Paul Lussier on possible Planner Linux Journal article

| emacs, planner, writing

I just started getting you blog via rss yesterday, and just read the
discussion you had over writing an article on planner. I just wanted
to say that I think that is an AWESOME idea.

As Travis mentioned in the discussion, I too, have become totally
adicted to using planner (which, ironically, helps me procrasinate
from doing the stuff I need to, but “planning” it :)

There were a couple of points you mentioned that I'd like to touch on,
and share my experiences with emacs-wiki, planner, the community, etc.
Perhaps it's something you can use in your articles, perhaps not, but
I'd like to share it with you nonetheless :)

   We're sitting on something cool here. We're sitting on a
           software project crazy enough to interest people who
           ordinarily wouldn't consider Emacs.

I think this is a fantastic observation. My own experience isn't too
far off. I started using emacs over 10 years ago. But it was “just a
powerful editor”. I used it for the obvious things writing perl/shell
code because I just liked the font-lock colors. And I used it for
somewhat less obvious things like the column/rectangle manipulation
which comes in *real* handy for dealing with things like large
/etc/hosts or DNS zone tables which are all column oriented data. I
had hacked a few functions of things I found useful, but maintained a
rather small .emacs file.

About a year ago, my manager was gone for 6 weeks (boy was that nice
:) She and I didnt' get along overly well, but the guy who stood in
for her I got along with quite well. He happened to be a project
manager, who has had MS Project surgically implanted :) I needed
something I could keep track of things with. I found etask, but then
saw emacs-wiki and planner. This seemed a more natural way of planning.

As I started in using planner and emacs-wiki, I very quickly became
addicted. This was almost literally, an overnight conversion of my
life. I no sooner started using emacs-wiki/planner, than I found
myself using erc. Reading johnw's README for planner led me to his
site, where I discovered ledger (John's unbelievably powerful
financial app.) and eshell. Then came (in no specific order) w3m,
muse, remember, bbdb, and last, but not least, gnus. The last three
are significant. I had been mostly happy with my prior e-mail
environment of an mh-backend based e-mail solution for the better part
of a decade. But there was no way I could hook that in to planner,
and after a several months of resistance, I attempted the switch to
mh-e which, as you may remember, didn't go so well :) So, now I'm on
gnus, and almost every facet of my life is now hooked into emacs.
I've learned more about emacs and lisp in the past year than I have in
the past 10 years.

A more profound observation is this:

   Heck, we're even getting non-programmers into Lisp.

I wouldn't consider myself a non-programmer, but I'm not a programmer
either. I've got a degree in CS, and know my way around C a little
bit, but my strengths, as a sysadmin, are really in perl. I love
perl, think in perl, and can solve almost all my problems in perl.
All except the hacks I want added into planner :) As a result of
planner though, I've felt very much at a loss. The ability to
contribute is so obviously there and within my reach, but the
capability not so much. I can plainly see that if I could think in
lisp, I could contribute to planner, but the stumbling block is my
thought process, which is wired to think in perl. As a result,
planner has inspired me to begin learning lisp, merely to be able to
help myself, and others through what contributions to planner I may
someday come up with. I learned perl out of necessity because it was
better for the job I needed to do at the time. I'm learning lisp out
of love of an application written in it, and a desire to help make it
better :)

Then there's this:

   - We don't hide the Lisp code. It's there. Newbies get
           exposed to it. The way we deal with it, though, is by asking
           people to describe--in English--what they want to do--their
           dream PIM--and more experienced people would give them
           snippets of code and tips for making it happen.

This has been instrumental for me. To be able say “when I do X, I
want Y to happen”, and have that feature within minutes (or seconds!)
available to me is astounding. The hack you presented for getting
remember to know when it was on a task and create a related note,
while I don't understand it yet, works superbly! That I could ask for
that feature, and you could provide it is both a testament to how easy
it is to extend planner and to how welcoming the community is of
requests and features that may not be immediately useful to anyne else
but the requestor (err, have I mentioned how much hippie-expand ROCKS
lately ;)

   Yes.  But was this growth conscious?

This is a great question. And I think the answer is twofold. Did
johnw intend to create such a vibrant community around planner? No, I
don't think so. He was scratching a personal itch. Did you
intend/expect this to explode the way it has, or did you plan it? I
don't think so. In retrospect though, I think we could say that it
was inevitable given your personality, love of people, and desire to
help/teach others. Those who actively reach out, soon find themselves
surrounded by others of like quality. Once you realized there was a
community growing though, I think it became very much a conscious
thought as to how to grow the community, and how to get planner to fit
as many people's habits as possible. The open acceptance of hacking
the code to custom fit anyone who happened to be interested is the
obvious way to do that. Planner's design which allows people to
choose from a menu of features, and to start out extremely simple and
build up slowly is also very much a factor in why the community has
evolved the way it has.

Planner seems to have created friendships and acquaintances across a
diverse set of individuals. Some of us are #emacs, some are on the
mailing list, and some are on both. A few of us see each other in
other IRC channels as well (of course, the common link is johnw, which
is why I think we should really create #johnw :) Regardless, planner
has definitely had quite an impact on a lot of people, and I don't see
that ending any time soon!

I guess that's it. I'm beginning to ramble now :) I just wanted to
share that with you, and wish you luck on the forthcoming articles for
LJ. I'll certainly be eagerly awaiting those issues!

Oh, and if there's any help I can provide for the articles, I'd be
happy to assist.

E-Mail from Paul Lussier

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