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Re: Emacs usability (was: Can anybody tell me how to send HTML-format ma

From: Xah
Subject: Re: Emacs usability (was: Can anybody tell me how to send HTML-format mail in gnus)
Date: Tue, 12 Aug 2008 00:37:52 -0700 (PDT)
User-agent: G2/1.0

On Aug 11, 3:14 pm, "Lennart Borgman (gmail)"
<address@hidden> wrote:
> Ted Zlatanov wrote:
> > The usability metrics (fairly standard in the industry) are listed in
> > please
> > see their definitions.
> > - concise
> > - expressive
> > - easy (in the sense of "mnemonic load")
> > - transparent
> > - scriptable
> > - discoverable

That's from “The Art of Unix Usability” by Eric S Raymond.

These cult-like books are rather snake oil.

For example, renowned computer scientist Edsger has this to say:

... what society overwhelmingly asks for is snake oil. Of course, the
snake oil has the most impressive names —otherwise you would be
selling nothing— like “Structured Analysis and Design”, “Software
Engineering”, “Maturity Models”, “Management Information Systems”,
“Integrated Project Support Environments” “Object Orientation” and
“Business Process Re-engineering” (the latter three being known as
IPSE, OO and BPR, respectively).” — Edsger W Dijkstra↗ (1930-2002), in
EWD 1175: The strengths of the academic enterprise↗.

These gurus types are the most detrimental to the computing industry.
I have written numerous essays about this. Please see, for example:

The Nature of the “Unix Philosophy”

plain text version pasted below:

The Nature of the “Unix Philosophy”

Xah Lee, 2006-05

In the computing industry, especially among unix community, we often
hear that there's a “Unix Philosophy”. In this essay, i dissect the
nature and characterization of such “unix philosophy”, as have been
described by Brian Kernighan, Rob Pike, Dennis Ritchie, Ken Thompson,
and Richard P Gabriel et al, and in recent years by Eric Raymond.

There is no one definite set of priciples that is the so-called “unix
philosophy”, but rather, it consistest of various slogans developed
over the decades by unix programers that purport to describe the way
unix is supposed to have been designed. The characteristics include:
“keep it simple”, “make it fast”, “keep it small”, “make it work on
99% of cases, but generality and correctness are less important”,
“diversity rules”, “User interface is not important, raw power is
good”, “everything should be a file”, “architecture is less important
than immediate workability”. Often, these are expressed by chantible
slogans that exhibits juvenile humor, such as “small is beautiful”,
“KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid)”.

Suppose, we take a team of student programers to produce a large
software system. When the software is done, give it to software
critics to analyze and come up with some principles that characterize
its design decisions, without disclosing the nature of the programers.
The characterization of such software, will more or less fit the
descriptions of the “Unix Philosophy” as described in different ways
by various unix celebrities.

For example, it would focus on implementation simplicity as opposed to
interface simplicity. It will not be consistent in user interface, but
exhibits rawness. It would be correct only for most cases, as opposed
to mathematically correct or generic. It would employ simplistic data
structures and formats such as text-files with rows of lines and space
separated columns, as opposed to a structured system or binary format
that requires a spec. It would be speedy, but less on scalability. It
would consists of many small programs, as opposed to one large system
with inter-dependent components. It would be easy to patch and port,
but difficult to upgrade its structure or adapt entirely new

The essence of this theory is that when a software is produced for
real world use, it is necessary that it works in some acceptable way,
otherwise the software will be continuously debugged and refined. A
software system written by a bunch of student or otherwise under-
educated programers, but refined long enough for acceptably practical,
real world use, will necessarily develop characteristics that is known
as the Unix Philosophy.


Larry Wall is one of the worst ones. See:

Larry Wall and Cults


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