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Implicit assumptions in the latest discussions

From: Daniele Nicolodi
Subject: Implicit assumptions in the latest discussions
Date: Thu, 17 Sep 2020 15:30:48 +0200
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; Intel Mac OS X 10.14; rv:68.0) Gecko/20100101 Thunderbird/68.12.0


I admit I just read a minimal part of the posts in the current threads
about making Emacs simpler, or friendlier, or more "modern" (for a
definition of modern very different to mine). However, I would like to
express my doubts about the assumptions implicit in these discussions.

These assumptions seem to be:

1. Emacs would be better if it had a larger user base or the Emacs users
would be better served by an Emacs that appeals to a larger user base. I
think that this can be true only as far as another assumption hold,
namely that with a larger user base there would be more manpower to work
on Emacs itself, thus Emacs will become better because more people is
hacking on it.

I don't think there can be any correlation between the number of users
of Emacs and the number of hackers interesting in working on it. If the
end goal is to make Emacs development more sustainable, an easier way to
get there would be to modernize the development practices used to work
on Emacs itself. However, this is a much harder (social) problem to solve.

2. Users are not drawn to try Emacs because what Emacs is and for his
reputation, but because they expect Emacs to be like other editors.

I think that who chooses Emacs, does so because of what Emacs is and
what it has been in its long history, not because they expect something
different. If they expect something different, Emacs has an enormous
technical disadvantage compared to younger editors that are based on
different technologies and that do not want (need?) to keep
compatibility if an incredibly long history.

Probably there are better thing that can be done to make the experience
of these users better than providing "simplified" Emacs environments,
because the users that choose Emacs don't want a simplified Emacs, they
want better ways to access the power of Emacs.

Having "simplified" modes also poses the problem of allowing the users
to "graduate" from the simplified environment to the full blown one. I
haven't see this discussed.

3. Emacs is perfect as it is, but the users do not understand it.

I feel that a lot of the discussions are centered toward having ways to
simplify Emacs to make it more appealing to new users or to some very
specific classes of prospective users. Wouldn't it be more productive
and wouldn't it be better for who already has invested in Emacs (namely
the current users) to discuss ways to make Emacs better for everyone?

For example, GNU/Linux is the platform where Emacs should run best,
however, as far as I know, there is currently no way to run Emacs on a
Wayland compositor, and Wayland is the future of graphical interfaces on
GNU/Linux. Also, some of the complexity of hacking on Emacs, comes from
supporting a wide range of graphical toolkits. Wouldn't it be a
worthwhile goal to support a graphical toolkit that works on Wayland,
and then make it the only one supported (at least on GNU/Linux) and
redirect some hacking energy into making this solution a good solution
for everyone (hacking on the toolkit itself if necessary)? This would be
much more important to keep Emacs relevant in a few years from now than
a Emacs-simplified-mode.

While the use of a specific graphical toolkit may seems a technical
issue far from the current discussions, I would like to point out that
also this is mostly a "social" issue: removing support for other
toolkits will affect those that for one reason or another prefer to use
Motif Emacs.


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