[Pmwiki-users] Markup

Massimiliano Mirra mmirra
Mon Aug 25 17:15:04 CDT 2003

"Patrick R. Michaud" <pmichaud at pobox.com> writes:

(Sorry for not replying sooner, just catching up with a couple of
hundreds of messages.)

> Sure, I'm always glad to offer my opinion--but on this topic my opinion
> may have a tendency to run a bit long. :-)  Actually, for almost a year 
> I've been wanting to write an article, possibly for publication somewhere, 
> about the role of wikis and markup languages (among other topics).  But so far
> I just haven't found myself in the right mind-frame to do it.  

Looking forward to reading it. :-)

> However, wiki markup is not completely transparent, since we have things
> such as {{free links}} and embedded images and the like.  Complete 
> transparency gets into the realm of WYSIWYG systems. 

Yes, I guess what I mean could rather be called `conventional
transparency' than real transparency, or IOW markup that has made it's
way into ASCII through the years, and continued use has made it look
normal and natural, such as _this_ or *this*.  (Some newsreaders might
even render those words with the appropriate faces.)

> People like to tout WYSIWYG editors as somehow superior because authors 
> don't see or have to know about markup.  I'm not convinced this is always 
> a good thing--sometimes the markup is more usable and understandable 
> than trying to guess what might happening inside the system's black box 
> because the underlying markup is hidden (something I frequently find myself 
> doing when using WYSIWYG programs such as Microsoft Word). 

Mmmmh, I suppose they would dismiss the matter of looking inside the
black box with a `You don't need to'.  I'm not convinced this is
necessarily a good thing either, though the biggest reason I dislike
WYSIWYG is that I seem to consistently produce better quality texts
when I am concerned with content only, not at all with presentation.

> However, there's an important aspect of wiki markup languages that the
> question of simplicity and transparency does not address, and that is 
> the fact that PmWiki makes it possible to extend the markup language
> to include new features.

Yes, and I agree that is important.  I like to think about it in terms
of context-dependent markup, e.g. two spaces at the beginning of a
line might signal a verse if the document is about literature, and a
command line if it is about system administration.  Just like equal
cues `render' to different meanings to the reader's mind in different
contexts, equal cues can render to different appearances to the
reader's eyes.

> So, to me the point of wiki markup is not to be faithful to a principle
> of being a simplified markup or a transparent markup, but rather to 
> strive towards whatever is most "natural" for authors to create web
> pages.  Markup should be transparent or visible according to whatever 
> will make the most sense to authors.  And beyond that, since we're 
> talking about something that is ultimately a language for communicating
> among a group of people, there should be mechanisms for extending the 
> markup to support specialized communications within the group.
> How's that?  :-)

Saved post, 'nuff said. :-)


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