1. 7
  1. 3

    I thought the essays on Emacs: https://project-mage.org/emacs-is-not-enough

    … and Git: https://project-mage.org/c-programmers-wrote-git

    … were especially perceptive, myself. Very sweary, but he says things that people seem reluctant to say.

    I don’t use Emacs. I’ve tried to learn it, but I found it a nightmare of the worst UI practices of the 1970s. In $JOB-1 I did use Git, daily, and it is horrible.

    1. 5

      I thought the essays on Emacs: https://project-mage.org/emacs-is-not-enough

      You’re more patient than I am. The digression into the genius of Terry Davis was the end of the article for me.

      1. 2

        As someone who writes for a living, reading comments like yours and @WilhelmVonWeiner’s are so profoundly depressing, it’s hard to express without it sounding like a parody.

        It’s quite short, it’s punchy, it says things that need to be said – especially to counter attitudes like @cadey expresses below – but something that took me 5min is too long?

        You know it takes something like 10x longer to write something than than to read it?

        How come people can’t read a short opinion essay but a thousand Youtube and postcast channels are full of hours of interminable unstructured blether and get millions of subscribers?

        Should I just quit and go empty bins or something instead?

        FFS. :’(

        1. 5

          I believe you misunderstood my complaint. I was saying I didn’t like the essay, to be clear. That had nothing to do with its length, though. By the time I hit several paragraphs about Terry Davis that were following up several prior paragraphs of unfocused ranting, I stopped reading because I wasn’t getting anything constructive from the piece.

          I’m quite a fan of long form writing, but I did not find this particular author’s style enjoyable for long form reading.

          1. 1

            OK, I got that, but it’s only part of it, and your comment redoubles part of my surprise.

            I write stuff for a living. I try to make it funny, engaging, occasionally a bit confrontational, because challenging people provokes engagement.

            Some people like it. Some are really turned off by it. I am trying to understand why people are turned off by it, because maybe there is something I can do to stop them disliking this style of writing.

            (Or maybe there isn’t, but anyone creating stuff has to try to understand the market.)

            1. 6

              I also wasn’t able to get through this article. If I deconstruct it:

              • there’s content
              • there’s style

              This piece has a bunch of great content, but it is completely overshadowed by style which makes it literally literally impossible for some people to actually read. There are three stylistic elements which add up to that effect:

              • writing is very long winded. Instead of saying “it’s insane that our terminals are as primitive as they are. Doing graphics would be so 90s, and we don’t have even that. Heck, even Temple OS can do that (picture)” there are a couple of screens of content that adds up to basically that thought.
              • key points are always implied and are never stated explicitly. Again, in that example, the author never actually clearly says what we can learn from Temple OS, that’s for reader to decipher.
              • it engages the reader emotionally. That’s harmful for clarity of communication (emotions and reasoning compete for the same brain wetware) and can alienate some readers. Though in a pinch it can attract a lot of readers by getting to the top of social media via outrage cascade.
              1. 4

                On top of what others have said, an aspect to it for me was the editing: sentences that lead to nothing, every sentence it’s own paragraph. It was like reading a bunch of Reddit comments in order.

                1. 1

                  This is very interesting to me. I shared it because I thought it was fun, entertaining writing. Someone trying to criticise something widely-loved and demonstrating that they know their subject area and related matters with interesting anecdotes to demonstrate erudition.

                  In some ways, it reminded me of how I write.

                  But then again, Lobsters bans the site I write for, so… :shrug:

                2. 2

                  The essay generated 152 comments on the orange site: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=34375137

                  Audiences are different, maybe.

              2. 4

                It’s not at all well written - it fails to make its central thesis clear, instead relying too much style and meandering that takes away from the points it’s trying to make. (Style can be good, but too much comes off as insufferable and inauthentic.) I’m the best case for target audience (not a fan of Unix and friends), and I failed to get through half of it, and I didn’t come back learning anything. As a friend might call it uncharitably, it comes off as “unhinged boomer ranting” - old men on Usenet kind of angry. There’s a time and place for that, and it’s in chat messages, not something presumably polished for a general audience.

