[rfc] developer documentation on user interaction

Stephen J. Turnbull stephen at xemacs.org
Sun Sep 27 17:02:50 BST 2009


Martin Pool writes:

 > > This is one of the main things that keeps XEmacs popular
 > > vs. Emacs in the corporate world: we promise that packages we
 > > distribute will work with 5 year old XEmacsen, and they mostly work
 > > with 10-year-old XEmacsen, whereas in Emacs recent versions of most
 > > packages only work properly on the as-yet unreleased dev version.]
 > 
 > That is truly impressive.

The promise is.  Unfortunately, we don't have the manpower to fulfill
it that well.  My point being that many shops are so conservative
regarding tools that they'll accept half-baked promises of stability
if the alternative is "upgrade or fix it yourself".

Personal aside:

 > If only my wrists could still work with emacs ;-/

One of my personal disappointments in 10 years of (X)Emacs development
is that we've done very little to save anybody's wrists.  Ben Wing,
the primary designer and contributor to XEmacs 1996-2004, had a very
bad RSI-like condition, so he was very sensitive to the issue.[1]
Unfortunately, his contributions in the area were primarily
low-hanging fruit (shifted-motion-selects-region), for extreme cases
(modifier-keys-are-sticky), or solutions that are enabling for
advanced Emacs programmers like himself but mostly irrelevant to
non-Emacs-hacker users who don't want to be enabled to help
themselves, they want the tool to get out of the way NOW!

I see some of these tendencies in bzr development, or rather, I think
bzr being a "common infrastructure" tool faces the same kinds of
challenges.  Talking with Robert Collins about bzr and workflows
always reminds me of talking with Ben about accessibility ... "yes,
it's wonderful that <tool> can do that, and I think I could even learn
to use that feature, but it's not very accessible to non-<tool>-geek
users."

Footnotes: 
[1]  Curiously enough, RMS does too, and he's remarkably insensitive
to proposals for UI rationalization even if they promise improvements
in accessibility.  OTOH, RMS is probably still the most advanced Emacs
hacker in the world.




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