In the anonymous rant The Wikemacs Experiment: 300 Days Later, the author claims “The biggest problem is that it is insecure. […] Anyone can edit any of the pages that contain Elisp code.” The same sentiment was expressed by Alex Bennée in a comment on Google+: “What is really needed is a way to be sure that the source for the emacs extension your updating hasn’t been subverted by someone else with ill intent.”
Experiences and ideas of “what is really necessary” vary. As for myself, I’ve installed code from all over the Internet without reviewing the source. Installing it from a gist or git repo is hardly a different experience. If you want to figure out whether a source is trustworthy, you do the usual things: do people link to the code, how long has it been around, what about recent checkins, that sort of thing. Or you get into the crypto business of signing releases.
You could of course say that every day that passes without a problem increases our false sense of security… I have no answer to that. All I can say is that if security is your problem, using gists and github is not the solution (as you say yourself). The source of the insecurity is our habits, our culture of downloading and installing anything and everything. I’m not sure how you’ll ever make sure “that the source for the emacs extension your updating hasn’t been subverted by someone else with ill intent.” That seems pretty impossible to me unless you limit yourself to the core Emacs distribution (and even that’s not a guarantee).
People on the #emacs channel keep asking “is there way to do X” and thus my impression is that finding stuff is a more pressing problem. I feel that encouraging people to create a page on the wiki saying “here is code to help you do something” is the solution to that problem.
But then again, I guess we all differ in what we consider to be the most pressing problem.
Alex Bennée the correctly points out that using “a user locked solution like a gist or git repo you can at least be assured what you’re installing has come through one person who you’ve trusted to a degree before.” I guess that’s true. We’ll see whether people start switching over to using gists instead of editing wiki pages. I said in an earlier comment:
I added gist support […] because it was easy to do, not because it will encourage existing authors to move their elisp code on wiki pages to github. If at all, it might encourage future elisp authors to transclude a gist… But then again, there’s nothing preventing them from linking to a gist right now. Perhaps it’s also a generational thing. People that have been living without github and gists don’t feel a particular need to start using it.