2012-03-20

BozhidarBatsov is apparently very frustrated with Emacs Wiki. He seems to think that we should start over – use new software, add moderators, guidelines, and sorts of fancy stuff. My answer is the same as it was back in 2008

One of his ideas I actually agree with. “Submit documentation only to the official project pages.” Absolutely. :)

Some ideas I am luke warm about: “package something on Marmalade…” Sure, why not? I have never used Marmalade, but I encourage you to improve the tools you use. There’s also “don’t respond to any bug requests regarding modified copies of your sources distributed via EmacsWiki.” I also don’t want to encourage bug reports on the wiki. Use the facilities built into Emacs to report bugs. But almost all of you know that.

But other ideas?

“Drop the current format of the wiki - use something standard like MediaWiki instead of OddMuse.” How is reformatting the pages going to improve them?

“Drop all the articles about Emacs extensions.” Just delete them? Are you at least going to rewrite them and move them to the appropriate project pages out there? Or are you just going to delete them? Taking away and not giving back?

“Drop all the extensions hosted there.” Some of the old code has no other home. Some of the old code is here for the poor sods stuck with Emacs 20. Are you going to package them for ELPA or Marmalade or whatever you are going to suggest instead?

Some of you – like DrewAdams – keep their packages on the wiki. For those packages, I don’t see any alternative. Are you going to maintain his software? Fix his bugs? Develop his features? Unless you are, I guess you can try and fork his stuff and keep it on whatever other system you want. But please don’t suggest taking something away without giving something in return.

“Assemble a team of moderators.” Indeed. Moderators! Where have you been hiding for the last ten years! Are you volunteering? I’m a bit wary regarding your deletionist tendencies. But perhaps you’d like to start with a new Table of Contents and new top-down menus where only the pages you personally vetted and checked are listed. That would be an awesome thing to do! Of course, there’s no need to delete anything in order for you to do this. Just arrange the stuff you like and do it.

In fact, in order to do it, just do it.

“Accept only articles about general Emacs usage and Emacs Lisp programming.” How is that going to work – more deleting? I don’t know… I don’t think you understand where the value of Emacs Wiki comes from. Perhaps you should write a book about Emacs? Collect a team of authors and editors and deletionists, take a copy of the wiki, and just do it right.

Also, less hyperbole when posting… :P

It’s like the rants we sometimes hear about making emacs more modern, use python as extension language, etc. It would be nice to rewrite everything, but actually it’s a lot of a work which no one really wants to do.

Emacswiki is a great resource. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best we have. A gradual improvement is much more feasible than throwing away everything and start from scratch, and a gradual improvement is possible, because anyone can edit the wiki and discuss the proposed changes here with others. – anon

BozhidarBatsov has formulated an action plan!

Reactions on reddit, gnu.emacs.help, Hacker News.

In the mean time, on the quality of editing, I said a while back on EmacsWikiSuggestions when we talked about separate Discussion or Talk pages: “Personally, I think the wiki exists somewhere between the newsgroups, the FAQ, the mailing lists, and IRC. It’s certainly nowhere near the quality of organization and writing that the Emacs documentation has – and I don’t think this is the right medium to aim for this level of quality. I think the people willing to invest that amount of energy to write quality stuff ought to be writing the real Emacs documentation – and they probably are.”

Some people want to change that. I have the nagging feeling they ought to be writing real Emacs documentation instead…

AlexSchroeder

I don’t think Alex has gotten enough appreciation. I’ve found the Emacs wiki to be very useful, and I have no doubt I will continue to find this wiki very useful. Thanks, Alex, for all your work! – JayBelanger

Thanks! – Alex

I heartily add my appreciation of Alex and EmacsWiki to the pronouncements by anon, JayBelanger, and others at the URLs cited above (worth taking a look at).

If this wiki were not useful then people would not use it. Simple as that. If it comes up often and early in Google searches it is because other sites link to it a lot. Obviously, it is helping people — or at least interesting them.

No one forces anyone to consider EmacsWiki as the best or the only (or even a good) source of information about Emacs. No one forces anyone to visit EmacsWiki or pay attention to it at all. And no one prevents anyone from participating and contributing improvements.

Think what you want of EmacsWiki. Create or use any alternative resources you prefer. Go for it — the more the merrier.

The fact remains that many people do appreciate EmacsWiki. Maybe tomorrow your better mousetrap will pull all the Emacs-info traffic, and Alex can retire! ;-) On n’arrete pas le progres… But there is no reason to require that EmacsWiki die so that your dream can be born. Just do it. Alex did what he wanted. Go forth and do what you want.

As for appreciating Alex: He has been uncomonly generous with his time, resources, and fight for fairness. This wiki would not be were it not for AlexSchroeder. And if it somehow were, it would not be anywhere near as helpful. – DrewAdams

  • How do people use Emacswiki?
  • How did they find it?
  • Why do they keep revisiting it and what information they look for?
  • When did they contribute to it?
  • Were they ever unsatisfied and disappointed when they had turned to Emacswiki for some help?
  • Did they overgrow Emacswiki and start visiting it less often?
  • What other Emacs-related resource they use regularly to complement and supplement Emacswiki.

These are all some important questions to ask. These questions can be easily answered - these need to be answered by an individual user himself - and the answers can be collected in a page of it’s own. For a long-lived project, such existing use-cases need to be captured. We shouldn’t dismiss wisdom of common folks.

With some meta-thinking and in a good hand, it is possible that Emacswiki could be re-targetted, without changing much of the infrastructure. With passing time, needs of people might have changed and the eco-system might have changed for the better.

My immediate reaction to BozhidarBatsov is:

  • Try articulating why and how Emacswiki is useful to the community and what niche it fills.
  • Please show and tell. I need a proof-of-concept so that I can take you seriously.
  • Don’t under-estimate the time it takes to build and sustain an infrastructure and a community.
  • Slow down, so that all your energy is not expended very quickly. One needs to take good rest if one intends to run a marathon.
  • Take yourself, your project and Emacswiki even less seriously - this is very essential if you want to build a long-living community.
  • Nice and persuasive argument. You walk in to a bazaar and call that it is no cathedral.
  • Ha, you have a sponsor. That explains it all.

Well, I decided to count Bozhidar’s angry ranting as a vote in favor of discussion pages, added them and renamed them to “Talk”. And if the critics are right, then I’m expecting a significant improvement of quality, soon. In order to further improve the presumed quality of the site, I added a Wikipedia-inspired CSS file.

If you want to try it and provide some feedback, please do.

If you like the new CSS, let me know on the Talk page! :)

I feel I must thank Alex for his work here. I really appreciate EmacsWiki. Is it perfect? no, of course. Is the best resource available now? yes! Thanks again Alex. – InigoSerna