Ordered list syntax.

John Gruber gruber at fedora.net
Sun Mar 28 12:10:43 EST 2004

Már Örlygsson <mar at anomy.net> wrote on 03/27/04 at 10:40p:

> This brings up the question: does John intend Markdown to be used by our
> Aunt Tillie, or is it targeted at the more technically sophisticated crowd
> that doesn't mind boggling over applying CSS class-names to seemingly simple
> ordered list fragments?

Markdown is *not* targeted at the newbie/moron class. Perhaps it
will work for such people, in some ways, in some cases, but they are
most certainly not the intended audience.

I suspect that it might not be possible to create a truly usable web
writing tool for newbies/morons, and but if it *is* possible, it
would almost certainly be a hypertext editor, not a plain text
editor. Not necessarily "WYSIWYG", but hypertext and at least
somewhat WYSIWYGish. The big one would be that links would actually
look like links -- blue and underlined. But also italicized italics,
bold bold, etc.

> 1) Should John consider a soltuion where Markdown automatically assigns
> certain predefined class-names to ordered list tags based on what type of
> list is being written?

No, never. (But I suspect you agree with me, and you brought it up
only as a discussion point.)

> 2) Should Markdown's default behaviour be to output Transitional HTML with
> start="" and type="", but to also to allow power-users to override the
> default configuration to allow compatibility with (X)HTML 1.1 and the Strict
> dialect?

It's tempting, because, as I mentioned in my previous message, there
is no way to do these things using Strict (X)HTML. But when you add
options like this, you empower individual advanced Markdown users,
but you *dilute* the overall consistency of Markdown's syntax.

Disregard for the moment the fact that it would take some amount of
my time to implement this. For the sake of argument, let's pretend I
could implement it with one line of code. It's tempting to think,
"Well, then of course you should do it -- more options mean the
software is better." But in some ways, the software would be *worse*
with this option. Yes, individual authors could then choose to
create lists that start at ordinals other than 1, and that would be
useful. But the penalty would be that Markdown-formatted text from
one site will not produce the same results on another site.

One could no longer know what output Markdown-formatted text will
produce unless you also know specifically how a certain Markdown
installation is configured. I think this would be a big loss. Right
now, your Markdown and my Markdown will always produce the same
results. Yes, you can choose to use HTML 4 style closing tags
(`<br>` instead of `<br />`), but that's not a *semantic*

>   b) Config file needed. (Is that neccessarily bad?)

Yes. Definitely. Anything that would need a config file or prefs
storage would be an indication that I've made a design error. It's
very important that Markdown remain a single-file no-configuration
plug-in. That's a feature, not a deficiency.


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