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Re: Orgdown: negative feedback & attempt of a root-cause analysis (was:

From: M . ‘quintus’ Gülker
Subject: Re: Orgdown: negative feedback & attempt of a root-cause analysis (was: "Orgdown", the new name for the syntax of Org-mode)
Date: Wed, 01 Dec 2021 22:17:11 +0100

Am Dienstag, dem 30. November 2021 schrieb Karl Voit:
> One of the next things I do have on my list is to try out crdt as
> I've learned at EmacsConf21 that it is mature enough to be used in
> practice. 
> If that holds true, we can start dreaming of having a Etherpad-like
> session from our GNU/Emacs while peers are connected to the same
> session via some web-based tool/service.

I never heard of crdt, but distributed editing sounds useful. There is
Git, of course, but unless you are a programmer, using Git is pretty
much arcane. I was not yet successful to explain Git to MS Word users,
who are actually happy with the change tracking tooling Word has built
in. Though that might be more of a topic for the emacs-humanities
mailing list rather than this list.

> The dominant feedback of
> https://www.reddit.com/r/emacs/comments/r4cq3o/orgdown_the_new_name_for_the_syntax_of_orgmode/
> was negative comments on the name and nothing else. Even here,
> although due to a much more civilized style, the name choice was the
> dominant topic and not the idea. I have to take this as a strong
> signal here and I'm very close in giving up on Orgdown as a project.

The civility of this list is one of the reasons why I like to read it. I
find it incredible how people behave on these so-called social media.
That alone indicates that something is wrong with them.

You should not give up on the project. As I have learned from reading
this thread, there appear to be people who already work on formalising
org’s grammar. You ought to talk to them and see if it is possible to
unite efforts. Tom Gillespie in a message further down this thread has
mentioned that formalising org is a huge effort. I agree with that, but
your novel concept of “compatibility levels” is something I could see as
an intermediate step. It could help to accelerate the formalising
efforts and non-Emacs tools could start targetting them quickly. But I
might be wrong on seeing this as an advantage; I have never written
formal specifications.

It is certainly your success to have generated this discussion thread; I
was not aware of any similar formalisation efforts. I hope that if
nothing else, it contributes to this efforts.

> People do not seem to realize what it took to get there - which is
> partly understandingly because I had to learn by doing what it takes
> to get the idea into a coherent and consistent form.

I do not think anybody wanted to feel you bad. Most are trying to
provide constructive criticism to you in order to improve your
suggestions. There are very few people who are fundamentally opposed to
your effort, because they firmly believe there can be no org outside of
Emacs. My suggestion is to ignore them and continue on your path,
because your idea has no impact on them and they can by definition not
help you to improve it.

Naming is one of the hard things in Computer Science. Just leave the
naming issue aside and work with the people here to formalise the
compatibility levels.

> Bastien told me that he would be interested to see hard numbers on
> my assumption that Org-mode syntax is easier to learn and type in
> comparison to other LWM. And he is right: some research work in
> order to get numbers would be awesome to shed some light on the
> forest of assumptions. Maybe somebody in a position to realize such
> a case study gets motivated now? ;-)

Entirely subjectively, typing:

    #+begin_src python

manually without help of the editor feels more difficult than typing:

    ~~~~ python

Any non-Emacs org(down) editor should ensure to ease typing that.

For the purposes of refining your proposal conducting the “case study”
simply by inquiry on this mailing list might suffice. Many people around
here know Markdown and I guess there is no value in applying rigorous
scientific standards here.

> Does "assuming too much on other people's world because on my own
> small world" have a scientific name? I might be in danger of having
> this disease? *g*

I have fallen to this earlier. My computer is full of things to solve
problems many people simply do not even have. I need citation software
that interacts with my Biblatex files, for instance. Since my e.g. my
work collegues do not even use Biblatex, they do not have such a need.
Typing citations out by hand is rather popular in my area; if it is not
done manually, people appear to use Citavi. I certainly know not a
single person in my area who uses Biblatex. Another example is that I
have a rather longish ~/.xinitrc file for automatic starting of several
applications, like the PulseAudio sound server. Somehow, this is a
problem others appearently do not have; it exists because I inflict to
myself the pain of using Linux with i3 and Emacs, which I perceive as
productive rather than painful, not to mention the privacy advantages.
There was a time when I tried to convince people from my setup as
the correct one for everyone, but today I know it is not.

