnus v5.13) Emacs/28.0.50 (gnu/linux)

Jeff Norden <jnorden@math.tntech.edu> writes:

Interesting read, but there are some fallacies, or maybe not a fallacies
but implicit assumptions that maybe are not justified:

>   Free software, by its very
> nature, *can't* become extinct.  Even if current trends/fads mean that there
> is a lull in the number of people using Gnu emacs today, the source code will
> still be available for future generations to discover and use.  It's about
> like saying that we must find a way to make the "Early New English" language
> of the 17th century more appealing and widely spoken in order to prevent the
> works of Shakespeare from becoming extinct.  Even if, for some reason, people
> stopped reading and producing Shakespeare's plays for a number of years, they
> would undoubtedly be re-discovered and become popular again.
Njah, but software is not a literar work. I don't think that people are
even reading Shakespeare with same enthusiasm and appreciation as they
did back in his own time. I don't think they appreciate him less today,
but they probably appreciate him in a different way. I don't think this
analogy works for software though, since software is written to be used,

> This all seems to be part of the current insane attitude that software, and
> technology in general, is some sort of perishable commodity with the shelf
> life of milk.  Somehow, if it isn't updated every month or so, it just isn't
> any good any more, even though it still does what it used to and your needs
> for it haven't changed.
As a continuation of above, the software is not written to be just

If it ain't developed it will stop to work when the machine it works on
stops to exist, or the OS, or the ABIs changes etc. So to be continually
used software has to be continually updated as the system below it
updates. If we got stabile systems that will continues to work unchanged
then maybe the above would hold. I don't think though that current
hardware/OS/lib eco system is there yet. Also software is hard to write
have I heard somewhere and there will be bugs. Butgs needs to be fixed!
A bug fix means update. As we use software more and discover and fix
more bugs, updates will be needed. One can maybe stop adding features,
sure, but somehow people come with more desires and feature requests all
the time, so yet again, more updates, more bugs, more updates ... ehh. I
don't know, I don't see really analogy with literal work here. Evergreen
software has developed as an answer to certain human patterns, it ain't
come out from thin air, so I don't think it is really insane attitude as
the professor, with all the respect, writes.

> Emacs has never been an editor for "casual" user.  It doesn't compete with
> notepad, any of the various "office" editors (open source or not), or even
> vi/vim.  Gnu emacs is for people that want an extensible editor that gives
> them complete control over how it operates, and can be easily and freely
> customized to accomplish any sort of task that they want it to.
Sure, but what says that one does have to exclude the other?

> This sort of
> freedom comes with a price - you need to invest some time and effort in order
> to learn how to use it effectively.  But for many of us, it is an effort that
> has been more than worthwhile.
Why? What says price is mandated? Why can't easy things be easy,
no-effort, and complicated things left for people who wish to dive in? I
feel there is some prejudice and assumption there simply based on how
computer usage looks today. But what says things have to be as they are?
Can't we change the world? :-)

> In my opinion, it would be incredibly counterproductive to try to attract
> people who don't need the functionality that emacs provides, or who aren't
> willing to put forth the effort required to learn how to effectively use that
> functionality.  I believe this means that any person who's decision on whether
> or not to use an editor is swayed by the appearance of buttons or rounded
> corners is someone who should *not* be encouraged to start using emacs.  If
> you are not attracted to emacs by the features it provides and the tasks it
> can accomplish, then please find an editor that will better suit your needs.
I think rounded buttons were more of a joke, but anyway, I don't
understand why it would be counterproductive to attract people who are
not willing to become finger octopusses just to use Emacs? More people
means more eyes, more usage scenarios, more bugs descovered, more users
becomming with time power users, more functionality added, better
software in the long term and maybe more momentum to free world. I don't
understand how someone can see bigger grass roots as a diminutive. 

> Even in emacs, I personally found it a bit annoying to type "M-x count lines
> region" only to be told in the mini-buffer that:
>   ‘count-lines-region’ is obsolete; use ‘count-words-region’ instead.
> But this was easily fixed by adding a single line to my .emacs file.
Poor you, I really feel your pain.

> However,
> if large blocks of code start disappearing from the source, or changes are
> made that render existing elisp files unusable, then emacs really will run the
> risk of becoming extinct.
Why would large blocks of code disappear? Nobody said Emacs should go
rewritten from scratch, stuff should get thrown away etc.

> For example, a package of elisp functions that I wrote 30 years ago for
> emacs-18, which I use to record and average student grades, still works just
> fine with emacs-26.  TeX is the only other software that I know of with this
> level of stability.  It seems that there are very few people today who, like
> Knuth and Stallman, take a long-term view of what they are trying to
> accomplish.  I could go on along these lines, but this is probably sufficient.
I don't know, I think we have never before had so many textbooks on how
to design and write software, especially libraries and APIs so they are
easy to change and modify withouth affecting existing adopters? Isn't
entire OOP an answer to that? Are you really sure there are so few
people today who takes long term stability that lightly? 

> ----
> However, I feel that I must respond directly to some of the comments about RMS
> that have been made, along the lines of "emacs would be better without him" or
> his "signature tantrums."  I'll respond in a way that RMS never would, because
> he is far too polite:
>    Do you have any idea who the f*** you are talking about!!?
> When Richard founded the FSF, which basically started the free software
> movement, people tried to write him off as some sort of extremest nutcase.
> "Nobody will write software and just give it away" was a common criticism.
> Well, history has shown that Stallman was correct, and his critics were the
> nutcases.  It's quite possible that there would be almost no free software, no
> linux or lwn.net, no gitlab/github, etc, etc, if it had not been for his
> unfailing efforts and unwavering belief in free software though the years.  My
> own opinion is that, if anything, Richard's opinions and views are a bit too
> mild and conservative.
> The arrogance of youth is natural.  I was certainly guilty of it when I was
> young.  But there is no excuse for disrespecting the people who basically
> built the universe that you currently enjoy inhabiting.
> -Jeff
I completely agree here. I don't know though if it is relevant, since
making Emacs more of a in-time player in 21st century is by no mean a
dissrespect to RMS or anyone else.

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