More on simple markup languages

February 6, 2006

In a reply to my WhySimpleMarkup post, Chris Wage wrote, in part:

I like the idea of a simple markup language, but the reality is that they are implemented in an obscure and often counter-intuitive fashion.

I'll unfortunately agree with this; it's one reason why I created my own for DWiki. Pretty much all of the existing wikitext dialects I look at struck me as ugly to see, tiresome to write, or both. Looking good as plain text and being easy to write in were explicit goals for DWikiText, and I left features out to achieve it. (Well, I think I've achieved it.)

(I'm not convinced that it's possible to be attractive looking, easy to write ordinary things in, and have a complete set of text formatting options. There's only so many characters to go around, at least until we start using Unicode (and down that road lies Perl 6).)

However, I disagree with Chris Wage about editors replacing simple markup languages. I feel that playing with any sort of HTML editing environment is actually make-work, even if it's faster than writing HTML by hand. And I don't think it is in many cases, because the editors are designed to be novice-friendly instead of fast for people who do this all the time.

One source of the disagreement may be that I don't think of simple markup languages as a way of making it easy for novices; I think of them as a way of streamlining the work of experts. I can write HTML by hand; I just don't want to bother.

(This means that I don't really care about standardization either, unless it doesn't cost me very much. If your goal is making it real easy for casual people to make changes in any wiki they run across, you may feel differently. Since DWiki doesn't have web-based editing, I'm already a heathen in that respect.)

PS: you can see how the plain text source of this looks with the 'View Source' link in the Page Tools entry at the bottom of here, and make your own decision about pretty or ugly it is.

Written on 06 February 2006.
« Weekly spam summary on February 4th, 2006
The sysadmin's life »

Page tools: View Source, Add Comment.
Login: Password:
Atom Syndication: Recent Comments.

Last modified: Mon Feb 6 01:57:46 2006
This dinky wiki is brought to you by the Insane Hackers Guild, Python sub-branch.