Headlines for Wednesday:


Priorities - A: high, B: medium, C: low; Status - _: unfinished, X: finished, C: cancelled, P: pending, o: in progress, >: delegated. Covey quadrants - Q1 & Q3: urgent, Q1 & Q2: important
AX@1200-1300 Q1 Do lab in RS303 from 2005.11.09 (teaching)
AX@1500-1800 Q1 Go to engg psych lab in RS303 from 2005.11.09 (mie1407f)
AX@1800 Check out Geeks and Geezers - HD57.7 .B4578 2002X ROBA
AX@1900-1940 Roommates meeting
BX@2000 Read three tagging papers
AXRevise result descriptions (mie1407f)


1. Emacs: Not bad, just misunderstood

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People love dissing the Emacs text editor. Emacs is one of those arcane things that even _geeks_ aren't expected to understand. It's probably the canonical example of a tool built for geeks by geeks: hard to use, hard to understand, hard to just pick up and play with.

I really don't think Emacs is bad. It's just misunderstood, the way mainstream people think Linux is bad because it's all command-line when the truth is that Linux is so much more than that. Emacs is so much more than what people think it is, but people just settle for the quick sound bite.

As Alex Schroeder (kensanata) blogged:

23:29 kensanata eek. on creating happy programmers, quote: As Nat Torkington explained to me in his non-politically-correct but useful way, "It's no longer aspergers and emacs... we're putting people back into the equation."
23:29 kensanata aspergers and emacs – that the social niche we live in.
23:29 hober yeah
23:29 hober kensanata: I'm going to blog about that tonight
23:30 e1f you have aspergers?
23:30 kensanata no, i have emacs.
I'm going to blog about this too.

2. Brilliant idea!

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I'm going to make this weekend Planner Documenting weekend. Kinda like the National Novel Writing Month's goal of just getting stuff out there. I'll put it on the wiki so that people can bang on it. =)

I need to block off Saturday evening for Michael's party, but I'll keep the rest of my weekend free. What do I need to do? I need to sit down and write a from-scratch guide for Emacs and everything. And a Why Use Planner thing. And something about Planner philosophies.

3. Free and open source programs

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Looking for high-quality free and open source programs to help your Microsoft Windows-using friends make the switch? Check out LOOP: List of Open-source Programs for Microsoft Windows. Get them hooked on all the goodies like Mozilla Firefox, GAIM and GIMP. When they get hooked on those applications, quietly replace the operating system underneath their feet... ;)

Via Desktoplinux, via Lxer

4. Emacs: It's all about people

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Kathy Sierra of Creating Passionate Users quotes Nat Torkington: "It's no longer aspergers and emacs... we're putting people back into the equation."

Why do people like bashing Emacs so much? Why do even geeks pooh-pooh it as a text editor that's too complicated for its own good?

If you just want a plain text editor, Emacs is really easy to learn. Just start up a graphical version of Emacs and you've got menus and toolbars that can help you start editing right away. I think this is more of an image problem than anything else. It's like the way people say, "Linux is too hard to learn!" Linux isn't hard to learn; you just have to try it. Emacs isn't hard to learn; you just have to try it.

What probably intimidates people, though, is the knowledge that there's so much more out there. There's so much potential. Once you know how to use gedit or vim, that's pretty much it. Everything else is just about shortcuts. But Emacs... the more you learn about Emacs, the more there is to learn about Emacs.

Richi Plana wrote:

<blockquote> My only problem with it is that it doesn't seem to be designed to be self-learnable. It requires trundling for documentation and, more than that, asking people. In a sense, it's passed on from generation to generation by word-of-mouth. </blockquote>

And I _love_ that! I love the fact that when you really get into learning how to use Emacs, you can't help but get hooked up with all these other people. I love the fact that when I download Emacs extensions, I'm getting an idea of how other people made their Emacs fit them better.

Emacs is the most user-friendly application I've ever used. I'm not a typical user. I _like_ hacking my editor. I tweak it every so often, whenever I want to procrastinate doing something else. I _love_ how Emacs invites me to change it, to make it my own. In Emacs, source is not sacred! I can change anything I want about Emacs. I can make it fit _me_ instead of having to fit it. Emacs gives me all the tools to do that and all the source code I need.

I also like tweaking programs for other people, and that's another way that Emacs is just so wonderfully user-centered. I love how I can make Emacs be so many things to so many people. I've made it into a Japanese-vocabulary flashcard game for a coworker. I've made it a planner for a non-geek friend. I've even used it as a Tetris game! Emacs lets me help other people by tweaking the code that's already out there to fit the people I know, and I think that's absolutely wonderful.

For me, Emacs is inherently social. Emacs really transformed my experience of free software and open source, hooking me up with all these awesome communities. Unlike the bare and merely functional configuration files I have for other programs, my Emacs configuration files say something about who I am, what I like, and how I think. And _that's_ why I can't help but gush about it all the time. It's something so different from any other open source project I've ever tried.

I want to learn how to explain this mindblowingly awesome difference to other people. We've got nongeeks learning Emacs. They're fantastic! They've never heard about Emacs. They aren't scared of it. They just happened to see one of their friends using Planner or whatever, and they wanted to try it out. Isn't that cool?

So yeah, Emacs is all about people. Other geeks may put it down, but it spreads because of word of mouth anyway. It's really awesome, and one day I'm going to figure out how to describe just why it's awesome...