As an aside, the fact that many people write out citations manually has
given rise to many of the quirks of German judicial citation styling,
which are quite hard to describe in rule form. As one of the most
astonishing examples, some people prefer to mark the loss or gain of
name particles by bracketing the name particle when citing that person.
This is impossible to cover in any form of automatic citation style.
Luckily, I am not aware of any journal enforcing this rule.

> Hm. I have to think about this.
> If this path is followed, then it might be hard to find target
> groups willing to switch away from WYSIWYG tools which is the only
> alternative I can think of here.
> I don't think that users of LaTeX/ConTeXt are part of the target
> group. They would actually lose a bit of having control, I think.

I take this note as an opportunity to talk about how I could see Orgdown
to be used. I certainly cannot speak for other fields of science than
the one I am involved in (alas, some even dispute that the Law
discipline can be a science, but we do have actual journals), but you
can take it as a piece of input in itself. Maybe others want to add to
it. So, in the field of German Law 99% of the people use MS Word to
write their articles, that is, WYSIWYG software. A significant amount of
the people I talked to have some fair criticisms of MS Word, like:

- it can get incredibly slow on large documents, especially if change
  tracking is enabled
- it is sending data to Microsoft all the time, and Microsoft is trying
  to nudge people into the 365 services
- compatibility problems when people use different versions of MS Word

These are people who would gladly use a snappy, fast, and stable
authoring tool for scientific articles, but do not see learning Emacs as
an investment that would pay off. They rightfully think: journals demand
DOCX files anyway, so why bother? Specifically, the very idea of dealing
with source code is alien to them. It is something “what programmers
do”. If I could point these people to a tool that fixes these points and
uses org markup, it would enable me to collaborate with them without
using MS Word, instead using org markup. The org syntax itself is not
problematic I suppose. For simply writing documents, it is easily
learned. Far easier than LaTeX.

Whether the tool is Free Software or not is not something that would
matter in this context, though Free Software would of course be even
better. Currently, the only option for this I am aware of is using
Markdown with pandoc’s citation system. Now, a MS Word user will never
use a commandline tool, so this option rules out itself. This is the
space into which I would like to see orgdown-based tools enter. With
some compatibility levels clearly defined, I imagine that developing
such tools becomes significantly easier and avoids the problem of
different incompatible flavours right from the start.

I miss, for the purpose of recommendation, an easily learned GUI tool
for editing a scientific markup which is also well supported by Emacs.
Org since recently officially supports citations, so it makes the ideal
candidate. So this is where I come from, rather than trying to convince
people to write their repository READMEs in Org(down) rather than

Someone in this thread noticed that Org is useful even to experienced
LaTeX users and I would shamelessly add myself in here. Specifically
since citations have become available, I have entered a new world. Due
to the quirks of German judicial citing, I previously needed to write
custom Biblatex styles. Writing CSL files is much easier, and for the
text-centric field of German Law science I do not need much of LaTeX’s
flexibility. Having it available within org is an added bonus. Still, I
agree that you should not consider LaTeX users as a target group; they
will come themselves when needed. But there is a significant amount of
people who write complex documents not in LaTeX (in my case, because
journals in my field of research demand DOCX), even though these people
are most likely not to be found within the natural sciences. You should
advertise your project on the emacs-humanities mailing list as well, it
might yield some more input specific to this group of people.

> And Overleaf might be too hard to beat I guess although I personally
> don't like to use cloud-based services but meanwhile that's the
> opinion of a tiny minority.

> However, nice input and thankfully not just about the "horrible
> name" for a change. Thank you for that. ;-)

I enjoy this discussion and am curious about how it continues.


Dipl.-Jur. M. Gülker | https://mg.guelker.eu | PGP: Siehe Webseite
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