on the philosophical aspects of a specification

Seumas Mac Uilleachan seumas at idirect.ca
Tue Mar 4 09:15:37 EST 2008

david parsons wrote:

> In article <d5d.1e15ea7e.34fdd932 at aol.com>,

> <markdown-discuss at six.pairlist.net> wrote:



>> however, implementers can reach agreement easily,

>> by leaving users out in the cold, brushing them off

>> with a "you will need to follow the spec" which seems

>> -- if i understand markdown's cornerstone correctly --

>> to be outside gruber's comfort range for his creation...




> I've looked at this paragraph several times and I still have no idea

> what you're talking about.


> If a user says "I want paragraphs to start with an explicit

> paragraph symbol and all newlines to force a <br/>" , I *will* brush

> them off with a "you will need to follow the spec" because that's not

> how Markdown works. I can't imagine any other way to actually write

> the language.



> -david parsons

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I think what is trying to be said here is that in creating the spec you
can't lose the original focus of what Markdown is all about. Users
(such as myself) don't really care that much about how the html is
generated (breaks and explicit paragraphing are the domain of the
parser). What we care about is that the original intent of our written
source is maintained. It is very easy when creating a formal spec to
lose track of the original intent and thus the usefulness of the tool.
If I need to track exactly how many spaces I am allowed to use at the
beginning of the line for certain implied formatting (like lists) then I
am losing focus from the content I am writing, which is the exact
opposite of what Markdown was created for.

If Markdown ends up diverging by creating too many rigid rules then
users such as myself will just end up finding another tool. We want to
type the content and let the tool create the form based on spacing and
subtle signals in the content (such as *emphasis* etc). In the end it is
the syntax that should be the defining spec because that is what the
users understand and that is what determines the functionality of
Markdown. Any formal grammar needs to derive from the syntax. My $.02
CDN ($.02014US :)

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