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Thank you. I may, in fact, join the mailing list. I've been impressed with the site thus far.


Hi Brett. I hang out in the vim_use mailing list so I've seen your significant contributions to the Vim community, and it would be great if you wanted to help with the work here. The vim_use list is wonderful, but its ephemeral nature is somewhat unsatisfactory. While ephemeral, it is permanently archived and copied to several sites, so any Google search is guaranteed to show advice from the list – advice that may or may not be correct. I realise that we'll never have a perfect set of tips here, but I think there is every reason to hope that we will eventually provide a really useful resource where most tips are current and accurate.

I have avoided welcoming you until now because I haven't known how to respond to your new tip. It is amazing what the work in your script has achieved, but the tip presents me with a bit of a dilemma because I am well known here for opposing new tips that rely on external sites. I have expressed my thoughts in the tips linking to external sites section on the May new tips page.

My fundamental problem is that I don't want to set a precedent. In February I got others to agree with the deletion of a new tip that was essentially just a link to script#1304. I don't want to delete your tip, and I'm hoping that we'll find a way to handle the issue (see my thoughts on the May new tips page). There is no rush – we'll take a few weeks to discuss the May new tips.

You might like to create your user page (can be very simple, perhaps just say how long you've used Vim – see Special:Listusers for some ideas). You are welcome to put any to-do or other notes related to Vim or the wiki under your user page.

I hope you do join the vim-l mailing list. The archive will reassure you that it is very low volume. It would be great to get more opinions. For example, every month we have to agree on the fate of new tips, and we have to decide whether to delete unwanted pages.

--JohnBeckett 06:06, 27 May 2008 (UTC)

John, Nice to meet you. I was familiar with your name from the Vim list. I am honored by your kind words, and your invitation to be involved with the Vim Tips site. I perfectly understand and respect your desire to keep the Vim Tips site free from advertisements for specific plugins. You may remove my tip at your convenience with my blessing. I created the tip partly out of frustration with the efficacy of the Vim scripts search engine. As I mentioned to MetaCosm a week or two ago, the scripts search engine suffers from a fatal flaw, which renders it extremely ineffective at accomplishing its primary design goal: connecting Vim users with plugins providing the functionality they desire. The problem with the search is that it logically OR's the search terms entered.

Consider the following scenario: a user wants to know whether there are any Vim plugins providing the ability to create arbitrary highlighting regions in plain text. A reasonable user might expect to find such plugins by entering "highlighted text" in the search form. Although txtfmt is, as far as I know, the only plugin currently providing this functionality, the aforementioned search returns txtfmt as result #200 out of 324, thus ensuring that only the most tenacious users are likely to find it. Moreover, many of the plugins higher on the results list have nothing to do with "highlighted text", but are included simply because their download pages include the word "text" somewhere.

Logically OR'ing search terms results in an extremely counter-intuitive search engine, which returns more results as more terms are added. By contrast, most search engine users consider additional search terms to be added constraints, which should pare down the results list. I began to wonder about the search engine after noticing that whenever I released a version of txtfmt, there was a flurry of downloads for several days (while the script was still on the first page), followed by a period during which it appeared that the plugin had fallen into a "black hole" (after the plugin had been pushed off the first page). Both the rate of downloads just after release and posts from Vim users to the list convinced me that the market for txtfmt had not yet been saturated. Ironically, I recently corresponded with a txtfmt user who had submitted a post to the Vim list with the subject "highlighted text", in which he asked whether functionality similar to what txtfmt provides existed. One would assume that he had searched the scripts site before posting, but due to the problems mentioned above, it would not be surprising if he had given up without finding an answer there.

At any rate, please pardon my rant. None of this is the fault of the Vim Tips site. The real solution, I believe, is to lobby those responsible for maintaining the Vim site to fix the Vim scripts search. I do plan to join the vim-l mailing list. I have only recently begun to "come up for air" after having spent several months getting my plugin ready for release, and then making small bugfix releases and such. I'm still involved with that to a certain extent. Because of my work on my plugin, I have been deferring making a long-overdue, systematic trip through the Vim 7 documentation. I may be of more use to the vim-l group after I have completed that journey, but I will most likely join the list now, and become involved incrementally as time permits. Also, I will try to compile my User Page soon.

Thanks again, and I look forward to continued association... Brett Stahlman Stahlman 18:22, 27 May 2008 (UTC)

Hello from me too, Brett! It is very nice to have you here. Rather than repeat my suggestions here, take a look at my thoughts on external link tips. If you feel so inclined, you might be one of the more motivated people to get a page such as I suggest up and running, seeing as how you have one of the hard-to-find plugins that such a page would benefit.

Thanks for your enthusiasm! We look forward to seeing some great things from you. No pressure, though ;-).

--Fritzophrenic 19:14, 27 May 2008 (UTC)

Hi Brett. Ouch ... I feel your pain re the search mechanism on Unfortunately I don't think there is much prospect of getting Bram to take the time to change something that he possibly regards as having worked successfully for several years, although I don't mind joining in while you knock your head on the wall... It looks as if even getting the patch (to fix how characters are counted) accepted is going to be a struggle. Very frustrating.

It appears Fritzophrenic (see his comments above) agrees that we should have a page featuring external links. Your script would fit there.

In addition, I think that some extra work might allow us to keep your tip while not setting a precedent so we end up accepting brief tips that are essentially just links. Perhaps your tip can be generalised. For example, it might start by describing what highlighting is built-in to Vim, with links to any tips that contain more details (I can find those). I'm thinking of search, match and syntax (anything else??). The tip might then outline the problem it wants to solve, and say a bit more about your solution (and any other solutions).

The stuff about a patch is a slight problem because that sort of thing gets hopelessly out of date as the months pass. I wonder if it would be worth making a feature of that defect by having a section with a brief example of the bug, and how it might bite other script writers. You would need to make it clear what version of Vim has the bug so readers in a couple of years will have a chance of working out whether it's relevant (assuming we don't get around to updating the tip). I also think it would be better for you to invite feedback via the normal wiki mechanisms, rather than email. You need to configure your email address in your wiki profile ("my preferences"). There is an option to notify you when your talk page is changed, and another to allow a reader to use the wiki to send you email. The reader doesn't see your address – they visit your user page, and click "E-mail this user" in the toolbox on the side. You can send me an email like that now, if you want to get used to the wiki way.

We can discuss this some more next week (when it's June), on the May new tips page. As I said, there is no rush.

--JohnBeckett 02:07, 28 May 2008 (UTC)

Please check tip summary Edit

Hi Brett, I have put a summary of your proposed tip (see May 2008 new tips) on Vim scripts. The Main Page has a link to Vim scripts.

Please check what I have written. If there are any problems, edit the page, or let me know. Also, we need to decide what to do with the May new tips. If you have any opinions, please add them. If you think the tip you added should be kept (in addition to its summary), please expand the tip with some more generic information, along the lines previously discussed. Thanks! --JohnBeckett 06:01, 8 July 2008 (UTC)

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