What creates a good wikitext dialect depends on how it's going to be used
One of the things I've learned over the course of writing DWiki and then using it here on Wandering Thoughts is that what makes a good wikitext is partly context dependent. In this case, 'context' means 'what sort of things the wiki is going to be used to write about'. This comes about because of two things; the rule that a good wikitext dialect doesn't get in your way, and the limited supply of special characters that we have available to use as markup characters. Good wikitext markup is short, distinctive, and uncommon in your regular text. And of course what is common and uncommon in your text can depend on what you're writing about.
There are two corollaries of this. The first is whether something is a good or bad wikitext dialect for you depends on what you're going to use it for. I feel strongly that there is no more or less universally good wikitext dialect (and probably won't be until we embrace the use of uncommon Unicode characters for markup). The second is that what looks like a good wikitext dialect can turn to bad (or at least 'not as good') if what you're going to use it for changes over time.
As I've mentioned before, a
glaring example of this in DWikiText here is the _ character,
which is used to create
monospaced computer text. I originally
created DWiki to write sysadmin
documentation. This has the twin features that you frequently want
to mark off literal computer input and output (conventionally set
monospaced) and _ is a relatively uncommon character in
things like command lines and so on. Thus it seemed to make good
sense to use _ as a short, unobtrusive, yet visually distinctive
marker of such text. Then I took up blogging with DWiki and started
writing about programming and code; of course _ is extremely
common in identifiers, and this causes heartburn for both me and
commentators (errant _'s is in fact one of the most common
errors here and I've committed various hacks to try to sidestep
them in common cases).
(This origin is also why bold is created with ~~ instead of the
shorter single ~. Single ~'s occur periodically when you write about
Unix paths. Also, looking backwards I have to admit that it turns
out that there is a certain amount of sysadmin things that involve
_'s, because people put them in file names, kernel parameters,
and so on as word separators. Linux
/proc is full of them, for
example. This makes _ a somewhat worse choice than it seemed
to me at the time, although I still don't know what I'd have used
Comments on this page:Written on 02 October 2015.