This past weekend was EmacsConf 2023. It was held entirely online, which was great because I could attend in my pyjamas! Since it happened on Eastern Standard Time and I live on the Pacific coast, I found the pyjama-enablement to be quite conducive to an excellent conference experience. Here are some things I learned by waking up at 5:30 in the morning this weekend!
Before getting into the good stuff, I should add that I did not spend a lot of time taking notes during the conference. Instead, I usually jumped straight into my Emacs configuration and started tinkering and fooling around. This means that I’ve probably left out some great stuff.
There were a couple of talks about Emacs advocacy, but the one that I paid the most attention to was Mentoring VS-Coders as an Emacsian by Jeremy Friesen. I think the big takeaway was that he got more mileage out of showing the power of Emacs than he did by trying to argue with users of other editors. Emacs users tend to already understand the power and flexibility of the tool they are using; just show it off, let it do the work.
However, another topic that was brought up in a number of talks was that having all of your projects available in the same tool seems to enable a better, richer type of thinking. Being able to both write effectively and program efficiently in Emacs helps generate more complete thoughts. It also seems to spur creativity and help people conceptualize projects better. This may be a big part of advocacy, as very few other programming editors are also good at writing and note-taking, which leads me to …
I do a lot of writing in Emacs, and I’m not the only one. James Howell gave a talk about authoring and presenting university courses with Emacs. I have also written and presented lectures and classes using just Emacs. It has the power to create slides, lecture notes, and even handouts from the same source. There were a few more great talks about writing, including another one by Jeremy Friesen (he seems to do a lot of cool stuff).
Howard Abrams talked about playing table-top role playing games (TTRPGs) in Emacs. He focused on how the pandemic had encouraged him to look into solo TTRPGs, which led him to Ironsworn. Howard then created a full Ironsworn system in Emacs that allows him to play the game on its own. I am including this under the “Writing” section because solo TTRPG play is a lot like writing fiction, it’s just that you use rules and randomness to help you figure out where the story goes. One of the best things about this talk is that the pre-recorded video was produced by his son. It looks great!
Hyper Things (Hyperbole and Hyperdrive)
I watched a talk about Hyperbole again this year. This is an Emacs package that I would really love to figure out how to use, but it just doesn’t integrate cleanly into my configuration nor my workflow. I tried it last year and got kind of annoyed at it. I gave it another try during Rob Weiner’s talk, but this time I couldn’t even get Hyperbole to properly set itself up. Anyhow, I gave up on it again. Until next year, Hyperbole!
Now Hyperdrive, on the other hand, was something new and interesting. Joseph Turner and Protesilaos Stavrou gave a talk on hyperdrive.el: Peer-to-peer filesystem in Emacs. Set up was extremely simple; it just worked. I was quickly able to share hyperdrive files and links with others. It remains to be seen what my use-case for Hyperdrive will be, but I look forward to watching this project develop.
Yoni Rabkin gave a talk on the Emacs Multi-Media System (EMMS). I like EMMS, but I don’t use it as regularly as I should. However, Rabkin’s talk encouraged me to give it another chance. I am currently listening to Information Society in EMMS while I write this blog post. I suspect that like most people, I don’t really dig into my old MP3 collection as much as I should. This is a good excuse! Rabkin was also happy to remind the audience that EMMS can handle streaming online music sources and playing pretty much every kind of media. It’s worth exploring EMMS again!
I loved EmacsConf this year. I also loved it last year. The organizers and moderators did such a great job running this conference, and it seemed to have a lot of attendees. I followed along on IRC and on Mastodon, and there was a ton of great talk happening. In addition, the Q&A sessions that I saw were filled with enriching conversation. I’m really looking forward to next year. Maybe I’ll find something on which to present!