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Re: Transient Mark Mode on by default

From: Evans Winner
Subject: Re: Transient Mark Mode on by default
Date: Mon, 24 Mar 2008 21:21:31 -0600
User-agent: Gnus/5.13 (Gnus v5.13) Emacs/23.0.60 (gnu/linux)

Since my earlier post has been referenced in this thread I
thought I should clarify a couple of things:

Though I don't personally use it anymore, I do not have the
expertise to make a suggestion on this list about the
specific merits of transient-mark-mode, or whether it ought
to be enabled by default.  I merely wanted to mention a
possible issue that might be worth considering in any such
case -- that is, whether making something a default was
liable to make it more difficult for new users to discover
and learn to appreciate the specifically Emacs approach.
Obviously there are apt to be reasonable disagreements about
what the specific nature of that approach is, even among
expert users and developers.  There is nothing wrong with

I think it might be relevant to point out that, though I
have no data to support the notion, there are few ``beginner
users'' of Emacs these days in the sense that there might
have been some years ago.  That is, most beginners are not
beginning to learn to use a text editor and that editor is
Emacs -- but rather most, I imagine, are refugees from
various other systems and tools and come to Emacs with a
great deal of ``baggage'' from those other contexts.  When
we are talking about making things easier for the beginner
-- which is a reasonable goal on the face of it -- it might
be important to differentiate between that, and making
things easier for those who have learned to use other
systems, and have expectations based on that.  Because if we
are talking about the later, then a question becomes: To
what degree should Emacs be made to resemble other, and
(most of us would agree) in most respects inferior systems
for the sake of those beginners who would be surprised by
the differences?--and who is really being helped by such

There are countless free text editors out there and most of
them do the wrong thing, or perhaps even could be said to do
something like the right thing for the many people for whom
their text editor is not a tool of major importance in their
life work.  But Emacs is at least one of the few that still
really caters to the people who want a powerful tool, even
at the /inevitable/ expense of having to spend some time
learning how to use it.

Emacs is, as someone pointed out, not in danger of becoming
a new version of gedit; it could be in danger of becoming a
huge, crufty, inefficient version of gedit, with gobs of
code that no one cares about or maintains that implements
features no one uses anymore because the /culture/ of the
Emacs approach no longer exists or interests those who can
happily and obliviously go on living with the inefficient
habits they've learned from notepad.exe.  If one is truly
concerned with helping new users, then the so-called
``primacy effect'' is the principle to be concerned with --
the principle that people learn most thoroughly that which
they are first exposed to; and that unlearning the wrong
thing is much harder than learning the right thing in the
first place.

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