EmacsConf 2020: Emacs News Highlights and a wishlist

Posted: - Modified: | emacs, emacs-news

At EmacsConf 2020, I did a quick summary of Emacs News over the past year or so. The main highlights were:

  1. Emacs 27.1: see Mickey Petersen’s notes 
  2. Performance: see gccemacs and Bringing GNU Emacs to Native Code
  3. Modernization: behaviour and appearance;
  4. Doom Emacs: see DoomCasts and DistroTube videos
  5. Other videos: Protesilaos StavrouMike ZamanskySystem Crafters, and others
  6. Org Mode:
  7. Coding: LSP-mode, faster JSON processing
  8. Emacs Application Framework (EAF)
  9. Virtual meetups
  10. The unofficial Emacs User Survey

To prepare this talk, I used the totally unscientific method of reading through the Emacs News entries since the last conference and deciding on the ones that stuck in my brain or that I thought were worth mentioning.

Then I wrote a script, recorded and edited the audio, and collected the screenshots. I used EMMS to insert timestamps as I played back my audio file, generate subtitles, and combine the audio and images using a long ffmpeg command generated from my Org file. It was a pretty cool workflow, and the code’s in the repository linked below. Whenever I needed to adjust the visuals–like when I decided to have quick number slides to help people keep track of where they were in the list–I just added the timestamps and the images, then recompiled my talk. (Recompiled my talk! I still get a kick out of that idea.) The source code for my talk can be found at https://github.com/sachac/emacsconf-2020-emacs-news-highlights .

Conference-wise, I’m tickled pink by the Org code I wrote in order to figure out if all the talks could fit into the schedule if we squeezed them tight enough. I also had lots of fun writing ERC commands that pulled information from submissions.org. I’ve started putting things together in the organizers’ notebook, although I haven’t tested the reorganized code. Next year, I want to figure out how to release videos throughout the day, and maybe handle alternate streams more easily too. Whee!

It’s been a pretty exciting year for Emacs, and I’m looking forward to seeing what people will build now that we have even more things to play with. I have a wishlist in case you want to help out. =)

  • Subtitling my talk made me want to get all the EmacsConf talks subtitled too. =) I’ve started working on the files in emacsconf-wiki/2020/subtitles, and it’s pretty cool to see them in action (ex: Leo’s story about becoming a package maintainer). If you want to help edit autogenerated subtitles, you might be able to use these Git instructions to check out the repository, or we can probably coordinate by e-mail.
  • I’d love to make all these wonderful posts and tutorials and videos more findable. Not just EmacsConf, but also the wonderful things that cross our radar in EmacsNews. I think the EmacsWiki could be a great way to do that. Imagine if people took the links from Emacs News and organized them under various topic pages (and maybe even in some kind of logical order) so that people could come across them… And when we start organizing the resources that are out there, we can map the things people want to learn (ooh! skill trees!) and then see where the missing pieces are.
  • I think virtual meetups are neat, and I hope more people get to go to them or organize them (including topic-based ones). I updated the Usergroups page to list some upcoming events and remove broken links. When I joined the EmacsSF one via Jitsi (despite being nowhere near San Francisco; the joys of connecting online!), they said they even sometimes browse through Emacs News together when they’re looking for something to spark conversation. So if you want to start a usergroup but you aren’t sure if you can line up enough presentations or keep the conversation going, maybe that could work for you too? Anyway, let me know if you have an upcoming meetup and I can add it to the calendar I’ve started putting together.
  • Someone mentioned possibly coming up with a fediverse/free-software alternative to reddit.com/r/emacs . Please let me know if that happens so that I can figure out how to pull interesting things from it.
  • Lots of people are having a hard time finding work due to COVID-19. I wonder if we can make some kind of job board or freelancing network to help people out. It can go beyond tech, too, since there are lots of people who use Emacs in all sorts of fields. Let me know if you’re looking to hire someone, and maybe we can figure out how to include that in Emacs News or the wiki! (Maybe short description, location/remote, and whether the position is free-software-friendly since that matters to quite a few people?)

So those are a few of the things that I think would be pretty cool, looking ahead. If you’re curious about looking back, here’s my EmacsConf 2019 community update too. That one covered the time between EmacsConf 2014 and EmacsConf 2019. It’s pretty amazing to see how far we’ve come, and I can’t wait to see where we can take this!

You can comment with Disqus or you can e-mail me at sacha@sachachua.com.