Tony Aldon

2018-2021 • Switch to programming

A quitter never wins and a winner never quits.

—Napoleon Hill

In 2018, I moved from Paris (France) to Madrid (Spain) to live with this beautiful Spanish woman who became my wife.

I needed a change in my professional career and decided to bet on the tech industry. The next day I started programming.

First, I wrote my own keyboard layout.

Then I spent some time writing buggy programs and asking Google to solve them. Often, someone on Stackoverflow had already given the answer I was looking for.

At some point I gave the talks:

I quickly grew tired of seeing this phrase on Stackoverflow: "go read this part of the documentation". So, I started to systematically read the documentation of the programs I use. Often, I would end up reading the whole documentation. I remember the first documentation I read entirely was Pro Git. Really worth it.

Over time, I started to notice that the best documentation cannot rival the accuracy and detail of the source code. I know that we don't always have access to the source code, but when we do, I go there and read it.

Anyway, now my workflow is:

READ, READ, READ, WRITE and LOOP until it works.

As it is really comforting to write code instead of taking the time to read and think, I always remind myself that a normal reader can read 150 words/minute and a good reader up to 450 words/minute. And I compare it with a really great typer that can type up to 80 words/minute. No comparison. The good reader/thinker that knows how to write will always produce better code and sytems than the good writer but poor reader.

I really believe that good programmers (as good athletes, good engineers, good artists, ...) know how to get the best of their tools. It took me quite a while to get confident with my programming environment. During that process, I gathered some notes on Linux that you can browse at

At the same time (mid-2020), I started sharing some knowledge about Emacs with the video series Inside Emacs.

While this video got the most likes

my favorite is the following

Emacs gave me a wonderful playground to hack on and to learn how to do (and not to do) stuffs.

I'm infinitely grateful for the work done by all these programmers/hackers during all these years to build/maintain/improve the Emacs software.

In October/November of 2021, I naturally started to contribute to Emacs packages ecosystem with the following packages:

  • org-bars which provides org-bars-mode, a minor mode for org-mode that adds bars to the virtual indentation provided by the built-in package org-indent, and,

  • bfs (Browse File System) which implements for Emacs a dynamic tree view of the file system à la ranger.

What did I learn?

  1. Behind every great content is a great story,

  2. There is always a solution, and there is always a simpler solution,

  3. Don't be smart, be effective. If people have already done something well that you can use to achieve your goal, take it. Don't lose your time inventing something that already exist just to be able to say that you've done it, it's stupid. Take it and move on. Go to your next step,

  4. High performers take care and craft their tools,

  5. Each time you make a decision that makes you lose information about your system, 99% of the time, you're making the wrong decision. Information is what makes you make informed decisions. Making informed decisions is what makes you win.