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Gus Van Horn blog

Reblogged:Venting for Psychological Distance?

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Since I use the Emacs text editor for almost all of my writing, I keep abreast of related news, including occasional looks at a couple of Emacs-centric blogs. On one of these, Irreal, I ran across a post whose author admittedly rankled from a disparaging remark about his preferred software. And, yes, I'll admit enjoying this part of his reaction to the contention that "the cool kids" don't use Emacs:

What is the source of this steam? (Image by gdtography, via Unsplash, license.)
I don't think it's true. At least not for any reasonable definition of "cool kids." But suppose it is true. Who, then, are the cool kids? I submit that by and large they are just like the cool kids in high school who ended up pumping gas after graduation. In modern terms, they are the hipsters. Or to put it a third way, they are unserious people.
It sure does feel good not to be one of those superficial people who always go for the latest shiny object.

Or at least it did until I read a response, by one Alex Birdsall, who replied in relevant part:
It seems to me that "how can [E]macs be more welcoming to kids and hipsters without disrupting experienced users' workflows?" is a more interesting question than "how can these kids and hipsters be so shallow", and one more likely to lead to new and useful insights.
This follows a highly relevant torpedoing of the notion that a concern for esthetics is a necessarily a sign of superficiality -- a lesson I learned long ago, but forgot in the moment.

I would guess that this is true of the author as well, but I am glad he vented anyway, and not just for the above interesting and potentially valuable back-and-forth. (Since a decent user base is part of my criteria for adopting software, I am glad the issue got raised.)

The exchange also illustrates the value of having a "sounding board," that is, of bouncing ideas off of others, and suggests a way of getting objective feedback.

A common problem in thinking or writing is that intense emotion can interfere with consideration of relevant factors (or impartially evaluating a piece). In thinking, we will often "sleep on it" and in writing, frequent advice is to set aside a piece for a few days in order to look at it afresh. But we don't often have that luxury, and any way to save time can help. One of those ways can even be to vent, while being open to feedback. I don't think constant venting is a great idea -- that could lead one to become overly focused on the negative -- but doing so occasionally with this purpose in mind can be quite helpful, particularly when the source of the irritation isn't so clear.

-- CAV

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