                Being a writer involves a lot of effort to hit the best balance between saying as much as possible, in little as possible, while being clear as possible. Even writing this comment took a lot of effort to try to make myself clear. I ended up excising a lot.

                1. 3

                  Hi, I also write for a living! I’m impressed you got through it in 5 minutes, given it was over 5000 words long. I couldn’t get more than a few hundred words into it before my eyes glazed over. It needs a lot more editing to be short and punchy!

                  You know it takes something like 10x longer to write something than than to read it?

                  How come people can’t read a short opinion essay but a thousand Youtube and postcast channels are full of hours of interminable unstructured blether and get millions of subscribers?

                  Probably because the youtube and podcast channels spent way more than 10x longer working on it! I once made a 20-minute video and I estimate it took me 20+ hours of work, so that’s more like 60x longer. That sounds about right for writing, too: A 2000 word piece, which will take the average person about 10 minutes to read or so (technical reading is slow), can take me 8 hours of work or more. A lot of that is editing.

                  1. 1

                    I did not time myself with a stopwatch, but I am a speedreader and have been since childhood. I used to be able to burst read at about 3000wpm, and in my early teens, if I couldn’t borrow it, I could read a typical 1970s novel (so, short: ~200pp) in about half an hour, maybe a little less. Hard work, but I could do it, and consume ½ dozen novels in an afternoon in a library or something. I did that a few times. It gave me a headache, but then I could go back over them in my head, picking up some details later.

                    For school, I read Joseph Conrad’s novel Victory in about 3 hours, and then wrote a book report on it. It was my summer reading project, but I forgot. I got a B+ on that, so my retention was pretty good, at least back then. It was 40 years ago.

                    Now, in my mid-50s, when doing leisure reading of fiction for pleasure, I think I cruise along at about 300wpm, which is still about twice a typical speed of talking. For technical stuff I tend to do 1000wpm or so, so yes, 5min for ~5000w sounds about right.

                    As it happens I have been recording a video series late last week and early this week, which should be published soon. Yes, it does take time to do it well, but when I occasionally dip into Youtube videos if I can’t find any other source, most of the ones I see are not done well. Live-streamed content is in my limited experience typically awful.

                  2. 2

                    Audio is easier to passively consume when exercising, cleaning, doing laundry, cookingz etc and so is a lower barrier to entry for most people. How much of that is actually absorbed is debatable but it’s not unreasonable. And I don’t think the issue is with length but tone. While I respect the Don Quixote charging windmills people, their rationales tend to be pretty difficult for people to relate to, especially given the condescending tone of the emacs article in particular. I agree with the author on most points and I still found myself just not wanting to deal with them and disengaging.

                    1. 2

                      Most? You think? I ask genuinely. This is news to me.

                      All I know is me, and what people pay me to do. For me and in my world, the opposite is true. So I am very surprised by you casually saying “most people”.

                      Not sarcastic. A bit shocked, TBH.

                      1. 1

                        Yeah audiobooks are like. Super popular. Audible does really well for themselves.

                        1. 1

                          Oh, sure, I am aware of that, although I’ve never listened to a whole audiobook in my life. I’m a speed reader; for me, speech is painfully slow. In real life, as a means of communication, obviously that’s fine, but recorded speech is difficult for me to process, it’s so slow.

                          But for short-form writing, I didn’t think this was a big thing. Perhaps I’m wrong.

                2. 2

                  The way this is written makes it so hard to parse, I really don’t think I could read more than the half of “Emacs is not Enough”. Emacs kinda sucks, but I use Doom Emacs and it rocks.

                  1. 3

                    Really? Huh. I found it readable, light and funny, and perceptive, myself. Both of them, and pretty much the whole site.

                3. 1

                  I’m pretty sure Greenspun’s tenth law applies even if your application is written in Common Lisp. There is no way you are going to beat emacs in the power user environment department.

                  1. 2

                    Not with that attitude you won’t!