2021-12 Emacs Meetup and Other Thoughts

It is time for another update on Austin Emacs, along with some observations.

There was a meeting of the Austin Emacs Meetup early in the month. As always, there was no set topic.

There was some discussion of the Emacs Docs website. Generally the feedback was positive.

One guy started demonstrating Org Roam. It looks pretty interesting, but for now I am still getting the hang of plain Org. He also showed us a couple of packages: gh-notify for managing GitHub notifications (I have no idea if it works with git outside of GitHub) and code-review.

There was also a lot of discussion around zettelkasten. Here is the Wikipedia page. Here is a site telling you how to do it; it’s hosted in Germany, so I guess it’s the official zettlekasten site. Zettlekasten.org is a site by a group that tried to put a knowledge management system on the blockchain. It does not look like there has been any activity for a while. Perhaps you can use your coins to buy a non-fungible Olive Garden.

I mentioned again I plan on going through the EmacsConf videos from prior years, as well as for 2021. None of us had started looking at the 2021 videos. Some of them look interesting. I mentioned that there were two that I thought I would not find interesting: The use of Org mode syntax outside of GNU/Emacs by Karl Voit, who has a few good pages/posts about Emacs and Org on his site, and Extending the “model” of Emacs to other applications. An Emacs conference discouraging the use of Emacs seems a bit odd. I will give them all a chance, but on the surface I don’t think I will like those two.

Every time there is a thread about Org mode on Hacker News, there is always some jackass complaining that Org does not work on mobile. Frankly, I have little interest in mobile. I like the bigger keyboard and bigger screen on my laptop. I hate typing on a phone, and I do not want to clutter my phone with a lot of apps. I do use the clock/stopwatch app a lot, but that is it. I don’t need to use it for banking, credit cards, paying utility bills, paying for gas, or getting an app for every store I walk into. And while I am interested in technology, I have no desire to ever do any job on my phone.

I think doing Org on a phone is stupid. Yes, you have to learn Emacs, but that also yields benefits. There was a thread on Hacker News asking why so many coders still use Vim and Emacs. A few comments pointed out that in the past decade, we have seen a few editors come and go: Sublime, Atom, Light Table. Now it’s VS Code, but who knows how long it will last? (And frankly I do not trust Microsoft one bit.) Meanwhile, while everybody else was changing their workflow every couple of years, the Vim and Emacs people kept doing what they were doing. On a phone, you will always be limited by the small screen, and whatever limitations Apple, Google or Microsoft put on you. With Emacs, the sky is the limit.

I think people should stop trying to get Org working on mobile, and just use it where it does work. Sort of like everybody should learn how to read S-expressions and stop trying to make Lisp into Python (see here and here). A lot of people want the capabilities that S-expressions give you without using S-expressions, so they create wrappers and languages around it. It just seems like it would be easier to use S-expressions.

Like Lisp, Emacs is different than everything else, takes a lot of effort at first to get comfortable with, but after a point continues to yield dividends. As opposed to a lot of GUI and mobile apps, which seem easy at first, but eventually you hit a wall. Maybe I am trying to live life on hard mode, but I think this is the way to go. Although I am not doing accounting in plain text (see Hacker News posts about plain text here, here, here, here, and here is a link to the Plain Text Project).

At the Emacs meetup I mentioned a thread I saw on the website for Obsidian, which is another knowledge management system using Markdown. The thread starting with someone asking why they chose obsidian over Emacs. One person said that they couldn’t use Emacs on mobile. They needed seven apps to replace Emacs. That is the point of learning Emacs, and why I am not interested in mobile.

I am still converting all my text files into org files, and choosing where to put headings and how to group them. This is taking longer than I thought. I have a lot of deep thoughts. But I am in org mode every day. Ideally I would like a job where I am in Emacs all day. I am getting really tired of using MS Office, or MS anything.

Image from “Evangelia quattuor [Les quatre Évangiles, en latin]”, a 10th century manuscript housed at the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Source gallica.bnf.fr / BnF; image assumed allowed under Public Domain.