life is 90% of my use cases for org-mode
so what's the other 10%?


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To really explain why I use org-mode for everything, I probably first have to explain my rules, which also requires a backstory. I'll keep it short, no problem.

I jacked into Unix the first time at Calhoun Community College, in Decatur, Alabama, during the summer of 1974. I was 15, and my dad was a part-time programming instructor. Having been an avid reader since the age of 6 (I read the entire elementary school library before the middle of second grade), text and text-processing was much on my mind.

So when I encountered a system where plain text is the raw material flowing through the pipes, I was hooked.


...what I really learned was that the rules of Unix could be adapted to life.

This led me to undertake an informal study of Unix, all the way back to the Tech Model Railroad Club and all the hackers that came from there. Yeah, I read the story about Margaret and the groceries and the Volkswagen; I understand his pain.

But what I really learned was that the rules of Unix could be adapted to life.

After about 30 years as a tech writer and frequent programmer, I finally settled on a set that works for me. Little did I know that these very principles would lead me to org-mode, which would later lead me to find my people.


Unix rules for life


a vi convert

I didn't start with org-mode, actually, but with plain journal files labeled YYYYMMDD, in a special directory in /var/log. I still have those going back to sometime in the 90's. The format was simple, but using the files soon became complex:

	  
    *** personal journal of stormrider
    tue, aug 04, 1992 / 712904400
    sweetmorn, confusion 70, 3158 YOLD
    
    *** fortune -s
    Cold hands, no gloves.
    
    *** appts
    09:00  staff meeting, conf rm
    18:30  dinner with amit & bonnie
    
    *** to do
    finish revisions on x-windows book
    do syllabus for advanced C class
    read some in Stevens & Rago
    shower
    shave
    dress
    take out the trash otw to work
    .
    .
    .
    
    *** daily journal
    06:43 - man, didn't sleep well
    last night; i think i'm overdoing
    it on the coffee at work; maybe i
    should cut back some?
    .
    .
    .
  
The unwieldy part came with all the repeated tasks, and tasks that got carried over from one day to the next (or didn't get finished). I had to copy yesterday's file, change all the key info, sort out the todo list, erase yesterday's journal, and generally do far too much work to keep my journal up.


I got turned onto emacs sometime in the mid-nineties, when I moved to Atlanta to work for HP. A fellow writer there used it, and suggested it might help me write and code up examples more effectively. He was right, and it stuck....

I did it, but intermittently, supplanting it with post-it notes, pads, planners galore, palm pilots, palmtop computers, etc. It seemed like every day I was badly copying tasks from one day to the next. Meanwhile, my unwillingness to use Windows didn't give the the luxury of Outlook, when it came along.

I got turned onto emacs sometime in the mid-nineties, when I moved to Atlanta to work for HP. A fellow writer there used it, and suggested it might help me write and code up examples more effectively. He was right, and it stuck as my editing platform of choice.

But I hadn't discovered org-mode yet. Either he didn't use it, or it hadn't been invented yet. And to be honest, I kinda went back and forth between vi and emacs, depending on my "mood of the month."

a modem in the woods

Eventually, my HP job became a telecommuting-type arrangment, and I moved home to the farm, about an hour outside New Orleans, in the woods. At that time, Internet was still modem-driven out here, so having command-line Linux with emacs on my laptop was a real lifesaver.

Sometime not long before Katrina hit, I stumbled across org-mode. I'd already used outline mode for some period of time (can't remember how long), and org-mode seemed like a logical follow-on from there.

From there, org-mode just grew, and I grew with it. All the features made it easy for me to both do what seemed natural for me, and do things in a way that felt like they supported my principles. Gradually, my other methods of keeping track of things faded away, except for my alarm clock.

Even when smart-phones took off, I was always trying to find some way to send org files over to my phone and use them there. I think I even wrote some lua code in an iPhone wiki app to emulate org-mode with my files, though it was not fully satisfactory.

an org-mode resume

Fast-forward to last May. I'd been wanting to get on with Canonical for a long time, but hadn't found the right position, one that really matched my skills. Then one Saturday, while I was waiting for my wife to meet me for some community event we were hosting, I saw a position that virtually described me. I started to write a resume, but then decided that I would just take the job description elements, one-by-one, put them in an org file, and send them to the hiring manager.

Long-story short, almost everyone on this team used emacs, and org-mode, and lots of other .el packages that I also used every day. I got the job, and so far, I'm very happy and feel like I fit in very well.

org-mode and my principles

Here's how I feel about using org-mode for everything: email, git, irc, web-browsing, organization, time-keeping, and so on. And yes, I do use org-mode to connect with my email and the web, even though I use other packages (rmail, eww, magit, erc) to do the heavy lifing. Let me walk it down, principle by principle:

Okay, those are my reasons, and why life is 90% of my use cases for org-mode....