on the philosophical aspects of a specification

James Grimmelmann james at grimmelmann.net
Wed Mar 5 23:02:00 EST 2008

On Mar 5, 2008, at 2:38 PM, david parsons wrote:

> When I write a really long list,


> * sometimes, after a particularly long and

> detailed list item, I'll lose track of the

> exact indentation and

> * add one too many spaces to the leading

> indent.


> so it would be bad if that broke nesting.

It'd be nice to get near-miss list indentation right.

BUT . . . if I make this mistake and Markdown mis-nests, the mistake
will be obvious when I look over the output. What's more, it'll be
obvious how to fix it.

One of the advantages of Markdown syntax is that when something weird
happens, it's usually very easy to spot and to debug. I'd rather have
clear and intuitive syntax that produces predictable outputs than get
all of the near-misses and edge cases right. It's good to be
forgiving of user goofs, but it's also good to provide good implicit
feedback on how to clean them up. Enforcing a rule that items at the
same level of intended indentation should start with the same number
of spaces seems like a good case for being rigid, because a user who
messes it up (as I've often done) can easily spot the problem and
recover gracefully.


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