2002 September 07 Saturday
Programming editors and the Baby Duck Syndrome

There are periodic Usenet group debates about programming editors where various people will proclaim with apparently sincere conviction that their preferred editor is the best. In some of these debates I've tried asking some of the believers of various editor faiths if they'd ever tried various other alternatives. Well, no. They had never used Premia (now Starbase?) CodeWright or Visual Slick Edit or Multi-Edit or assorted other editors. Some claimed to have used another editor about 5 or 10 years previously but not its latest version.

In fact, when I start asking around I discover its hard to find people who have used recent versions of two major editors. So its hard to find anyone who can intelligently compare the features of various editors. I use Visual Slick Edit personally. There are things I want it to do that it doesn't do. But I don't know whether any other editor can do all the things I like about Slick plus the things I wish it did (and I'll eventually make a post with a lot of those wishlist items).

Anyway, how to explain the deep irrational devotion that many programmers have for their editors? The Baby Duck Syndrome. Back in the 1950s Konrad Lorenz first demonstrated imprinting of baby ducks on who they think their mother is. Whatever they see at a certain critical early age is what they decide is mother and they will follow it around after that. Well, a lot of programmers have Baby Duck Syndrome and can't help themselves.

Posted by Randall Parker at September 07, 2002 09:25 PM
razib said at September 8, 2002 3:14 AM:

emacs is hard.

nix said at September 16, 2002 7:28 AM:

To elaborate on Razib's nice verbose comment:

Emacs is *large* and *different*. As such, it has a long learning curve; not terribly steep except at the start, but *long*. If they see something better, people don't like to admit that they wasted all that time, so they try to deride the alternative, especially if (like me) they've accumulated thousands of lines of customization and handwritten extensions.

The sane people would rather extend Emacs so it'll do the things the other editors do. :) (or, if the other editor is more extensible, jump ship --- but so far I've seen nothing more extensible.)

The same seems to be becoming true of vim fanatics, now vim's scriptable.

(Of course people who just want to *edit text* rather than rewrite their text editor might be driven by feature availability rather than extensibility; but I don't know how that sort of poor simpleton thinks ;) Myself, I reimprinted on several editors, each more extensible than the last...)

Ellen K. said at October 3, 2002 1:55 AM:

Baby Duck Syndrome, perfect! :)

Don Babcock said at September 27, 2005 6:31 AM:

I can't believe no one cast a vote for VI! (g,d,&r)

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