No Plugins, or ‘Mono-tasking’, or The Dilution of Primary Tasks Through Obsession With Secondary Tasks

Summary: I removed most of the plugins used in my primary syntax editor. In doing so, I had a realization. And when inquiring, it’s been echoed by various friends and colleagues the past few weeks.

A parallel in music composition

Some years ago, a fellow musician asked me what I use for the more intricate works I created. She remarked that she enjoyed making such rhythm structures and textures as well, but found that writing algorithms to generate that intricacy was imprecise, and that her time was more-frequently spent tuning the algorithm, instead of creating percussive structures, or some other aspect of writing music.

I went into detail about my “process”: I don’t have one. Every moment of a (released) audio work, down to the millisecond in some cases, is manually created, piece by piece. There are no templates, “starter songs”, or anything else that takes me away from:

get an idea --> write music immediately

It’s extremely tedious, but this allows full control over the output, at the expense of time. However, this has become an extremely important component of how I write music.

I do use many automation/generative solutions for some things – but none in cases where the goal is absolute quality.

But isn’t this about plugins or something?

Yes! That’s in the next section.

Author realizes parallels between music and coding processes

I recently began a position at an excellent product development company. The owner, Mr. Williamson…no wait, that’s too obvious. Let’s call him…Pippin, among others at the company, are all known for having an extreme attention to detail and code quality.

Another coworker, to me, is essentially the Gandalf of documentation, coding standards, and tests.

So I wanted to know what they use. What plugins? What linters? 1

Getting to my point: Very little. That’s what they use.

Hack Your Work Day With This One Weird Trick

I’m very manual. Forces me to focus.— Plugin Wizard

I researched the topic of using minimally-configured editors, and found many people that echo the same. Here’s a great explanation by funfunfunction:

So I applied this to my workflow. No plugins. Well, a couple. Various syntax modes of course. No linters 2. No docblock generator3.

Then, I moved to a new house. I decided to pack my monitors early and Just Use a Laptop 4, instead of the enormous 3-4 screen NASA Command Center I typically do.

Guess what?

It made me focus. Deeply, by forcing one context at a time.

My reasoning has been – for many years – that more screens means more context on what I’m looking at. I can display more data. For the front-end, I can see the dom paint, the console, css node attributes, and my syntax editor concurrently.

That’s a Good Thing, right? Maybe for some. For me, it turns out, it’s not.

When I’m looking at the JavaScript console, I’m doing the following things:

  • Looking at the JavaScript console

In order to take in what I’m reading, there are two requirements:

  • Look at the JavaScript console
  • Do not look at not the JavaScript console

It sounds simple, even comical as I write this. Yet I must embrace with welcoming arms this positive impact on my daily productivity.

Now I just need to figure out what to do with all these monitors.

I used a photo of Voltaire because today is the anniversary of the day he was imprisoned in the Bastille, in 1717. If I thought about it long enough I’m sure I could find a bridge between that and the topic of this post, so let’s just pretend this part at the bottom provides a sufficiently-brilliant anecdote which details such a connection.


  1. My god man, do you use Alpine? what’s your tmux config like? What are your keybindings like? SHOW ME THEM DOTFILES.

  2. Except for Babel. Hoping to get my ES6/JavaScript2015/JavaScript Returns/JavaScript Premium training wheels off soon.

  3. I’ve never found a docblock generator I like. I’m now of the opinion that the best one out there is you.

  4. The Horror! Sorry for making you vomit.

Author: Rami

janitor