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Re: [Orgmode] Org-mode versus Taskpaper - now for real

From: Rick Moynihan
Subject: Re: [Orgmode] Org-mode versus Taskpaper - now for real
Date: Thu, 03 Apr 2008 10:55:35 +0100
User-agent: Thunderbird (X11/20080227)

Eddward DeVilla wrote:
I guess the best way to address this problem might be to document up
front that org-mode uses a simple, readable, text only format and that
all of the features can be used independently of each other but that
they do interact well together.  (It's been a while since I've scanned
the manual, so maybe that's already in the intro.)  I guess we could
put together a tutorial of using org-mode as just a friendly listing,
outliner without using any of the other features to show org-mode can
scale up to Taskpaper's level of simplicity.  I'd have a hard time not
adding a table though.

Hi all,

I'm a big fan of org-mode, yet I think Carsten's motivation to question it's simplicity is a good one.

Yes, org-mode can be as simple as Taskpaper, and I totally buy into the argument that adoption of any planning system requires piecemeal growth. Org-mode allows you to grow in this way, where as Taskpaper will require you to throw it out for another system.

However, though this argument is entirely true, it ignores other issues. If org-mode wishes to tackle the Taskpaper demographic then we need to learn some lessons in presentation and user experience.

Org-mode has *EXCELLENT* documentation, indeed I'd hold it up as being one of the most thoroughly and well documented OSS projects I've ever seen. Congratulations Carsten! :-)

However where Taskpaper wins, is in the presentation. Just looking at the site, things appear simple. They've got trendy Web2.0 rounded corners and styling on their page. They have a Screenshot upfront showing you how simple it is. They have a nice little logo, with some text loosely associating it with the GTD movement. They attempt to answer the question of whether or not Taskpaper is of use to you, and they have a handful of user reviews to convince you it's great. Oh, and all along they stress Simplicity, Simplicity, Simplicity!

In contrast Org-mode has an incredibly basic website. It's well laid out, and perfectly usable but it's not pitched towards the same class of user. If we care to go after the same type of user then we need to address this and some other problems:

- It's pitched at Emacs users.  I mean seriously, WTF is Emacs to anyone
  who isn't a geek?
  + It's called org-mode.  A side effect of it's Emacs heritage, but not
    the greatest name.
  + Installation is hard.  You need to install this obscure thing called
    Emacs, then you need to download org-mode, extract it in the right
    place and edit a .emacs file by entering some obscure computer code.
    In my experience most people can't follow instructions on how to
    copy a file from A to B.

Emacs might be Org's greatest ally, but it's also simultaneously Org's biggest problem. My point here, isn't to bash Emacs, it is what it is, and it's damn good... But with apologies to RMS, it is the product of a radical, hair-brained, compiler-writing, AI-lab, academic!! You really couldn't find anyone further away from the mainstream computer user!

(Emacs has always appealed to me and I've toyed with it for a long time, however in all honesty the only thing I *REALLY* use Emacs for is org-mode!)

So, what's my suggestion? Is it possible for Org to target the same type of user as Taskpaper? Maybe, it depends on how much we want it to. So what's required?

1. Make the web pages look pretty.
2. Downplay the Emacs mode stuff.
3. Offer some kind of Easy org installation.
   - Effectively a distro of Emacs tailored to Org-mode.
   - Ship with an installer.
   - Give it a catchier product name.
4. Customise this Emacs distro so that it starts up in org-mode, with
   some kind of help/tutorial file.  Not an Emacs *scratch* buffer.
5. Take most of the Emacs crap out of the Menu's etc...
6. Obviously still allow people to use org-mode with GNU/Emacs as they
   currently do.
7. Offer more native key-bindings, by default - not Emacs key chords.
8. Suitably change the documentation.

Now that's a *LOT* of work, but it's certainly do-able. Do I expect anyone of us to actually do it? No.... though it'd be pretty cool if someone did, and it gained traction (unlikely). :-)


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