Patrick R. Michaud
pmichaud at pobox.com
Mon Nov 21 15:58:58 CST 2005
On Mon, Nov 21, 2005 at 10:12:18PM +0100, Joachim Durchholz wrote:
> Patrick R. Michaud schrieb:
> >On Mon, Nov 21, 2005 at 06:57:15PM +0100, Joachim Durchholz wrote:
> >>Since things like FCKEditor have paved the way, I think it's entirely
> >>sensible to set up a Wiki like this:
> >>* use HTML as markup
> >>* do some fairly rigorous filtering
> >> to prevent the Bad Boys from inserting malware
> >>* use a WYSIWYG editor so end users don't have to bother
> >> with HTML syntax.
> >If the above list were sufficient, then FrontPage (or
> >something like it) would've become a widespread and standard
> >editing tool long ago. Since that hasn't happened, and lots
> >of people have claimed for many years that this is what
> >should happen, I'm guessing there are some inherent issues
> >with this approach that have yet to be solved.
> Um, sure.
> Frontpage isn't installed on every system. Plus it isn't collaborative
> (at least not in a useful way).
Right, but part of my thinking is that collaboration
implies cross-platform compatibility, and this is where
we run into real problems with WYSIWYG. Add "customizable"
to the list and it's almost impossible.
> >Essentially I think the problem is that it's too difficult
> >to create highly customizable WYSIWYG editors that will function
> >properly across independent browsers.
> The FCKEdit people have done something quite impressive though.
Oh, I agree it's very impressive what FCKEdit has done, nor do I
mean to discount their work. FCKEdit simply chooses WYSIWYG and
HTML editing as its primary goals; PmWiki's goals are different.
> >>I'm not sure what place current-day wikis would have in such a scenario.
> >>I fear it's an adapt-or-perish situation though - simple wiki markup is
> >>never enough (as witnessed by the feature bloat that all wikis have
> >>succumbed to, sooner or later), so they all have a syntax that must be
> >>*learned*, and a WYSIWYG editor lets people discover instead of learn
> >>(and relieves them of syntactic subtleties).
I should've also pointed out that there are many times when WYSIWYG
isn't enough; that eventually authors get to a point where they
need to go beyond whatever limited feature set the WYSIWYG editor
is providing and muck with the structure. And doing that also
requires a (less forgiving) syntax that must be learned.
> However, I've been thinking about the way PmWiki has been evolving. One
> of its main goals was (and, probably, still is) ease of use.
> PmWiki is admirable in this respect, yet whenever I feel like
> recommending it to a newbie who's doing his first collaborative project
> in the WWW, I find myself hesitating... and wondering whether s/he will
> be able to learn all that PmWiki syntax. And, more importantly, how many
> visitors can use it.
I think the point is that an author doesn't have to learn "all that
PmWiki syntax". To use every possible feature, yes, but for basic
"I want to add or edit a page's contents" it's still pretty
> Well, I usually end up recommending PmWiki anyway - it's still the
> leanest generally usable wiki that I know. And I haven't had any
> reclamations yet - all who got a recommendation are happy with PmWiki.
> PmWiki must be doing something right.
I'm *very* glad to hear this! Thanks. :-)
> A recent example was the [ link | + ] syntax. My instinctive reaction
> was "dear, yet another piece of syntax I have to learn".
But in this case you really don't *have* to learn it. As an author
you can still create page links the same way as before, and if you
encountered a [[target|+]] that was written by another author, you'd
recognize it as being a link to "target" in the same way that
[[target|text]] is a link to target.
> It may be consistent ... but it certainly isn't intuitive.
> I'm pretty sure that newbies will find a lot of other things unintuitive.
Given that PmWiki is used for a wide variety of applications, and
with authors and administrators coming from a wide variety of backgrounds,
I think it's fairly obvious that there will always be some features
that will not be instantly obvious (i.e., "intuitive") to some
groups of authors. I mean, I know lots of people who simply cannot
fathom the possibility of shared authorship.
PmWiki follows more along the lines of "simple things should be simple,
and complex things should be possible". It does not mean that all
complex things can be intuitive, however.
And although this last point wasn't directed at WYSIWYG, I would
comment that there are often areas in which WYSIWYG editors are
unintuitive also. I still haven't figured out how to make sections
and headings work properly in Microsoft Word, so I never use them.
Whenever I try to use sections, or encounter a document where someone
else has used them, the changes I make end up reformatting the text
in mysterious and unexpected ways.
> Personally, I don't like the trend towards WYSIWYG editors. But I don't
> think avoiding them is a long-term options - it's more a question of
> "which technology", "when", and "what needs to be done WYSIWYG and what
> should remain 'scripted'".
I think avoiding WYSIWYG is a viable long-term option; I think
the power that can be gained by a simplified markup approach is
such that it'll remain viable for some time to come. For at least
as long as people think of Word as being the sine-qua-non of WYSIWYG
editing, specialized markup languages will have their place because
they're more effective content authoring tools.
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